Published December 06, 2012
Ever post a nasty restaurant review on Yelp?
Many chefs and restaurant owners say they’re increasingly feeling victimized by the growing power of online reviews –some of which they claim to be exaggerated or overblown.
Andrew Zimmern -- host of the Travel Channel’s “Bizarre Foods” -- this week went on an epic rant on his podcast Go Fork Yourself, saying the review site “essentially gives a tremendous forum for a bunch of uninformed morons to take down restaurants.”
Here’s some of what he said:
"Here's something that really pisses me off: Yelp. I was against Yelp for a long time. I don't like the idea of Yelp. The problem for me is that crowd sourcing is very beneficial except when it comes to things like restaurant criticism and restaurant reviews and restaurant recommenders. Just the same way I don't ask my five year old to tell me whether or not I should go see the movie This Is Forty or Sessions or The French Lieutenant's Woman, I don't ask my son which John Updike book is his favorite — because he'll just point at any old random one."
Chefs like Zimmern have banned the site -- and some users say they don’t trust the reviews. But few can deny its influence --at least for the time being.
So when a restaurant gets a bad review what do owners do?
Some will offer to make amends, which seems to be the smart thing to do. Others just go ballistic –which we all know usually, ends up as a PR nightmare. And increasingly, some have started coming up with some decidedly creative ways to deal with the comments.
We rounded up some of the more interesting cases of Yelp revenge by restaurant owners, to date.
Craft & Commerce, San Diego, Calif.
Gastro pub Craft & Commerce has found a unique way to repurpose negative Yelp reviews: they play audio readings of bad reviews in their bathrooms. Customers can hear comments like, “It's a good place. Nice atmosphere. But the chairs ain't comfy," or “Bone marrow I liked a lot. Man candy could NOT get past the *ahem*... seminal texture and kept trying to eat it. But he couldn't.” Co-owner Arasalun Tafazoli –who gets waiters and friends to do the voice-overs -- tells Eater that they were drawn to the “melodrama" in the reviews.
Longman & Eagle, Chicago, Ill.
The Michelin-starred Longman & Eagle in Chicago handled criticism it got from negative Yelp reviews last year by turning it into art. Instead of getting angry, they printed a cool looking postcard, that is available at the restaurant.
Formoli's Bistro, Sacramento, Calif.
In April, the owner/chef of Formoli's Bistro, frustrated with a Yelp reviewer who complained about the appetizers, entrees and said even the cucumber-infused water was no good, took to Facebook and attacked the reviewer, writing: “Your parents should be ashamed you you (sic) were ever born and they have to take you out to dinner!!!!!!!"
Aimal Formoli admitted to the Sacramento Bee that he had reached his breaking point when he wrote this entry of Facebook: "To Chriuh C. from the wonderful site yelp! please pay attention, every review you post involves dinner with mommy and daddy. Apparently, this is the only time you get to dine out, otherwise, you are at Old Spaghetti Factory and leave your palate there. Your parents should be ashamed you you were ever born and they have to take you out to dinner!!!!!!!"
Formoli says he’s now on a Yelp fast.
Boners BBQ, Atlanta, Ga.
In January, Boners BBQ owner, Andrew Capron, took issue with diner Stephanie Stuck who referred to Capron's food in a Yelp review as "tepid," "odd," "bland," "greasy" and "limp." Capron posted a profanity-laced response on both Twitter and Facebook, accusing Stuck of stiffing the waitress.
“NOT WANTED!,” Capron wrote. “(Stephanie S.) left waitress 0.00 tip on a $40 tab after she received a Scoutmob discount. If you see this woman in your restaurant tell her to go outside and play hide and go f— yourself! Yelp that b—-…” Stuck told ABC that she did indeed leave a tip. Capron later came to his senses and apologized saying he had been overworked and stressed, adding that a lot of people recently had not been leaving tips.
Mambo Nuevo Latino, Ottawa, Canada
One of the most egregious cases of Yelp revenge came out of our neighbors to the north. After diner Elayna Katz took to Yelp to complain that her pasta dish came with diced olives –after she’d asked for none in her dish, Marisol Simoes, owner of Mambo Nuevo Latino in Ottawa took revenge on Katz by setting up a racy dating profile in her name. The profile suggested that Katz was a transsexual who enjoyed group sex – and described her as a “tiger in the bedroom.” It didn’t end there either. Simoes also posed as Katz, sending sexual e-mails to the woman’s employers. Simoes was found guilty of criminal libel in September.