Food News

Maskers & Anti-Maskers Square-Up in Restaurant Ratings

Before the official unmasking of restaurants, which begin March 10, some restaurants are already feeling the heat.
Before the official unmasking of restaurants, which begin March 10, some restaurants are already feeling the heat. Lauren Drewes Daniels/Canva.com
Almost a year ago Mark Cuban tweeted, "How companies treat employees during this pandemic will define their brand for decades.” While we don't agree with everything he says, the local basketball fan hit the nail on the head here. This statement endures.

Flags are being flown as Texans sail into more uncharted waters in this costly pandemic. Last week Gov. Greg Abbott lifted the mask mandate starting March. 10. From then on, COVID-19 safety protocols will be left up to individual businesses to create and enforce.

Abbott's decision to lift the mandate was widely criticized by elected officials because of a lack of scientific or medical support, but a major fault is also that it put workers on the defensive line. Even before this, employees who deal with the public for their jobs had been feeling the heat. On Feb. 21, The New York Times writer Emma Goldberg looked into "maskual harrassment," a situation in which servers are taunted to take off their masks in order to get a tip.

One fall-out is negative online reviews based solely on a business' stance on masks.

Two local restaurant owners posted they will continue to require customers to wear masks, AllGood Cafe in Deep Ellum and Detour Doughnuts in Frisco.

Micheal McHammer left a one-star review on Google for AllGood Cafe shortly after: “Requires you to wear mask after lifted mandate. Spend your money elsewhere.”

Since that review was posted, the Deep Ellum restaurant and live music venue with arguably the best chicken fried steak in Dallas, has received 140 5-star reviews in a demonstration of support of owner Mike Snider’s decision.

“rebecca dixon” started things off on Google: “Requires masks even after the ridiculous premature call to lift mask mandate in Texas - and keeping capacity lower than normal to encourage social distancing - MY KIND OF PLACE! Excellent food, super clean, excellent service and excellent people who care about the health and safety of their patrons and their employees. Love this place.”

Detour Doughnuts and Coffee in Frisco suffered the same type of retaliation after their post: "NO SHIRT
NO SHOES. NO MASK. NO SERVICE. PERIOD."

Reviewer Joseph Boardman left the following review, though it's not clear if he even visited the spot.

“If I could give less I would. It's sad that this owner is incapable of being professional but even more concerning she's incapable of separating her private life from the public. Your job is to make donuts and presumably sell other people's breakfast tacos. Throwing your political beliefs for everyone to see only segregates your customer base. I will make sure I make it known on every platform your business is run by an immature bigot. You make donuts, stick to that and only that.”

Not long after, Detour Doughnuts posted that they received 183 five-star reviews to offset that one-star review. The store also got a $250 donation from a former patron after someone posted they would “take their money elsewhere.”

“The overwhelming positive energy to offset the toxic negative energy some have been spreading in our social media pages. Gosh, thank you so much for taking the time to think of us,” posted chef Jinny of Detour Doughnuts.

On Sunday morning, a line of masked customers snaked down the sidewalk in front.

We didn’t hear back from Google about their stance on such comments and ratings, but a spokesperson with Yelp said in March they implemented special COVID-19 review content guidelines to “protect local businesses from reputational harm related to the extraordinary circumstances of the pandemic.”

Yelp doesn’t allow claims in reviews of contracting COVID-19 nor allow reviews in which a user is critical of the safety measures a business is taking. A Yelp spokesperson said that from March 1, 2020, to Dec. 31, 2020, “human moderators” removed thousands of reviews for such violations.
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Lauren Drewes Daniels is the Dallas Observer's food editor. She started writing about local restaurants, chefs, beer and kouign-amanns in 2011. She's driven through two dirt devils and is certain they were both some type of cosmic force.