Restaurant Ejects Diner for Tweeting While Eating - UPDATED
Ever since Te House of Tea and its sister restaurant, the now-defunct Saute World Bistro, signed up for Twitter accounts in August 2008 -- the first two restaurants in Houston to do so -- it's become not only de rigeur but almost necessary for a restaurant to have a Twitter account.
Social media isn't always as friendly as it sounds.
It's not enough now to have just a website or just a Facebook page: Customers want to interact with their favorite restaurants and chefs on Twitter, share mini-reviews or photos of dishes with their friends, namecheck hot restaurants and call out establishments that aren't up to par.
"Tweeting and eating go hand-in-hand these days," says Paula Murphy, whose firm -- Patterson & Murphy -- handles PR for a number of Houston restaurants.
"Restaurateurs and bar owners really want people to be in the moment and enjoy where they are and what they're eating and what they're drinking. Social media has changed all that," she elaborates. "Now, the way you show you're enjoying it is that you Tweet about it. You post it on Facebook. You have that other dimension of depth, the Twitterverse. But just as quickly as they could say something positive, they could say something offensive and negative."
So what happens when a customer is Tweeting something negative about a restaurant as they're dining in it? In the case of one local diner, it can get you kicked out.
Allison Matsu was having drinks at Down House on Sunday night when she posted a Tweet, since deleted, wherein she called a bartender a "twerp" for quoting Bobby Heugel -- the owner of Anvil Bar & Refuge -- and appended her statement with the hashtag
Photo by Troy Fields Down House don't take no Twitter guff. #jackass #jackoff.
Matsu has achieved mild, local notoriety for her late-night Tweets, even recently winning a Houston Press Web Award for that very activity. Down House, for its part, has achieved a reputation in the short time that it's been open for having capricious service. The two collided in a Twitter-fueled spectacle that resulted in general manager Forrest DeSpain calling the bar, speaking shortly with Matsu, and asking her to be ejected from his establishment.
"She called him a twerp," DeSpain said by phone yesterday afternoon. DeSpain runs the Twitter account for Down House and was agitated that someone would bully his bartender, as he saw it, and took action despite not being at the restaurant that night. "I immediately called up here and talked to her for a few minutes and asked her if she had any kinder words." She didn't, DeSpain said, so he asked her to leave.
Matsu responded by posting a series of Tweets, most of them in the same vein: "Left @DownHouseHTX in tears after GM called up & asked the bartender to hand me the phone. He proceeded to curse a me & ask me to leave. Wow."
Asked to comment on the story yesterday, Matsu said she wouldn't be available until sometime today. If we get in touch with her, we'll update this story. [Edit: Click to the third page to see Matsu's full response.] However, she did post an update yesterday: "No surprise that @DownHouseHTX blocked and unfollowed me. I will NEVER return to that place as long as Forrest still works there."
Although it's far from the first time that a patron has been asked to leave for disruptive behavior, the incident on Sunday night marks one of the first times that a diner has been asked to leave for being disruptive online.
The incident also raises the question: Which group of people is more important to a restaurant? The diners who are physically present to witness another patron's disruptive behavior? Or the masses of potential diners who are virtual witnesses to that behavior on social media?