A Montreal restaurant has been swept up in a social media flame war after a spat between owner and customer. The initial incident took place on Tuesday, August 18 when Michèle Des Rosiers, the chef-owner of Le Chien Rose in Ahuntsic, a district in the northern part of Montreal, confronted a couple for serving milk from a corner grocery store to their 18-month-old son. Upon seeing the outside milk, Des Rosiers approached the table on Le Chien Rose's patio and informed the couple that her business was a bring-your-own-wine restaurant, not a bring your-own-milk restaurant. The mother, Ariane Adem, held up the carton and protested, saying that it was milk for her son. Des Rosiers replied that her restaurant sold milk, and returned to her kitchen. The couple finished their meal and left.
Things started to unravel after Adem gave Le Chien Rose a one-star review on Facebook. Translated, it reads: "We were [at Le Chien Rose] with my 18-month-old son. I filled his bottle with milk (he drinks special milk, so I could not order it from the restaurant). The owner came out to tell us that bringing your own beverage wasn't done, and that we didn't know how to act. We almost left on the spot. We should have. The table next to us also thought about leaving, and would have if it had not been for the waitress who apologized several times. In short, unfortunately, we will never go back."
Des Rosiers, writing on her restaurant's Facebook page, disputed Adem's version of events. According to Des Rosiers, the milk in question was whole milk, which the restaurant sells, and it was poured in a glass, not in a bottle. Des Rosiers accused the parents of lacking common sense, and denounced them for not having the courtesy to ask if they could bring in an outside beverage and serve it to their son. Moreover, she likened their behaviour to walking into a bar with a six-pack of beer. "We're a 'bring-your-own-wine', not a 'bring-whatever-you-want.' If this is how you encourage local businesses, I prefer that you stay at home."
Des Rosiers' reply to Adem has since elicited a furor. Hundreds of one-star reviews have been published on Le Chien Rose's Facebook page over the last two days, mostly from people who have never set foot in the restaurant, but who nonetheless feel compelled to show solidarity with the aggrieved parents. There have been calls to boycott the restaurant, allegations of racism, and barbed personal attacks against Des Rosiers as well. "You have failed miserably with the incident of the milk and the baby. Your reputation is now as an inhumane owner, with a distinct lack of manners. But even more damaging to your restaurant is that now we can see that your customer service is abysmal. In the eyes of many people you have lost face!," wrote one irate reviewer. "Even if it was regular milk, who cares," opined another. "Why respond on Facebook? Lack of class for a restaurant."
In an attempt to pacify the situation, Des Rosiers published an apology, of sorts, on the restaurant's Facebook page yesterday. Here it is, translated.
I think I have no choice but to comment about an event that happened Tuesday night at Le Chien Rose. First I'll tell the facts as they occurred:
A client and her husband sat on our patio with their child: he seemed to be about 1½ years old. She took out a bag from the grocery store next door and poured a glass for her child. From where I’m standing in the restaurant, I see that it's a one-litre carton, white and red. I went to see them to tell them this, word for word: "Excuse me, we are a BYOB, not a bring your own juice, we sell beverages on site …" The client took the bag that I recognize so well, took out the carton and showed me: a pint of Québon milk 3.25%, saying "It's milk, and it’s for my son!" I replied with "we sell milk too ... " and I left the table. I did nothing more, I did not compel them to leave, I did not ask them to throw out the milk.
Here, I will confess my transgressions: yes, I am insulted when customers bring their own juice, Perrier, sangria mix. And it shows in my voice when I warn people that they are wrong to bring items that we sell. You know, we're a restaurant: an establishment which sells drinks and food, and we bust our heads to try to have it all the time, to appeal to more people. For the tone I used to the client who brought her milk, I apologize. I know I have work to do there. Nobody’s perfect and I'm in this boat like everyone else.
The client gave me a one-star review on Facebook because of that, fine. Telling the client that she was rude: maybe not my best move. To say it was special milk for her allergic son when that was not the case is not really honest; my big sister has had allergies her entire life, I'm probably the best trained person on the subject. But hey. Who am I to say what I saw? Obviously a child with a special diet is welcome in my restaurant: you just have to inform us precisely to avoid misunderstandings. This is normal and I don’t think I’m asking for the moon right now.
But do my team and I deserve this public lynching? Does this incident deserve the deluge of one-star reviews and insulting comments from parents? Is it more mature and justified to dole out so much hatred over an incident you didn’t witness? I don’t think so.
I’ll conclude by saying that the fact that a client brings a carton of milk that we sell in my restaurant and that I tell her that it's wrong with a nasty tone is a drop in the bucket compared with all the hatred I’ve received over the last 24 hours. Le Chien Rose is a story of family, friends, neighbours, and love. There are many more people than you think who are affected by all this rancor. Not just me …
Des Rosiers' apology, which she warned would be her final comment on the matter, has not quelled the outrage. Many supporters, however, have published glowing, five-star reviews on her restaurant's Facebook page in an attempt to shout out the detractors. Some have taken pains to remind people that Des Rosiers has been active in the Ahuntsic community, and has even led charitable initiatives for single parents. Not enough for some, apparently. A war of words is currently ongoing between the two camps.
This is not the first time Des Rosiers has garnered attention for something other than her restaurant's food. In March of 2014 she published this lament about her struggles to stay in business and run a restaurant.