Restaurant responds to online review

A restaurant owner has responded to a reviewer in an open letter.

by: Cath Shone | 13 Mar 2012
Angry man at computer

In a world where the internet is our playing field things like online restaurant review sites are becoming much more pertinent to restaurant owners and managers.

Gone are the days when a complaint letter would arrive in a restaurateur's inbox and they could respond to it accordingly. Or not.

Nowadays reviews from Joe Public go straight up online for all the world to see, sometimes leaving a restaurateur wondering what the hell went wrong... Because now, instead of an unhappy customer bringing up the problem at the scene, they can saunter off and have their retribution in their own time and with the luxury of their safety (inter)net.

Is this always the fair way to go about it though?

Below is a letter from a restaurateur in response to an online review that came to his attention. (Food24 emails every review to the restaurant so that they are aware of any feedback coming via the site).

"Dear Mr Swanepoel,
I hope you are well.
I have phoned you 3 times and have left a message in order to confirm a few details. But there has been no response.
As a passionate restaurateur, it was extremely disappointing for me to see the reviews of my restaurant left on at least two websites today after your unsatisfactory steak at Knife yesterday lunch.

Let me immediately apologise that the quality of your steak was not up to standard, as I am a stickler for standards and work very hard to uphold them. As a business owner trying my utmost to succeed these are not matters I take lightly. Once again I am very sorry.
It is, however, with great dismay that I was consulted by the Internet as to your disappointments at Knife. In the good old days when one was served sub-standard food the waiter was called to alert the manager/owner to a potential problem. Problem was reviewed and dealt with accordingly. It is of the utmost importance to any business to succeed, survive and improve that criticism is levied immediately, especially in the food industry where the evidence, as it were, can go cold. I cannot rationally accept that you were unable to convey your disappointment at the scene of the crime. Maybe it was because you were in a business meeting and felt it was not appropriate at the time, but  I am a hands-on-owner who spends a large part of my revenue on managers for the very reason that 25 years in this business has taught me the perils of keeping standards and obeying the laws of customer satisfaction,if given the chance.

We live in a world where anyone can be a critic – the Internet. But still, with this power accorded to the masses, have you stopped to think of the damage you do, not only to my establishment and the immediate people I support, but also all the people working here and that they support.
I am not saying your criticism is unfounded, I am questioning the way that you dealt with it. In today’s world it is easy to sit in the privacy of ones own space and tell the world that you will never visit an establishment again and no-one else should. Have you, however, given it any thought that a restaurant is not a factory and is exposed the same daily challenges to achieve the highest standard of delivery. In short, I was not given the chance to rectify the problem.
I therefore would, in my very small way, like to once again apologise that your steak was sub-standard, but plead with you to try and reach a civilised solution to the problem before going viral in a world that can at times both be impersonal and untrustworthy – the Internet.
It would have been very informative to me if you had pulled either me or my manager aside, emailed or phoned and constructively criticised your experience. Instead you chose the comfortable solitude of a computer to air your grievances.
I hope your meeting at least went well.
Yours sincerely,

Ed Saunders"

Knife Restaurant
Crystal Towers
Cnr. Century Boulevard and Rialto Road
Century City 7441
021-551 5000

Is the internet turning us into trolls or is it a fair place to air our grievances?

Let us know what you think in the comment section below.

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