I love the atmosphere and competitiveness of the NBA playoffs. There's really nothing else like it. I also don't mind some friendly trash talk among Spurs fans and fans of opposing teams, and I'm all about a city getting behind their team.
But at some point, there's a line where fun and games and a little friendly competition ends and unnecessary behavior starts. A Memphis restaurant has now toed that line.
The Memphis Grizzlies are the San Antonio Spurs' opponents for the Western Conference Finals and while every Spurs fan has that nasty taste in their mouths from losing to these same Grizzlies in 2011, I would never expect the city of San Antonio to host the Grizzlies with anything but the world class service they are known for.
The tourism industry, local restaurants and the like are used to hosting all types of sports teams and athletes for NCAA tournaments, NBA, WNBA, arena football games and recently boxing so it's no surprise when I hear of the friendly and courteous service all over town.
On Friday night, with the Spurs and several of our media compatriots in Memphis for the next two games, I saw Facebook updates with photos of Beale Street and other local attractions, and then all of a sudden I saw something unexpected.
Tony Parker had been denied service at a French-Creole restaurant in Memphis. Restaurant Iris chef Kelly English apparently denied service according to several messages on Twitter that English confirmed to be true.
The restaurant’s Twitter account soon after sent out a message with the Grizzlies playoff slogan and hashtag, “We don’t bluff.”
After both positive and negative responses to the confirmed rumor, English chimed in again.
“We have a thirteen table restaurant. There have been times I couldn't get my wife or parents in. I can't create a table, Tony Parker or not.”
While I can understand having a packed restaurant and the restaurant’s website has a form for reservations, his second response would seem a little more sincere had that been explained from the start instead of just tweeting out “confirmed” on whether or not he denied Parker service.
Sure Parker may not have made a reservation, and sure, all 13 tables may have been booked, but as a restaurateur, denial of service has to be your last resort. The restaurant’s website claims it has party rooms available, and beyond that, there seems to be no explanation that they tried to fit Parker and his party in or tried to make some other type of arrangements, only a stern confirmation of the rumor, and the fact that regardless if it is Tony Parker or not, he wasn’t going to get a table.
In the customer service industry, image and reputation are everything. While both Kelly and the restaurant seem to have no problem with either, now might not be the best time to start changing that. While Memphians are cheering on their local chef and eatery, everywhere else this paints them and possibly the city in a dim light.
The Spurs will not be the last team to go through Memphis, and while making dining decisions, one would wonder how heavily a refusal of service to another NBA player plays into those decisions.
I’m sure English and the restaurant will do fine regardless of this issue, as they are both well lauded in the culinary world, but handling a situation better and being sincere in response also go a long way.
I personally would be shocked to hear that a local San Antonio establishment did the same to an opposing team’s player. Even on the busiest of nights with a reservation list as long as the riverwalk, I have a feeling Zach Randolph or Marc Gasol would have no problem finding a table.
For a city looking for a win, Memphis certainly didn’t need a loss coming from within.
Imagine that you are a log-time and regular customer of the restaurant and you have had a reservation for several days for a nice, quite dinner. But when you arrive your table is squeezed by others to make room for a group of noisy celebrities who have little regard for the others in the restaurant, all of whom are similarly crowded and annoyed - and all of whom have had reservations for several days.
Added to that, the service is lousy because the new group called in at the last minute, not giving the restaurant manager time to bring in other servers (if he could find them at the last minute) and the kitchen ran out of food because they didn't have time to order for 13 more at the last minute.
If I were the restaurant manager I'd have done exactly as Kelly English did. After all, Memphis probably will never see Tony Parker and his entourage again, but those customers who would have been displaced are regulars. They won't forget.
I salute Kelly and wish him well. Next time I'm in Memphis, I'll stop in for dinner - if I can get a table. And if I can't, I'll know that this little episode had no effect on the reputation of the restaurant - other than to enhance it in the community in which it operates all year.
Why don't you do an editorial on the lack of fine dining establishments in San Antonio before you start bashing another city.
@LanceZierlein If you just show up at Oxheart on a holiday weekend, you ain't getting in.
Ugh.. an over the top editorial, reacting to a non issue. A guy didn't have reservations at a 13 table restaurant and was turned away. You can try and move the goalposts and make this about subsequent implied trash talking, but the reality is this is merely some blog's attempt at a hits grab.
Don't recall Memphis ever being accused of being friendly. If I were an NBA player from an opposing team I would be a little worried about what might end up in my food. As I recall, David Robinson and his father Ambrose had dinner in a New York restaurant in 1999 when the Spurs were in town on their way to their first championship. When they arose afterwards, they were given a standing ovation by all the patrons. Now that is classy.
Tony would be better off ordering a pizza delivered to his room. My experience traveling in Memphis was that is a culinary wilderness. Don't even get me started on the BBQ.
don't get all tied up in a knot, people. Michael's point is the restaurant initially responded wrong. tweeting the team's current playoff slogan of "we don't bluff" while referring to denying tony a table sent off the wrong message. that set off a media firestorm, so the restaurant cleared the air saying it simply didn't have the space for tony and wasn't going to turn away someone who have a reservation just for him, which is fine and understandable.
the only ting the restaurant did wrong was get cocky about it at first, but they eventually cleared the air. no harm done. maybe Michael overstated it a little in this article, but he's not trying to drag down the place like some of you are suggesting.
I believe you are mistaken. Your headline should have read; "Tony Parker wasn't able to secure a reservation" or maybe "Blogger cries wolf once again"
I am both a Spurs fan and a Texan and you sir have disgraced both of these fine institutions. This is a trumped up story line and if you have caused even one single group to divert their plans to sine at the alter that is Iris then shame on you. Kelly is one of the finest, hardworking, service oriented individuals I have ever met. In fact I strive to mirror such an individual. It is painfully obvious than your knowledge of this situation and industry is limited at best. I will accept no other action short of a complete withdrawal of said article and a formal written and public apology. Lies and untruths under the auspice of an editorial are still lies. I have complete faith on you as an honorable and just individual to right this injustice. I am confident you will do your best to correct and mend this senseless trampling of an honest small business man.
Thank you in advance for all your help on this matter.
[This message has been approved by Bryan "Mother 'Effing" Caswell]
@SocialinMemphis It DOESN'T paint Memphis in a dim light! Chef English has done a lot for this city. I'm glad he doesn't act like the Westin
@SocialinMemphis It does NOT paint Memphis in a bad light! Chef English has done so much for this city. Write an article about the Westin!
@jortle Thanks for reading and not immediately hexing me or sending me hatemail lol
People are unable to dine at Iris on a regular basis because of not having reservations. This is well-known. It's a small place, and the experience from beginning to end is fantastic. Why should Parker be afforded a privilege the rest of us aren't? Because he's Tony Parker? Sorry - I don't buy into coddling celebrities because they're celebrities. He's just another guy, and like every other guy (Memphian or not), he needs a reservation.
Looking back on how out of control this whole Iris/Tony Parker thing has become, I'm sure Kelly wishes he would have handled it differently but at the time it happened, I would be willing to bet he never once thought anyone outside of us extremely proud Memphians would be talking about this. You need to understand the atmosphere in our city right now and exactly how Restaurant Iris and Kelly English work. Our city, including Kelly, is beaming with pride right now. We have NEVER had any type of national success like this so it is all new to us. A city that is thick with racial tension is finally behaving as a city of one and it's all because of the excitement behind our Grizzlies and the grit and grind of it all. You can feel the lack of tension in the streets, you can see the joy on everyone's face around town. It's like we are a city full of kids at Disney World. We are experiencing something new to us and we are beyond ecstatic!!! So when Kelly was unable to give Tony Parker a table and someone asked about it, maybe he should have done a better job explaining what happened for all of you non-Memphians to understand but all of us Memphians, who know that it is impossible to walk into Iris and get a table, knew his We don't bluff tweet was just a joke. I've met Kelly several times while dining in his restaurant and he is an incredibly welcoming and humble host. I'm sure he meant nothing more than to answer the question and put a little Go Grizz sentiment in there too. I'm also sure he never imagined this would be getting national attention since it doesn't deserve it. Point is NO ONE gets a table at Iris by just walking in. It's been years since you could do that there. As a matter of fact, I haven't eaten there in almost a year and a half because I don't plan well and never think about reservations anymore than a week in advance. I have tried 4 or 5 times to get a table in that time frame and haven't been able to but I'm not mad at Kelly, I'm mad at myself for not planning it right. Maybe he should have tweeted about it differently but you can't fault any of us for our excitement in a city that needed this so bad. We are proud of our Grizzlies and we are out of control. Maybe the next time we make it to the Western Conference Finals we will be able to handle it differently but this is our first rodeo and we are insane with pride for our team!
@SocialinMemphis let's not mention that TP wanted 2 tables one for him and one for his bodyguard...Can't believe this is actually news!
@awfulannouncing well said? "Memphis has now toes that line" is not a great way to say anything. 2nd paragraph.
Also it would just be better journalism if you actually researched the facts before writing an article that, in essence, is tearing down an entire city. Classless.
This an overblown issue by the media because of a pampered NBA player being turned down service at a full restaurant. The restaurant owner is having to respond to what is probably a pretty common issue for a renown restaurant. I don't blame him for not tweeting out the full situation just because a millionaire was involved.
@Spurs_IND I'm just glad he didn't sub article for another word
No really story here. It's the best restaurant in Memphis. U have to have a reservation at least a month out to get a table.
@bharris901 Just think it could've been handled much better
It was the classless tweet that was made. Not the fact that Tony Parker wasn't given a table at a 13 table restaurant. Apparently he was told of the incredible food there. And one thing is for sure, you won't be seeing him there in the near future because the Spurs swept the Grizzlies. Turned them into teddy bears. Oops. Revenge has it's moments.
@Blueoveralls Agreed, that wasn't my point.
@dallasannette Great response and points. I'd love to reprint this on the site if that would be ok with you.
@wrussell1984 First, it's an editorial so it's my opinion on the situation only and nothing else. As far as researching the information, I used all the information available and linked to it in the editorial. I also reached out to several people that this came from with no response. I also said it was a ful house and that they did take reservations. I'm not at all tearing down an entire city. You are overblowing things now. What I said was actually pretty mild compared to some of the other stuff I've read and the banter on twitter. I gave my opinion, and you may not agree with it, but it is what it is. In the end, my opinion is that it was not handled properly and it's bad PR. It doesnt change my opinion of the city of Memphis or its residents in any way, even if there were several in my feed congratulating the chef on denying service. If you can tweet out confirmed and we don't bluff, you can surely tweet out a reason or something to turn this another way. Honestly, as a business owner, I would never have even tweeted "confirmed." I would have stayed far away from that one and if backlash come about because of the rumor, I would've nipped it in the bud. If you re-read my editorial, I do not once say anything negative about the city, chef or restaurant, only question the decision making.
@mdeleon who do you mean by he?
@mdeleon @bharris901 So you mean your precious "superstar" waltzes into town, expects to get two tables at one of the most exclusive restaurants in the city and you say his turn-away could have been handled better? You and Tony need get over your damn selves.
@dallasannette Thanks, it'll be up later today or tomorrow morning after game coverage.
@dallasannette your a selected winner! our profile has the link 2 follow vip:2527
@dallasannette your a selected winner! our profile has the link 2 follow vip:7207
@mdeleon Looking forward to it, glad you understand where we are coming from and hope ur fellow San Antonio people do too!
@iksanity No. It's cool
@critter42 @mdeleon @bharris901 But you fail to see...that`s the difference between Memphis and SA . SA has been there before and we treat EVERYONE that comes to our city with respect no matter who you are or what team you play with. So try and act with some class Grizz fans because you hosting another playoff game is not always quarantined.
@mdeleon @critter42 @bharris901 He's in the city of the team he is trying to eliminate and we should treat him like a diva? Don't know if you heard, but we don't roll like that, and if he (and by extension, Spurs fans) can't deal with it, then he should just go back home where he will be. And if I were Z'bo or TA in San Antonio, I'd expect they'd get treated the same way there.