A former Atlanta restaurant owner claims that Black patrons tend to be critical and demanding, making them the most difficult customers to please while addressing the fallout from social media food critic Keith Lee’s tour of the city’s Black food scene.
Frank Ski Rodriguez, a well-known radio personality who owned Frank Ski’s Restaurant and Lounge before it closed in 2015, made these remarks during a town hall discussion on the aftermath of Lee’s viral reviews of several restaurants in the Atlanta metro area.
The discussion involved other panelists, including chef Bella Jones, owner of The Real Milk and Honey Atlanta, Nigel Douglas; journalist Christopher Daniel; and local TikTok food critic Zackory Kirk.
While discussing how to provide good hospitality and run a successful restaurant, Douglas emphasized the importance of combining “great service,” “great food,” and a positive vibe to keep a restaurant afloat. However, Rodriguez stressed that it’s not as easy as it seems.
“It’s very interesting that we’re talking about this because fundamentally, it’s almost impossible to provide good service to Black people,” Rodriguez said. “Their expectations of Black businesses are too high. They expect more from us than from anybody else.”
During Lee’s tour of the Atlanta food scene, he uncovered Black-owned restaurants with good service and food. However, he also revealed long wait times, challenges in ordering food, and prioritization of celebrity guests over everyday customers.
In one instance, restaurant workers offered to let Lee skip the queue while other patrons had waited hours to dine at the establishment.
While stressing that Black customers can be overcritical and challenging to please, Rodriguez also mentioned the difficulty in finding the right staff to achieve the desired level of service. He recalled asking the general manager of the national chain Houston’s Restaurant to assist with his open call for Frank Ski’s in 2011, only to see a line of 100 applicants dwindle to zero on the first day.
“A Black restaurant doesn’t have the full talent pool to our disposal,” he said. “A white restaurant opens, they get Black people, white people, Asian… every race of people who want to work for them.”
“The best Black people aren’t going to work for a Black restaurant. The best Black people are gonna go work for the white restaurant,” Rodriguez added.
While about 50 people attended the event in person in mid-November, thousands of others listened to online audio from the town hall. Rodriguez’s remarks drew criticism from listeners.
“Black customers aren’t the problem; it’s the black owners who can’t provide good service,” one X user wrote. “So he’s saying there’s no good talent available for Black restaurants, and you don’t wanna pay folks to be trained to be the good talent ? What am I listening to though?” another chimed in.