Most of us have certain apps on our smart phones that we use regularly. For example, I oftentimes check in on Facebook when I am at interesting places, and I use my airline app to check on the status of my flight times and departure gates.

But it’s not very often that I post a review on Yelp.

This past weekend, my husband and I were in Monterey, California. We walked through Carmel, went to see the Pebble Beach Golf Course (it is stupendous), and did the 17-Mile Drive, a scenic road through Pebble Beach and Pacific Grove on the Monterey Peninsula.

And, of course, we went out to eat. I chose restaurants I had tried before or those that were recommended to me by friends. Since we were on vacation, I wanted our food and wine experience to be over the top. So it was fun, yet nerve-wracking, to pick places to dine. I feel like I did a pretty good job of selecting places that fit the bill, so to speak.

However, we did have one poor dining experience. I will not share the name of the restaurant, but it was a steakhouse, one that has received rave reviews for its steaks for many years. It came highly recommended by one of my closest friends.

So, you can imagine how baffled and annoyed we were at the poor experience we had. I was actually so frustrated that as we walked out of the restaurant, I decided to post a review on Yelp.

Frieda's Specialty Produce - What's on Karen's Plate? - Yelp“Seriously the worst experience ever. Sent dirty wine glasses back three times. Butter dish was already used. Salad did not have toppings. Side dishes were not hot (room temperature). We spoke to the manager twice. And we were a bit surprised that all they did was comp us our wine. Waste of $95.”

At the time, I did not realize that my Yelp account was set up so that my review immediately posted to Twitter. That turned out to be a good thing though, because the next morning I got what appeared to be an auto-response on Twitter that said, “Thanks for stopping by and for sharing your review on Yelp.”

I was annoyed. I have written before about companies that do not respond personally or quickly to posts on Facebook or Twitter.

An appropriate, personal response is imperative with social media. Anyone who is active on Twitter or Facebook will instantly judge a company based on how responsive and truthful it is. If you made a mistake, your product was bad, or your restaurant was having a bad day—admit it. Social media is just like working with your friends and teammates—the truth is always best.

Then, a few hours after that tweet, I got a response on Yelp from the owner himself!

“We’re so sorry to hear this, Karen, but we appreciate you speaking up when you were here. The issues you experienced absolutely are not common around here; we’re just sorry the service was so uneven the night you stopped by. Please know that we plan on putting this feedback to good use immediately!”

My faith in this restaurant was immediately restored.

The owner was honest about them having a bad night and personally responded with no excuses. By doing so, he exceeded my expectations, and I will definitely give the restaurant a second chance.

My first job at Frieda’s back in the 1970s was to answer all consumer letters. We received between 300 and 500 letters a week asking for recipes, and at least a dozen a week required a personal answer. My rule was to respond within 72 hours. That’s right—within three working days I answered all those snail mail inquiries. Now that we have the Internet, email and 800 numbers, our goal here at Frieda’s is to turn around all inquiries within 24 hours, on the same day if possible.

I realize that my expectations are pretty high. Nonetheless, I expect other companies to be as attentive as I was at returning inquiries, and I think it’s fair to expect a comment or a reply when you post on a company’s website or social media platform.

How many of you post reviews or comments online? Do you feel like you are heard when you have a complaint or suggestion? Do they answer you back?

Karen

You may have heard of the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station in south Orange County. Many years ago it was decommissioned, and there was much controversy about how the vacated base should be used. Last weekend, I was finally able to visit what is now called the Orange County Great Park with my good friend, A.G. Kawamura.

A.G. and his brother, Matthew, own Orange County Produce. Their two main commercial crops are strawberries and green beans. I found out a few years ago that our two companies are the two largest produce company contributors to our local food bank, Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County.

You may recognize A.G.’s name as he is the former California Secretary of Agriculture. He has since returned to farming full time on his family’s farm.

Frieda's Specialty Produce - What's on Karen's Plate? - A.G. Kawamura
Before heading off to the Great Park, we had a quick breakfast together at Knowlwood Restaurant, which is in a restored blacksmith shop. I found out that for decades, like many other farmers, local Orange County farmers get coffee and breakfast each morning at Knowlwood to catch up on the local farming gossip and to discuss prices, customers, etc. Seriously, the local farmers’ gathering place is an important part of farming vibrancy.

Frieda's Specialty Produce - What's on Karen's Plate? - Incredible Edible Farm

 

In addition to its commercial strawberry and green beans acreage, Orange County Produce also farms at the park’s Incredible Edible Farm, growing fresh produce specifically for the local food bank! I saw acres upon acres of Cauliflower, Kohlrabi, huge heads of Lettuce, and Kale.

(Click on the thumbnail to view larger image.)

Volunteers are recruited on a daily basis to harvest the food. Teenagers from local high schools, adults from churches and synagogues, Girl Scout and Boy Scout troops, along with families (large and small), come to learn about how food is grown and to participate in the harvest of this fresh produce.

Due to the heat wave in Southern California, a bumper crop of Cauliflower had to be picked on the morning we were there. You can see that the large bins—holding close to 1,000 pounds each—were being filled to the brim. Then they went to a warehouse to be cooled and then distributed through a local network for food banks and distribution facilities.

This gleaning process is so educational for our local kids. They see how food is grown, and we hope that some of them decide to choose agriculture and/or farming as a career. In the meantime, they are helping feed those who are less fortunate.

Adjacent to the fields are some demonstration gardens to show visitors how they can have a garden at home, even if they don’t have much room or even soil. The vertical gardens were amazing—check out the Strawberries, Chile Peppers, and Kale!

And for the final educational piece, there is the Farm + Food Lab (click on “Things to See” tab). Staff members and Master Gardeners from the University of California Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners of Orange County walk visitors through, explaining such things as integrated pest management (keeping the good bugs) and crop rotation (which can be synergistic). Sample home gardens and an outdoor classroom facilitate learning.

Overall, it was an amazing and enlightening morning.

Before it got too hot, our final stop around 11 a.m. was to pick strawberries in one of Orange County Produce’s fields. I learned the correct way to pick a strawberry and developed a true appreciation for the intense labor involved in producing those amazing morsels of sweetness.

I took a small bag back to the office to share with my coworkers. Even Hanna, who isn’t fond of strawberries, said she had never tasted anything so sweet and delicious.

If you’ve contemplated gardening at home, but don’t know where to start or don’t have much space, check out the Farm + Food Lab for some inspiration!

Karen