Get ready for more Yelp on your TV screen! “Help My Yelp” premieres tonight, April 10th at 10pm / 9pm Central on Food Network.
We are lucky to call Monti Carlo, chef and restaurant consultant, the show’s fearless host. With help from Yelpers, Monti works with struggling businesses to identify actionable insights within their online reviews. She uses the feedback from the Yelp community to make simple fixes in the kitchen and train the staff on providing great customer service. That advice can help these businesses improve their online reputations and set them on a path to 5-star success.
Follow Monti on Instagram for a peek behind the scenes, including this trailer for tonight’s premiere episode:
Wanna know more about Monti? Read on for our Q&A with her, and don’t forget to tune in tonight at 10pm / 9pm Central for the premiere of “Help My Yelp” on Food Network!
Q: How did you discover your passion for food?
Monti: I grew up watching the women in my family cook. My Abuela Dora would get ingredients from the fishermen on the beach front and from our farm in Puerto Rico, and make everything from scratch. She even used a fogon, a type of wood burning stove made with bricks used for cooking outdoors! I was four when she started having me help her in the kitchen. Till this day I can’t fry onions and garlic without thinking of her. All the women in my family cooked. The holidays were so competitive between my aunts and my mother to see who would make the best dish or dessert. My Tia Marina owned a Caribbean restaurant in San Juan for decades. My mom had an insane cookbook collection and also owned a Caribbean restaurant in Atlanta. When I was 9 I made donuts and cookies to sell in my neighborhood. I got my first job working in a restaurant bakery when I was 19. Weirdly, it wasn’t until I competed on MasterChef and Gordon Ramsay said I had talent that I really believed I could have a future in the food world.
Q: What’s one thing you learned about the Yelp community working on “Help My Yelp”?
Monti: I use Yelp all the time, but I’m not a Yelper. I didn’t know what to expect from our collaboration. I take what I do incredibly seriously because these are people’s livelihoods on the line. I felt a little bit like a momma bear at that first roundtable with the restaurant owners and reviewers. But there was nothing for me to worry about. The Yelpers were kind to a fault. They gave fair reviews and pointed out positives along with the negatives. It wasn’t about crushing someone’s dreams or being mean-spirited. Elite Yelpers are professional diners. They know what to expect and if they aren’t getting it they are going to tell you about it. And that’s a blessing! Criticism can be a tool you use to make your product the best there is. I’d rather someone tell me where I’m falling short and give me the opportunity to fix it rather than go to my competitor on the permanent.
Q: What’s the coolest business you’ve discovered on Yelp?
Monti: When I first moved to LA, I was jonesing hard for some of my Puerto Rican island flavor and ambiance. I looked on Yelp and in under a minute I found one of my fave spots to eat ever, El Cochinito Restaurant. It’s Cuban food, not Puerto Rican, but it’s AMAZING! Where else am I going to get a mamey milkshake? I eat there all the time. Trois Familia opened up next door so that plaza is my happy place. Thanks, Yelp!
Q: How do you think being on an episode of “Help My Yelp” affects a business after the cameras are gone?
Monti: The restaurant business is absolutely grueling work. The opportunity for these owners to take a step back and really take a look at their product through their customer’s eyes and hidden camera footage is transformative. The bottom line is where there’s smoke, there’s fire and if 20 people are complaining about the same thing on Yelp you should do your best to fix it. But sometimes seeing is believing. My favorite part of every show isn’t the moment these owners realize the complaints are real; it’s the moment they realize that a few changes can make a significant difference in both customer and staff satisfaction. It’s my sincere hope they follow through and continue to give themselves the time to see their business with fresh eyes.
Q: You’ve worked with a lot of restaurants – as a chef, as a restaurant consultant, and with “Help My Yelp.” What is a common, easily fixable mistake you often see businesses making?
Monti: The mistake I see in almost every struggling restaurant is a huge menu. Front of house staff struggles to describe every dish. It becomes mission impossible to remember every ingredient if someone has an allergy. Too many choices overwhelm your clientele and it takes them longer to make a decision. Not only does food cost skyrocket when your menu is out of control, your kitchen staff won’t execute every dish flawlessly. The more components they have to make the deeper in the weeds they get. That also slows your table turns, which affects your bottom line. The longer people have to wait for their food the hangrier they get. That’s when things get really bad because they’re all sitting there with their phone in their hands ready to tell the world about the ridiculous wait time, or the poorly executed food, or the less-than-knowledgeable wait staff. Huge menus = DISASTER.
Q: You’re a comedian, chef, restaurant consultant, TV host, and mom. When do you sleep?!
Monti: My friends joke with me about what a granny I am! I get up at 4 or 5 am naturally. It’s the best time to get things done before the hustle of getting my son Danger ready for school and getting through the day. I don’t have much of a social life, so I’m usually in bed pretty early. I run on #MomPower. And if you know, YOU KNOW. Us moms get it done. It’s the title I’m most proud of!
See the full schedule of “Help My Yelp” episodes on foodnetwork.com, and tune in tonight at 10pm / 9pm Central.