‘Ethnic’ Restaurants: Not Sensitive and Judgemental Towards People of Other Cultures?

Especially to Canadian-born/raised Canadians who are of the same ethnicity as said restaurant?  I’ve found, in my own experience, anyway, that CERTAIN Chinese restaurants definitely fit the bill.  And I am sure many would agree with me.  First of all, many lack a good digital presence – even if they are older.  Second is attitude. I will go into more detail in the next few paragraphs.

Chinese restaurants, ethnic restaurants, culture, service, CBCs, Canadian born Chinese, Jooksing

Soup Course from a recent multi-course/set dinner at a Markham-area Chinese restaurant.  Kind of boring, no? 

The digital presence:  I suppose this is more of a generational thing rather than cultural – many restaurants in Asia certainly have good websites – especially those with plenty of younger clientele.  This is also the case in Canada.  However, those who are supposedly more generalized?  Nope, not exactly true.  Sure, very established eateries like Toronto’s Dynasty or Lai Wah Heen are online, but neither are on social media.  I suppose I can give them bonus points for being online at all!  I think many of them don’t really understand the NEED to be online and that they can get by just from word-of-mouth.  But word-of-mouth only goes so far.  If you don’t read or write the language, then you’re likely out of luck.  It’s just a way to say that they don’t want our business unless we are invited to dinner by family or friends.  And because of some businesses’ lack of digital presence, I often wonder if they even KNOW that some people are unhappy (despite negative Yelp or Google reviews).  As clients, we are not going to call them up or write to them (snail mail style, since we don’t know if they have an email address – or if they do, whether they check it).  And reviews from major (or local) publications won’t necessarily reflect that of clients.

Attitude:  This happens less, but I have experienced this or heard of such experiences.  Sure, English isn’t your first or default language, but don’t get angry at us if we don’t quite understand menu items.  Don’t get angry at us if we ask – or even at other people, who DO speak/read/understand the language (there’s a very telling example, seen in a Yelp review for a restaurant I was recently at.  Just scroll down to read Joanne’s).  Then there’s just the vibe you get when you’re Canadian born Chinese (CBC) – this is more common.  Some may say that it’s about the lack of confidence, but it isn’t when you ARE CBC!  You just FEEL that your business isn’t wanted because they WILL judge you for being so “ignorant” on things (menu description, questions about ingredients, etc…Why are you judging us for asking?  Some of us have food sensitivities and don’t want to get sick.  You don’t want to be sued, do you?).  And they judge US more than they would judge someone who is NOT Asian.  It’s as if we SHOULD know how to behave when we don’t, which can be very tolling.  And while I don’t excuse certain people’s behaviour south of the border, I can KIND of see where they’re coming from when they say that their needs aren’t being met.  Because I know *I* feel this way at times.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not denying my heritage, nor do I NOT go to Chinese restaurants (or other businesses – these issues happen there too).  People like me just typically don’t go to ones in areas where we’re more likely to be judged.  At least we don’t before we check out their website or social media (actually, I do this for ALL restaurants, regardless of ethnic origin.  It’s good to know what they serve rather than be surprised at arrival.  I also check out websites to see whether they do online reservations (and if so, where – OpenTable, YPDine, Yelp or other) or if we have to call).  I follow enough restaurants and chefs that often, I am already familiar with restaurants before they even open – and have sometimes even communicated with management (or, at least the person who manages their social media).

The good thing is new businesses are run by CBCs – CBCs in their 20s, 30s and early 40s.  They know what they’re doing.  If the website isn’t up long before opening, the social media accounts – especially Instagram – definitely are.  Many even have hundreds of followers before launch day.  It’s just the way things need to run in the 21st century.  No digital presence?  Well, I wish you the best of luck in terms of survival (since we can’t tell you what to do/how to run or market your business).  And if your business sense and service suck?  Double whammy.  Whether these places are going to change is really up to them.  I guess this doesn’t REALLY count as discrimination because it’s “hidden.”  Thus, they don’t FEEL they need to “accommodate” and we’re just some “stupid Jooksings” wanting to complain.  #whatever

Cynthia Cheng Mintz

Cynthia Cheng Mintz, previously known for her sites, DelectablyChic! (still "live" and still active on social media) and Shorty Stories, was born and raised in Toronto. In addition to writing, Cynthia enjoys cooking and is an avid supporter of the Canadian fashion industry. She is involved with various philanthropic projects, including music, arts, culture and mental health awareness.