About two years ago I wrote a review of The Red Hen over on Yelp. It wasn’t pretty. After two disappointing experiences at the restaurant, I’d written them off. A few weeks later I received a private message on the website from Jason Meinhardt, owner and chef of The Red Hen. I was afraid to open it. I’d been on the receiving end of an angry restaurant owner before and it wasn’t a lot of fun. But things were different with Jason.
What followed was a friendly online exchange that lasted for a few years, both via email and blog comments. In our most recent conversation I learned of Jason’s plans to close his popular avant garde breakfast joint. The Red Hen served it’s last customer this week.
So how did Jason react to my negative review from way back? He handled it in the most professional and genuine way possible. He talked about how he took every online review seriously and used them in constructive ways. He didn’t attack me or try to pick apart my words. I wasn’t pressured to take the review down, nothing of the sort. It was a textbook example of how to handle criticism of your business. He earned my respect very quickly from that point on.
After that initial exchange we talked about how running a restaurant is extremely difficult. He shared some hardships, talked about struggles he overcame but all the while was positive about his business. In the meantime he was turning the place around. As he shared with me a few weeks ago, he’s going out on a high note. The Red Hen was listed in Atlanta Magazine’s Best Of issue. It also ranked in Urbanspoon’s top 100 of Atlanta list. How significant is that? By Alpharetta standards it puts The Hen in an exclusive club that includes the much-lauded Pure Taqueria and Pampas Steakhouse.
So even though The Red Hen is no more, I don’t think we’ve seen the last of Jason Meinhardt. I’ll continue to follow his blog foodalong.com and twitter account (@ChefJMMeinhardt). It was on twitter this week that he mentioned trying to get onto a Food Network program. He’s got a background in theater, so combining food and television might be a great fit. The next Bobby Flay? Perhaps!