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Ty Largo's Got Some Advice for Tina -- and the Rest of Us

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There's not much that leaves us speechless, but several of us here at Chow Bella didn't know quite what to say after reading the stream of comments that came in last week following food critic Laura Hahnefeld's first-taste review of Tina's Ethiopian Cafe in Chandler.

The colorful comments -- both for and against Hahnefeld and her take on Tina's new spot -- made for equally colorful discussion on Facebook and around the table at dinner parties this weekend, and we got an email from one public relations professional who offered to share his advice.

So here's Ty Largo's take. We are sure you'll let us know what you think.

"Grabs bucket of popcorn."

That's just one out of 135 [and counting] comments on an amusing, but sad thread about dining critic Laura Hahnefeld's recap of a recent visit to Tina's Ethiopian Café. Yikes.

For the record, I loved Tina's in Chandler, so it's especially painful to see Laura's fair blog post about her experience turn into a public war of the words.

Several comments suggested Tina retain a PR firm to handle these situations, but let's be honest, if she had a PR firm, she wouldn't have these situations. So instead, here's some free perspective from a pro who's been the critic and the criticized.

To Tina: Don't listen to the aging PR folks who still believe that any "publicity is good publicity." They're wrong. Throwing emotional gasoline on the fire almost always backfires. Keep your emotions out of a response...and stay away from combative responses in the public. If you must post, try to win over the public with grace and charm, not threats and insults. The article wasn't bad, but clearly service fell short that night, it happens. Address the concerns and welcome the folks to revisit. They already love and support you, just keep on truckin'.

To the critics: Professional critic or citizen Yelper, until you've owned and operated a restaurant, you'll never know how much any negative restaurant review hurts. I promise, folks in the restaurant biz are not actively trying to wrong you. Most restaurant owners are simply too busy to plot against you. (Well, aside from the few crazies out there.) All businesses fall short of best performance every once in a while, sometimes too often, and we need a little reminder to get on track. Feedback, good or bad, helps to improve service. Just be fair.

Oh and one more thing Tina . . . I probably wouldn't call Amy [Bouzlago, of Amy's Baking Company] for PR advice.

Ty James Largo is an expert amateur epicure whose food adventures can be found at JuxtaPalate.com. He also owns Up Agency, the PR firm for many respected chefs, restaurants, businesses and events around town.

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