Family-owned restaurants can boast unique charms, like recipes passed down for generations, family photos adorning the walls, and a bare-assed toddler innocently exposing their asshole to you while you eat. Oh, wait. Do you not want that last experience? Then maybe steer clear of the Imagine Vegan Cafe in Memphis, Tennessee, where family-dining has taken a weird new turn.
It all began with a Google+ review, where one Chelsea Bartley complained about an unusual dining experience at the family-owned and operated vegan joint.
There’s a lot to process here, but note that despite having a stranger’s asshole in her face, she nonetheless gave the restaurant 2 stars. That must be some seriously stellar tofurkey. Still, Imagine Vegan Cafe’s owners, Kristie and Adam Jeffrey, were not happy about the review, viewing it as an attack on their children (the exhibitionist and yodeler). Kristie took to Facebook to respond.
So, Mama Bear Kristie declares these are lies. But in later retorts, it’s unclear which parts she actually refutes. For one thing, the Imagine Vegan Cafe account confessed that yes, sometimes the owner’s 21-month-old will run around naked, and “that is life.”
Then they helpfully posted the part of their menu that warns “Sometimes there may be children running around your table singing … Please leave your expectations at the door.”
The kerfuffle drew attention across social media, spurring Imagine Vegan Cafe to shut down their accounts for a few days. But before they did, they called into question Chelsea’s account with some curious logic.
However, another woman claimed the nudity was not an isolated incident and shared an even grosser story.
It doesn’t appear the Jeffreys responded to this claim, but they did answer to those suggesting they just apologize for Chelsea’s bad experience.
It’s hard to nail down the truth here. But that didn’t stop people from taking sides across Twitter and Facebook. Some mocked the “Mama Bear” and questioned the health code violations a bare-butted baby might incur. Others supported the Jeffrey family’s right to run their business and raise their kids how they see fit. Either way, the Jeffreys took a time out to clean up their reputation. Yelp put a freeze on their review page as joke reviews poured in along with one-star reviews brazenly criticizing the Jeffreys.
Twitter took note that the previous Facebook interactions were being erased. (Thanks to Twenty Two Words for many of the screengrabs seen above.)
Then, father of the kids mentioned in the 2-star review, Adam Jeffrey, sat down with Commercial Appeal to calmly explain their side of the story.
Now, I have a certain amount of sympathy for the Jeffrey parents. I’ve worked in a family-owned restaurant, and it can be especially stressful because of the way professional and personal worlds collide. Still, Chelsea’s review was not about their kids. It was about Kristie and Adam’s choices in how they run their restaurant, and yes, by extension their parenting. Which I understand Kristie getting defensive about. But even if they felt Chelsea was being wildly unfair, your job in a restaurant—whether you are the hostess, wait staff, chef or owner—is to suck it up and make the customer happy. They failed there. Then by blowing this incident up on Facebook, this humble vegan joint has become a viral punchline, spreading the story of buttholes and baby shit far wider than the Jeffreys could have imagined.
But hey, I don’t have kids and I don’t frequent vegan joints, so I don’t have a dog in this fight. What say you? Sound off in the comments.