I Need HELP with YELP!

I’m convinced that some stories write themselves.

Like so many of us, things happen in our daily lives that leave us asking, “what happened?” “Did I miss something?”

No matter how much you think you know better, you probably don’t. The story knows.

Visiting SF? One must do Zuni Cafe and experience their Rotisserie Chicken w//warm bread salad.

Visiting SF? One must do Zuni Cafe and experience their Rotisserie Chicken w//warm bread salad.

To Yelp or not to Yelp, this is the question…

Recently, my sister called me to task for giving a 4-star Yelp review.

Zuni Cafe, a popular San Francisco restaurant, is known for their New American menu. Always clean, consistent and conveniently located in the city’s Mid Market neighborhood, it’s easy to get to no matter where you start or end your evening.

I had a group of friends visiting San Francisco for the holiday weekend and decided Zuni would be a great introduction to what California cuisine can be. Dinner was good. The service was good. Their signature dish, the rotisserie chicken was good.

So, like I do fairly regularly, I did my Yelp check-in and I left a 4-star rating (out of a possible 5).
In my publicly posted Yelp review, I wrote:

“…when I tell you that their roasted chicken + bread salad continue to be one of the most amazing dishes EVER, I’m not exaggerating. Yes, it takes an hour. Yes, you’re thinking “it’s chicken. how hard can it be to do chicken?” Trust me, whatever they’re doing to this dish before it hits the table – is truly the kind of stuff that could end wars and mend diplomatic fences.”

This, I quickly learned, was a major faux pas. My sister was not having any of it.

“So why hold back the last star? I will never understand you “yelpers”.” She wrote.

I responded with, “…’cause they’ve changed the “serving size” of that chicken & THOUGHT a brotha wouldn’t notice#WRONG “Glutton, table for 1.”

“…Then maybe tell them that, instead of being mysterious?.. Makes me nuts!”

I said, “…honestly, I was afraid/ashamedThought I might be publicly #FatShamed – waited till I was home, safely behind my keyboard.”

She shot back once again, “…So you take a star from THEM???!!!”

This was not going well.

Did I really take a star from them? Do they have a responsibility to earn it? Am I in a position to make that decision? Did I hurt/harm them by not giving a 5-star review? Did I just become “that guy”? Is there a protocol I’m not aware of? Should I have said something in front of my guests? Should I have told my server? Should I have told the GM? Do I have a right to compare their updated version of the rotisserie chicken to my memories of days before the owner passed away? Should all of this be weighed before leaving a review? Does any of it matter? Does Yelp matter?

Yummy Rotisserie Chicken served over warm bread salad.

Yummy Rotisserie Chicken served over warm bread salad.


Laying out a difficult argument, a nuanced point or a philosophical idea in a 140 characters is never a good idea. Ever. I decided to cease and desist with the back-and-forth Twitter debate and instead, write out my thoughts – here.

Naively, I hadn’t thought my 4-star review to be a pejorative; I thought I had “done good” by them.

To be clear – my dish was really, good. The portion was indeed generous, (it’s a whole chicken) but it wasn’t glutinous like it used to be: perfectly cooked bird, served over their tasty bread salad in a large, white bowl-shaped dish.

As a customer, I have always given 4-star reviews when I’ve had a good/great experience (like I did). I have always reserved 5-star reviews for the truly exceptional.

It had never occurred to me that business owners might see a 4-star review as a negative thing.

Yep, stories write themselves, even when they don’t wrap themselves up with a neat conclusion.

I’m still not sure if I should or shouldn’t Yelp or if every review should be 5-stars or nothing, but I do know this: there is only one certain result when controversy is laced into 140 characters: attempts at subtlety will be trampled, and somebody may call you out.

My sister reminded me of this.