01438 741177         thewinesociety.com

Food for thought - impact of negative reviews


#1

A friend of mine shared this review and it chimed with me, so I thought I would share it.

It was particularly poignant since I have just removed a link from the BYOB thread because a local restaurant has closed, in part because of a nasty, negative and ill-informed campaign on social media and nothing to do with the food, wine or service. Very sad!

The lesson applies well beyond restaurant reviews; to wine, theatre, politics and beyond and I wondered what you thought about it.


#2

If I’ve tried a wine at a trade / press tasting or have been given a sample and didn’t like it then I just wouldn’t mention it. If I’ve bought a bottle myself and didn’t like it then I might mention it - but at the end of the day it’s all opinion, and could be down to many things, some of which aren’t even related to the wine itself.

With regards service in restaurants, I do feel sorry for staff when they are short-handed (e.g. due to sickness) - they have to cover far more tables and can’t give the level of service they would like, then suffer themselves as disgruntled customers leave fewer / smaller tips!


#3

This is an interesting one! Personally, I think it completely boils down to whether you voiced your concern with the restaurant/company themselves at the time, or not.

To pretend everything is fine (and then perhaps not return/use the company again) because you’re too scared to complain is fine - a lot of people hate confrontation - but you don’t then get the right to go home and become a keyboard warrior!

I’ve never left a bad review unless I’ve spoken to the staff at the establishment first, and they’ve failed to rectify the situation. If your service is so poor (in any industry) that you’d mess up and then not take responsibility, you deserve the bad review!

The only exception is when I used to go on press trips to hotels/restaurants back in my feature-writing days - I’d never write a scathing review of a place for a publication when I’d been invited there/put up for free, no matter how awful. I’d write my concerns out for the PR team to pass to management and then we’d just agree not to review the place at all.


#4

This certainly is an interesting topic - I have to come down on the side of the reviewer over the restaurant, especially if it’s factual. In this day and age a restaurant is certainly a competitive market and opening a ‘poor’ establishment is unforgivable - The alternative is too easy to switch to, especially if it’s not just one mistake but a poorly conceived operation with little thought given to the expectations of the customer - Aaaaand especially in a major city where other places will provide that exceptional value and it’s not good enough to open and expect concessions from customers. I’m also sure they’d overly-milk positive reviews too.

This example in particular is an absolute character assassination of a place…

Existentially, the entire operation is woeful and rightly deserves being held to account - If not for other customers to prevent a ruined night. Ultimately anyone can review a restaurant these days and distribute it pretty far and wide - This means that any proprietor has to be on their game, do their homework, prepare a slick operation and execute it well.

I also think most readers can take a review with a pinch of salt and see through reviewers who are just snobby, high maintenance and unfair. There have been reviews which have been beautifully countered with responses, in particular the review of Betty’s charging money for a hot water and lemon slice (£1.50) which prompted a furious review and indeed other reviewers actually stuck up for Betty’s so the review as a tool is not a one-sided affair.

The end of something like trip advisor or other site is to achieve a crowd consensus and eliminate the overly zealous 1 star and 19 star reviews (many of which are actually submitted by the restaurants themselves). I’d certainly much rather live in a market where all of these reviews exist as it greatly improves the overall standard.


#5

@robert_mcintosh, would be interesting to hear more of this story, but can totally understand if you do not want to share it here.

I think it is best if you complain first, then review based on that… or even better if you do not have to complain and the service provider themselves realise the experience was not up to what was expected. After that though, I am on the side of @Nowt_in_my_glass [quote=“Nowt_in_my_glass, post:4, topic:480”]
I also think most readers can take a review with a pinch of salt and see through reviewers who are just snobby, high maintenance and unfair. There have been reviews which have been beautifully countered with responses, in particular the review of Betty’s charging money for a hot water and lemon slice (£1.50) which prompted a furious review and indeed other reviewers actually stuck up for Betty’s so the review as a tool is not a one-sided affair.
[/quote]

That said for a wine I don’t like I generally do not leave a review. Usually it is a perfectly good product, just not to my taste and wine faults are inevitable.


#6

@szaki1974 absolutely though it can be difficult sometimes. I think back to a Jamie’s Italian i visited for a friend of the gf’s 50th birthday party and the first time i was introduced to them. I ordered a £23 fish dish on mash which came as quite frankly a plate of slop! I could have complained however i didn’t want to tarnish the day and be ‘that guy’. Yes, it’s a training restaurant (i think anyway) but no dish going out of the pass under the eyes of a head chef should be leaving in that state and was going back to a problem of process and scrutiny, not a mistake. I didn’t leave a review but if i had i would have mentioned it and the circumstance…it would have been a bad review without a complaint in person, but in my opinion that’s what they deserved in that circumstance.

There shouldn’t be any reason to complain if the operation is well set up, is explained to the customer well and is priced accordingly. All these things are within the control of the proprietor so if they failed to prepare and maintain this, why should a customer be in their eyes ‘fair’ to them?

Edit: i may sound a little harsh but after 8 years in hospitality i recognise why and how things go wrong and it’s rarely through a genuine ‘accident’


#7

I fundamentally agree with you, if it is that obvious a thing they should take the criticism. All I am saying, if you complain on site you might actually get something positive out of it.

Also I think Jamie’s Italian is fair game… as are all chain restaurants :smiley:


#8

Of course wine producers are well protected from criticism, since no wine critic, at least publicly, indulges in it, for reasons I think we can all guess at. Is there any other consumer good so leniently treated?

This is why I rate the WS member recommendations, which are, I think, honest - good or bad.


#9

If a restaurant isn’t up to standard and they ask me how my meal is, I’ll tell them.

Unless something is really wrong or very easily sorted, I wont bring it up off my own bat though because it can often spoil the evening and as mentioned above I’m reluctant to be “that guy”.

If I don’t bring it to their attention, I never write a review, it wouldn’t be fair at all. I may never go back, which again isn’t really fair, but at least it doesn’t tarnish their reputation.


#10

@Richard I remember years ago, Oz Clark calling out Champagne for resting on it’s laurels and over charging, which was perhaps a bit of a sweeping generalisation but vaguely true.

He was treated very badly and wasn’t invited back for a very long time.

It’s difficult because a lot of wines are over priced but things are unlikely to change while demand is so high. If you take Champagne as an example, the wine is probably never going to be worth more than a tenner a bottle in real terms at the cellar door but good land in the area is worth a million pound a hectare, so if that is really all they could charge they’d sell up and the new buyers would want the old price to cover their massive investment costs.