There are two sides to every story, including those posted to Yelp and the like. And for those disputes, court is now in session.
The Post and Courier Food section weekly features a complaint that first surfaced online, along with testimonies from the patron and restaurateur.
You, the readers, are the jury. Join us in our Facebook group to weigh in on whether the customer is indeed right or if the case should be resolved in the restaurant’s favor. Let’s enter the courtroom.
James lives in Atlanta. He did not return messages from The Post and Courier, but he’s apparently not inclined to post reviews online. He’s written only one Yelp review, but it was a doozy.
Bistro Toulouse in Mount Pleasant bills itself as “a Parisian-style bistro.” It was opened in 2014 by longtime hospitality professionals Candice Mahala and Matthew Schulz.
James and his 81-year-old father arrived at Bistro Toulouse nine minutes before their 5 p.m. reservation, timed to coincide with the restaurant’s opening. According to James, when he rapped on the door, staff members turned them away from the air-conditioned dining room.
“We did not propose to eat early, otherwise bother anybody or make any trouble,” he wrote. “An old man just needs to sit down…and then spend big money on a dinner for four."
Mahala disputes James’ recollection of when he reached the restaurant: She says the men approached the restaurant just after line-up, which means it was more than 10 minutes before 5 p.m.
“We had a few minutes of work to do to ready the dining room for guests,” such as wiping down the bar, turning down the lights and turning up the music.
But more crucially, she counters that James used “inflammatory language” when employees politely didn’t comply with his demands.
“It is our policy that we are ready to open doors five minutes prior to posted hours,” she says. “We usually need every minute of our prep time as there is a lot to do to be ready for service. I feel that most guests are very gracious and understanding of policies and hours and we really appreciate that.”
At the other end of service, Mahala says, customers are admitted up until 15 minutes before the posted closing time. That’s because the advertised hours correspond to the kitchen’s schedule, and she and Schulz believe “the last guest in should have the same great experience as the first guest.”
The first legitimate guest, that is. In her view, showing up before the restaurant’s open doesn’t entitle a patron to a seat.
“If you arrive early for your doctor’s appointment, do you demand the doctor see you immediately?,” she says. “Of course not. You wait until you are called.”
Whose side are you on? If a patron promises to sit quietly, should he or she be allowed into a restaurant which isn’t open yet? Or are restaurateurs right to give their employees the time they need to get ready for a busy night ahead?
Join the discussion at bit.ly/PCfoodFBgroup.