In the aftermath of getting a bad review from food critic Keith Lee, Nigel Douglas, the owner of The Real Milk and Honey, told a small conference room of people that he would serve big celebrities like Jay-Z and Beyoncé before he would serve regular, everyday customers.
One of Lee’s pet peeves with some establishments is that they give certain people seating privileges over others despite there being a line or reservations.
In his review of The Real Milk and Honey, he highlighted an inconvenience he faced when attempting to place an order over the phone. To exacerbate matters, when he tried to enter the restaurant for in-person ordering, he was surprised to find it closed early for “deep cleaning” despite other customers still collecting their orders.
Although the staff was courteous, the confusing policies prompted his decision to leave. Interestingly, as he was exiting, a restaurant staff member recognized him and tried to dissuade him from leaving by offering special treatment — an approach that Lee finds disagreeable in any context. Despite the gesture, he politely declined and later referenced this encounter in his less-than-favorable review.
During the town hall meeting with 50 people present, Douglas sat on a panel with Bella Jones, Jason Bass, Frank Ski and Zackary Kirk to talk about the food and entertainment industry. One subject he touched on was Lee’s issue with celebrities and influencers being given special treatment, saying it really comes down to business.
“A celebrity is a celebrity,” the restauranteur said. “No matter where you go. No matter what town you land in. If you got 14 million followers, you’re a celebrity.”
He added, “If Jay-Z and Beyoncé … now I love all y’all, right? But If Jay-Z and Beyoncé walk into my restaurant, all 50 of y’all get left outside. I mean, you gotta be honest with it. And y’all gonna be mad at that?”
He explained that celebrities have people looking at them and following their every move, and the type of publicity that they get from a celebrity dining at their eatery is more valuable than any press release his team could write.
Bass, while saying he didn’t want to “touch on that,” agreed. He said, “It’s difficult to turn down an opportunity that an influential person” brings to his restaurant.
Kirk chimed in adding, “Jay-Z and Beyoncé will drive business,” but he also said so will a Michelin star and that there has to be a balance that respects the loyal customer, saying if you focus on just the celebrities, “you’re setting yourself up … to fail.”
“You have to treat every customer like they are somebody,” Kirk said.
Kirk’s opinion of treating everyone a certain way mirrors what Lee threads into most of his reviews — the importance of respecting the customer’s dollar and choice to dine with the restaurant.
Lee explained this was his issue when he reviewed Kandi Burruss’ restaurant, the Old Lady Gang, on Oct. 28.
Lee deliberately sent his family to the establishment to prevent them from receiving preferential treatment. Consequently, staffers told them that the wait for seating could extend up to an hour and a half because they didn’t have reservations.
At this point, Lee entered OLG and was immediately recognized. People started to take pictures with him, and after a while, a staff member informed him that the business could service him and he would be seated within five minutes. He knew his star power made the difference.
“As always, I don’t want any special treatment. I want to be treated like everybody else. I pay for my food like everybody else. I’m a normal person. I’m a normal customer,” Lee said.
Lee opted not to be seated and, instead, shared with the staff member that he had lost interest in dining at the establishment.