Ricky Craig's last straw with Yelp came over the weekend.
Craig, the owner of Hubcap Grill, says the unseasonably beautiful weather on Saturday meant record crowds at his 19th Street location, and a line that formed at 11 a.m. and stayed solid for the next six hours. With 840 burgers sold, Craig had to close a couple hours early.
This did not please Yelp user Ken M., who left a one-star review:
"Resoectfully[sic], what irresponsible owner runs out of food and closes early on a Saturday night? . . . The saddest issue here is that Hubcap has more potential then any burger place in the Heights. But with the way the current owner and/or management dissappoints his clientel, I regretfully can't recommend Hubcap and this is why i now drop it to one star."
"I really focused on that for a week and finally got a five-star review that specifically mentioned the service. I was so excited and I go to show it to my employees the next day and [Yelp's] taken it down."
"It's just for fun, giving back to the community who support Hubcap," Craig tells CultureMap. "We'll have free kegs of beer, free live band, we're here to relax and have a good time in life."
Craig hasn't decided on a date for the party but says he'll hold it on a Sunday, when the 19th Street location is usually closed, partly so that other chefs and restaurateurs can come.
"I'm getting a lot of heat right now from people who say I'm acting childish and immature," Craig says. "I take criticism very well but when you start calling me names, talking about my mom and my dad . . . I correct my problems, but some people are ridiculous."
Craig says he does read Yelp reviews and tries to take them into account when he can. He told CultureMap that a series of people complaining about service led him to work with his team on taking extra time to be friendly and smile, even when they are overwhelmed with orders.
"I really focused on that for a week and finally got a five-star review that specifically mentioned the service. I was so excited and I go to show it to my employees the next day and [Yelp's] taken it down," Craig says.
On Twitter, Craig also vented about Yelp reviews that compared Hubcap to fast food chains, writing "If u compare me to Whatsburger or 5guys.... Your taste buds are gone." He walked back that criticism talking to CultureMap:
"I don't have any problem with Whataburger — it's fast, easy, convenient and decent. Five Guys, they have a hell of a concept. I mean, hello, they have 1,000 stores," Craig says. "But we are totally two different places. They are corporate and we are mom and pop. I'm not trying to be the best in Houston, I'm just trying to be one of the best. We are all unique and different in our own way."
As for Ken's complaint, Craig still sounds annoyed.
"For a guy to go on Yelp and complain like that . . . I do have potential and I do run it properly — that's why we have lines all day. I can only store so much meat in the cooler. I'm saving my nickels and dimes for a walk-in cooler but it runs about $20,000," Craig says. "I'm tired of hearing the word spoilt brat.
"I work too hard for people to slam me. I'm sticking to my guns and I'm sticking up for my employees."