Toronto restaurant blasts social media influencer customers for racist remarks

Simit & Chai, a restaurant located on King Street West, which famously serves fresh-baked bagels, tea, coffee, and other Turkish delicacies, has taken to social media in the past few days to describe a recent encounter they experienced at their restaurant.

In a series of Instagram posts, Simit & Chai owners Dee and John Ulgen describe the encounter  to their followers.

A duo, who run an instagram account dedicated to food, and who we later found out were professors, came to our shop over the past long weekend. After leaving the shop, they posted a completely false and ill-intended review (now deleted) through their instagram page. They loved the food but clearly had a problem with the owners (who were sitting on the patio the day they came in) and the way their business functioned. Instead of outing their ill intent and responding publicly, we decided to be decent and sent a private message. One point was that we weren’t accessible (which we are, and we have many customers who use wheelchairs), another was that they couldn’t find the sanitizer (which is at the cash register along with free masks for customers) and the worst was that they said they waited more than 30 minutes when in fact they waited only 16 minutes (camera footage). Their response to our message started out extremely condescending and turned racist when they made a comment that “there is clearly a cultural component to how -we- address customers” and that we should learn to follow the rules of this country. They made sure to tell us that these cultural inadequacies were the perfect things to teach to their students who were thinking of opening businesses in Toronto. They went on to try to lecture us that rules were there to protect us (we’ve not had a single problem with any officials in our five years of operation). This didn’t just feel like a patronizing situation, that we’re pros at dealing with, this absolutely felt like a supremacy issue, where this power figure was going to teach these immigrants how things are done here. Today they’re desperately apologizing to us because they tried to overpower us with supremacist rhetoric, they thought we would be scared, we would sit down and listen. Most of you know us personally and know that we won’t take their shit, but shame on us for letting this sort of mentality enter our doors. Shame on George Brown College for employing racists. Is this the kind of morals they’ll be infecting our kids with? We will not let our kids be exposed to this kind of poisonous discourse. This has to end! FUCK RACISM! Dee &John

A post shared by Simit And Chai Company (@simitandchaicompany) on

They allege that two people who run the food Instagram account TwoPickyFoodies visited Simit & Chai over the August long weekend.

TwoPickyFoodies has been a popular Instagram account with more than 35,000 followers and they have a website as well. Their website, according to John, indicated they provide services for small businesses and review them.

After leaving the restaurant, the TwoPickyFoodies posted what the owners of Simit & Chai say was a "completely false and ill-intended review (now deleted) through their Instagram page."

They felt the review was unfair and "a bunch of nonsense."

In the review,  TwoPickyFoodies said they waited for more than half an hour for their food and suggested the restaurant wasn't very accessible. 

The owners of Simit & Chair explained to blogTO that this is because they moved furniture to the hallway that leads to the washroom to create more room for social distancing.

"Washrooms are not for customers right now. We're operating like we're still in Phase 2 or even Phase 1 - we're just doing takeout so there is no washroom use for customers," John told blogTO.

TwoPickyFoodies also wrote they were unable to find hand sanitizer but the Simit & Chai owners claim the hand sanitizer is kept at the cash, "like any other takeout place," located beside the free masks they provide to customers who don't have them.

In response to the review, the Simit & Chai owners sent TwoPickyFoodies a private message but then were taken aback when the Instagram influencers wrote "clearly there's a cultural component to how you address client inquiries and complaints."

"We'll tolerate any sort of criticisms," John told blogTO. "That's how we've grown over the last five years but we don't tolerate racism or looking down upon."

"What does culture have to do with anything? We told them they are not welcome at our store because of their racist behaviour."

John and Dee said the pair apologized and told them they are not racist. They added that they wouldn't come back to the Ulgens' restaurant.

John says he and Dee did not respond.

Instead, John and Dee posted the whole story from their perspective on the Simit & Chai Instagram and as soon as they posted their statement, the TwoPickyFoodies post and Instagram account was deleted along with their Twitter and website.

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