Craft & Commerce gets crafty with negative reviews

Posted: December 4th, 2012 | Arts & Entertainment, Featured, Food & Drink | 5 Comments

Disappointed Yelp customers get new life at the restaurant

Alex Owens | Downtown News

Customer service used to be a lot simpler in the good old days before the advent of social media sites like

Even a decade ago, restaurants were usually able to deal with customer issues on a one-on-one basis, but now sites like give consumers a chance to rant or rave to an audience of a much larger group of people than ever before.

It’s no secret that Yelp reviews impact a restaurant’s success, but it’s also common knowledge that there is no standard rating system, so customers can base their restaurant rating on legitimate things such as service or food, or to arbitrary problems such as running into an ex there.

Some restaurants try and make nice with the website by paying for the right to put the best reviews up front, but Craft & Commerce is trying a counter-intuitive approach by emphasizing the negative Yelp reviews in the actual restaurant.

Craft and Commerce logo (Courtesy

Customers who dine at the restaurant’s Little Italy gastropub will hear recorded voices reading some of the more extreme comments made by Yelpers, such as these delectable tidbits.

  • “This place is the epicenter of those assholes with the mustaches …  Next, the place is jammed with hipsters eating corn dogs …”
  • “The bacon ice cream sandwich? Re: bacon — just because it’s trendy, doesn’t mean you have to do it.”
  • “There really is no vodka here. But the bartender who helped us had big muscles and suspenders, so I guess that makes up for the lack of my alcohol of choice.”
  • “If I came back, I’d substitute the fries for something else. You know, like replacing one American puppet dictator with another.”

It might sound crazy to play up bad reviews in the actual restaurant, but there is a method to the madness, according to Craft & Commerce co-owner Arsalun Tafazoli.

“The thing about Yelp is, I’ve seen great restaurants get only 3.5 stars,” Tafazoli said. “Take Momofuku in New York. It’s rated as one of the 10 best restaurants in the world by experts, but it only has 3.5 stars on Yelp.”

By comparison, Craft & Commerce is doing better. It’s been reviewed by Yelpers 887 times and still has a four-star average. Still, Tafazoli takes bad reviews seriously.

Well, sort of. “We read every review and there will be terms like ‘shocked,’ and ‘appalled,’ and people will say how we ruined their week,” Tafazoli laughed. “It’s almost Shakespearean, like we kidnapped their first child and held it for ransom. This is from a person who’s paying 12 bucks for a burger.”

Co-owner Arsulan Tafazoli felt the negative Yelp reviews needed their voices heard. Literally. (Courtesy Craft and Commerce)

Tafazoli and co-owner Nathan Stanton realize their restaurant aesthetic isn’t exactly mainstream.

Besides Craft & Commerce, the two partners also own Neighborhood, Nobel Experiment and the Underbelly, and they have firm rules that set them apart from other restaurants: No ketchup, no vodka, no TVs and, as their Yelp project confirms, no blind faith that the customer is always right.

That doesn’t mean they don’t care about service. “Honestly, we rarely go through a perfect night and we might screw something up, but we try to make it right,” Tafazoli said.

But rather than trying to go on Yelp and confront the haters, the two decided to have some fun at Yelp and, yes, Craft & Commerce’s expense.

“We thought about using the bad reviews as wallpaper, but since we already were playing audiobooks in the bathroom, this seemed a natural,” Tafazoli said.

The duo had friends, regulars and staffers read the reviews.“There was even a photographer from the UT who had a good voice so we asked him to read,” Tafazoli said.

The negative Yelp reviews started playing in mid-November, and Tafazoli said the reaction from customers has been awesome.

“However, no one has mentioned them on Yelp,” he said.

Craft and Commerce is located at 675 W. Beech Street in Little Italy. For hours and menu options, visit their website at



  1. […] he realized that some internationally acclaimed restaurants, like Momofuku Noodle Bar in New York, only had so-so reviews on Yelp. That made him see the humor in being appraised so frequently by […]

  2. […] he realized that some internationally acclaimed restaurants, like Momofuku Noodle Bar in New York, only had so-so reviews on Yelp. That made him see the humor in being appraised so frequently by […]

  3. Steve Kleine says:

    What a creative concept from a creative restaurant group. However, I would caution other businesses from this strategy. Tafazoli and company are going after a type of customer that would appreciate the humor behind hearing the sound bites. They would be very off putting in other environments that don’t have a lot of “snarky-ness”. I advise my clients to take a deep breath when we go through Yelp and other review sites. For positive reviews we thank the customer for taking the time to write the review. For negative reviews that point out a “real” problem such as poor service, we respond to them to try and fix the problem. We ignore “hater” reviews knowing there is not much to be done. Most people discredit those types of reviews. If the review warrants it, we flag it for review. One thing to note is that advertising on Yelp does not hide negative reviews, it only allows you to put one positive review on top. Some Yelp salespeople have said differently, which is why this rumor has spread.

  4. […] he satisfied that some internationally acclaimed restaurants, like Momofuku Noodle Bar in New York, only had so-so reviews on Yelp. That done him see a amusement in being appraised so frequently by […]

  5. […] Finally, we’ll leave you with perhaps the most creative response to negative reviews yet — turning them into spoken word. The Craft Commerce Bar in San Diego decided to make lemonade out of lemons by having every negative review posted on Yelp read aloud and recorded. Then, the recordings were piped into the bathroom loudspeakers on a repeating loop. Co-owner Arsulan Tafazoli said that the reaction from customers has been “awesome.” (Source) […]

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