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Auckland food Facebook forum has turned sour, but “we’re going to fix that”

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COMMENT: There are so many interesting food stories that don’t find their way in the daylight. 

A friend and I sensed a growing disconnect between restaurants and customers which wasn’t helped by the fact that so much coverage of the hospitality scene is paid content. Businesses, most of them small, stumping up dollars to be included in ‘hottest’ lists, or to be ‘reviewed’ as a new opening, before they’ve even opened doors.

Anna King Shahab is the creator of Lazy Susan, an online food forum.
ALDEN WILLIAMS / STUFF Anna King Shahab is the creator of Lazy Susan, an online food forum.

We felt there were elements in this scenario that didn’t benefit hospo operator or customer. 

About 18-months ago we set up a Facebook group – Lazy Susan. It is now a popular, ever-growing platform for sharing knowledge on Auckland’s food. We’ve more recently founded Lazy Susan Travels to enable subject matter outside Auckland.

We’re proud of the busy, clever hive mind that Lazy Susan has become. The group is built on the principle of sharing positive experiences and knowledge; sharing the what, where and why of all things delicious and to discussing issues that perhaps aren’t getting airtime elsewhere.

A place where users can get first-hand recommendations and ideas from real people, and, we hope, where hospo operators and workers can liaise with customers.

We’ve allowed disappointments to be expressed, with valid reasons outlined – the world’s not all rosy, is it?

However a recent flurry of grumble posts – most notably one complaining about the size of a Prosecco pour in a popular restaurant (short story – it was a standard pour in a fairly large glass, a frenzy of comments followed) caused my co-admin and I to wonder: Why it is that negative posts garner so much attention? Should we judiciously weed out posts that look like they’ll detract from the overall aim of the hive? And honestly, what is it about the summer holidays that makes us lap up non-stories like greedy cats?

The pour of Prosecco that got a patron wound up on Lazy Susan.
FACEBOOK/SUPPLIEDThe pour of Prosecco that got a patron wound up on Lazy Susan.

Plenty of times an eating or drinking experience leaves a sour taste in the mouth for whatever reason, and goodness knows there are plenty of places of the internet where you can go and have a good grumble, and wait for a strained (or not) reply from the manager.

A chunk of the problem with this he said-she said thing is that collectively we seem to get thrills from outrage over minor issues – a pour of wine that looks small in a large glass, an above-averagely priced coffee, a no-bill-splitting policy.

There are so many bigger-picture issues in the food scene we should feel outraged about – working conditions and pay, and mental health statistics in the hospitality industry, recurring instances of mistreatment of livestock, or why it is that NZ consumers feel the pinch of high food prices while simultaneously our food producers feel the pinch of low profits – what the heck’s with that? 

While social media platforms can promote democratic discussion, comments can, and do, quickly get catty, intentionally or thanks to the myriad of ways in which one post of comment can be interpreted (perspective is everything).

It’s hard to keep things civil, people on all sides throw insults or feel insulted or both. A friend of mine, a food business operator, left the group – there are already enough places for hospo-bashing, he said.

I get it – the user reviews culture hasn’t been easy on operators – but we still aim to be as much a home for the hospo industry as for its users.

We’d love our little corner of Facebook to be a happy place. A home for those who love to be in the know about great food and drink, and for those providing it to be able to share insights and chat with the community. 

But, as I said, the world’s not all rosy. It’s important that broader and more serious issues and can be raised and opinions shared around these – but for this to happen a little topiary is going to have to be done.

We’re honing our terms and conditions, and weeding where necessary to ensure our hive mind doesn’t stray from its original purpose, which is to gently turn the lazy susan and share around the table genuine knowledge on what’s great about eating out, and cooking in Auckland. 

By Anna King Shahab

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