Chow Town

KC restaurant Voltaire drops ‘epic’ response on Yelper’s complaint

Jean McConnell (left) and Jill Kelley, both of Overland Park, have drinks at Voltaire, 1617 Genessee in the West Bottoms where bartender Ryan Miller talked cocktails with the pair.
Jean McConnell (left) and Jill Kelley, both of Overland Park, have drinks at Voltaire, 1617 Genessee in the West Bottoms where bartender Ryan Miller talked cocktails with the pair. /Kansas City Star

When the West Bottoms restaurant Voltaire wouldn’t bend its policy and do take-out, a customer took to Yelp to complain.

But it didn’t end there.

Voltaire’s cheeky response has been picked up by such sites as Uproxx and Eater, a national network of blogs covering restaurants, bars and nightlife. Eater’s post had more than 8,700 Facebook likes by 12:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Voltaire’s response was written by owner Wes Gartner. He said in a phone interview that he’d never responded to a Yelp review before — but felt compelled to when Yelper Sonal B threatened to leave a negative review if the restaurant didn’t go against policy and sell her take-out.

“When a customer wants to get their way by using Yelp as leverage,” Gartner said, “I thought that was way out of line.”

Gartner added that he thinks his response “struck a chord” with people in the service industry because many restaurant owners don’t respond to negative online reviews out of fear it will hurt their business.

Voltaire’s owner stands by his response even if some people disagree with it.

“I don’t base my business off Yelp or social media,” Gartner says. “I think we do what we do and it’s good. I think I was justified.”

The Yelp reviewer, Sonal B, couldn’t be reached for comment. And while the review is no longer on Yelp, Eater has it posted:

“Just called Voltaire to try to order some food because we're in a late business meeting across the street. First, they refused to answer our question about what type of broth is used in the risotto. Then they said they won't pack food to go. My husband spoke to the manager and explained that we're in a conference room across the street, and asked if they can pack our dinner (which we would pick up). The hostess flat-out refused to answer our question about the food or to try and work with us so we could get food in our meeting. My husband asked to speak with the manager. The manager, Jamie, said, ‘our food is plated beautifully, and we can't put it in a ‘to go’ container.” So thanks, Jamie, we'll just starve. (What the manager said is just not true by the way--we've eaten there before, and they did pack our food to go.) When my husband said that he was going to post a Yelp review about the way the restaurant was treating us, the manager questioned, ‘Are you a grown man and an adult?’ Yes, Jamie, we are grown adults, and we do not do business with people who behave like you do.

We regularly travel to NYC and eat at a variety of restaurants, which are more than happy to accommodate people by packing food to go. This restaurant thinks they're too good for their customers. They will soon learn that if you ignore your customers, they're going to start ignoring you. I would not even give this place one star after this experience, and I'm dismayed by their unprofessional and arrogant behavior.”

Eater calls Voltaire’s response epic. It included:

“I sincerely apologize that we don't offer ‘take-out’ food at our restaurant. Being a Yelp user, I'm sure you were aware that on our Yelp business page, on the right side of the screen, it lists details about our establishment. There is an item listed ‘Take-Out: No.’ We have never offered take-out food as we believe the food we prepare should be presented as we see fit, (usually) on a plate inside the dining room.

As for the risotto, its made with a vegetable stock - this dish is vegetarian, and I'm certain that who you were speaking with wanted to make extra certain the information provided to you was accurate.

On your previous visits, you say you have witnessed dishes being boxed up as proof that we provide ‘take-out’ food. Although we do allow our guests to take their uneaten food with them in to-go boxes after they have dined with us, we have never offered ‘take-out’ food.

If you were actually starving, as in a life threatening condition requiring nutritional sustenance, we would be happy to assist you ... we do make exceptions for emergency situations.

Our general manager did question the age/maturity of your husband after he became combative and threatened us with a negative Yelp review if we did not alter our operational practice and provide him with ‘take-out’ food. 15 minutes later you indeed came through with this threat. I can assure you that we don't offer ‘take-out’ food because we feel we are ‘too good’ for our customers; we just prefer to have our guests dine with us, allowing for the proper presentation (and temperature) of their fare that has been skillfully prepared by our kitchen.

I am very pleased that you frequent New York. We travel often as well. And I can assure you that there are many restaurants in NYC that do not offer ‘take-out’ food. Although there are many other options that do - in Kansas City as well (Go Royals!).”

Most Yelpers responding to the comments are showing Voltaire the love with five stars:

▪ Excellent restaurant in KC! Shame on the Sonal B review. The owner could not have replied better. Now looking forward more than ever to dining there next time I'm in KC.

▪ It has been put in my bucket list to visit this place. Thank you Sonal B for being such a food cow and putting this restaurant in the spotlight. With an owner so smart and funny I bet the food is AMAZING!!!

▪ If Sonal B. had read the restaurant details, she would see that Voltaire does not serve take-out, nor do they serve children. That should have been her first clue. If you want your meal on the run, go to Mickey D's or BK where you can get a happy meal and ‘have it your way.’

But some Eater posts were not so kind.

▪ Apparently all sorts of immature people (on both sides of the street) in KC.

▪ The customer should have come in, parked their butt in a seat long enough to order several dishes (enough for whomever was waiting at the conference across the street), and when the food arrived taken one bite of one dish before asking for it to be wrapped to go. They would then have been honoring the restaurant’s holier-than-thou, hair-splitting rules. Just silly.

That said, this customer got overly worked up (and equally silly) – but I’m guessing they were hungry and frustrated by the restaurant’s response.

Voltaire is at 1617 Genessee St.

To reach Joyce Smith, call 816-234-4692 or send email to jsmith@kcstar.com. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter at JoyceKC

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