Even Boners BBQ owner Andrew Capron now acknowledges his initial response to the less than flattering Yelp dining review posted by a customer was, well, boneheaded. After dining at the fledgling barbecue joint in the shadow of Turner Field with her husband Sunday, customer Stephanie Stuck (posting as “Stephanie S”), went on Yelp to write a review where she referred to Capron’s food as “tepid,” “odd,” “bland,” “greasy” and “limp.”
Like many restaurateurs currently operating on a razor’s edge of profitability in a still-recovering economy, Capron got wind of the citizen’s dining review and temporarily lost his mind. Real bad. He took to the Boners BBQ Facebook fan page, called “Stephanie S.” a bitch, accused her of stiffing the server on the tip after using a web deal coupon, and suggested she do something to herself that is anatomically impossible. Oh, and he found and posted a photo of her.
Later, Capron came to his senses, took down the customer-slamming post, and apologized to the diner and offered a free meal. By then, Capron and Boners were the ones being slammed all over Facebook and Twitter. One Atlantan on Twitter tweeted: “Attention all Atlanta Foodies: Stay far, far away from @BonersBBQ. They publicly curse their patrons and apparently serve tepid food.” Now multiply that tweet by a few thousand.
On Tuesday, the story went global and as of Wednesday morning, the Daily Mail in Great Britain was covering the public relations nightmare. Capron’s previously low-key barbecue joint was also prominently featured on many newscasts Tuesday night, including pieces on WSB and WXIA.
The Boners Facebook page, meanwhile, has logged 115 responses from “fans,” many of whom posted reactions like Carl Wlodarczyk, who wrote: “To the people who are supporting Boners here: Do you really trust them to not spit in your food if they think you’ve slighted them? Better be careful how you look at the waitresses.” Added Facebook fan Justin Oh: “Word of mouth may have been what your business relied on. Now, word of mouth will be your undoing.”
For those who toil in Atlanta’s hospitality industry, the Boners BBQ blowup and resulting international fallout only underscores the growing influence of amateur dining review sites such as Yelp. Websites that provide a forum for informed foodies but also provide an ax-grinding forum for fired wait staff, jealous competitors, and coupon-waving entitled folks who didn’t get their order of tap water with lemon on the side placed in front of them the nanosecond their butt hit the chair. All under the handy cloak of anonymity.
In his posted apology to “Stephanie S,” Capron expressed a sentiment shared by countless other over-worked mom-and-pop eatery owners frustrated by negative Yelp customer reviews while struggling to financially stay afloat: “Boners BBQ is my passion and my life.”
OK, dedicated Atlanta magazine dining news and review readers, what’s your take on the Boners BBQ blowup? Did Capron go waaay too far? Are Yelp reviews a helpful tool or more often an ax-grinding tool for former employees? Share your thoughts below in our comments section.