By Deborah Wroe

Back in the day (the mid 80s) we laughed at inept catering establishments via the medium of TV and the genius that is Victoria Wood. If you haven’t seen “Two Soups” from As Seen on TV, you can find the link at the bottom (even if you have it’s well worth a revisit).

Nowadays some of us read Trip Advisor reviews for fun. You can easily waste an hour (or three) reading the comments made by customers, eg “Incredibly noisy and full of wannabes, wags & rags”, “if you want to be ripped off, treated like poo and served by kindergarten drop outs, it’s the place for you”, and “the girls at the front desk seems to care about trying to out pout each other rather than help”.  It just adds to the fun when the owners take umbrage and address the comments, and without wanting to over generalise, they can often fuel the fire rather than dampen it, and inflame the situation.

Did you catch the King Street West saga? #Chavgate, as named by the Manchester Evening News (M.E.N). A customer left a not too complimentary review on the Manchester eatery Facebook page after visiting as part of a hen party and someone from the restaurant responded in a way off the mark and totally unprofessional manner calling the party chavs amongst other things. The M.E.N picked up on it and ran five, yes five, stories on the saga. ** The restaurant’s Facebook page was very quickly deleted, and a very succinct statement issued. One of the M.E.N’s stories focused on the reviews left by people on Trip Advisor, and the replies from management, which were in a similar ‘style’ to the FB response to the hen party.

Trip Advisor is public, and massive; the 42nd most popular website in the UK. Is the owner manager of the establishment the right person to be responding to reviews on such a public forum?

If you are that owner reading this, then step away, and try not to attack keyboard warriors by becoming a keyboard warrior yourself. People attacking your own business can feel very personal (and often is), so maybe you need to get someone else to do the responding. In any public forum it’s not about you and your ego; on the whole customers choose wisely where to spend their time and money and don’t set out to have a bad experience and post a negative review. Your customers don’t want to be dissed for your mistakes. They want good service and maybe an acknowledgement and or an apology if their experience was not up to scratch. They don’t want to be attacked.

Remember that old joke about a customer finding a fly in their soup and the waiter responding with, “don’t worry, how much soup can a fly drink?” Similarly sarcastic (or misplaced attempts at humour) replies to reasonable grumbles can be found on Trip Advisor and Facebook. If an owner is replying to reasonable grumbles with mockery or hostility, as a customer you might want to give the place a wide berth.

My not normally cynical mother recently brought up the topic of online reviews in advance of a trip to a newish restaurant which everyone (locally, in her social circle) was talking about and said, I quote “well if all the reviews are good it might be an employee writing them, and if all the reviews are bad it might be a competitor writing them”. Go mother!

A healthy pinch of salt is needed in both bad soup (I know!) and in reading online reviews, but as with any other form of the written word, the removal of ego and maintaining a professional manner should be front and centre.

* https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z6aYLOf8CUQ

** http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/greater-manchester-news/swanky-restaurant-could-feel-fallout-8763257