Antisocial media

The internet has given diners the chance to offer instant feedback, but rash reactions cut both ways

Online review sites like TripAdvisor have long been a double-edged sword for food and hospitality businesses. Genuine word-of-mouth recommendations trump flashy adverts every time for most consumers, which is where savvy businesses can turn review sites to their advantage. However, one negative comment among 100 positive ones can still sour the experience and give potential new customers pause for thought.

Over the years some restaurants have claimed to be the subject of malicious smear campaigns by competitors or disgruntled former employees, blaming a lack of accountability for bad reviews that are unfair or even downright fabricated. The fact that business owners can snap back at their critics on very public forums does level the playing field, but can be dangerous if they’re caught in a less than professional mood. 

This week, a businessman has complained that his negative Facebook comment led to a lifetime ban from an Essex restaurant chain. After noting that his food was undercooked and the manager had responded in an ‘aggressive’ fashion, he was informed that he would no longer be welcome at the Elysium Group’s four venues.

Of course, businesses are entitled to bar punters from the premises if they wish, as long as there is no discrimination involved. But was that really the best way to handle it? Should platforms such as Facebook and review sites impose a mandatory cooling off period, so that both diners and restaurateurs alike can decide if their comment is truth or tantrum?

If you’re working on technology that could guard against the pitfalls of online restaurant reviews, we’d love to hear about it. So, get in touch with the FoodTalk Show team on hello@foodtalk.co.uk – we might even give you five stars!

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