Tuesday, 26 February 2013

The Trouble With Internet Reviews

I think the problem with restaurant review websites has been highlighted in the last week when someone decided to attack Pichet’s Nick Munier while hiding behind a silly user name on Tripadvisor. The fact that someone can hide behind a user name and say whatever they like via such websites is reckless and open to all sorts of abuse. Nobody should be subjected to this type of anonymous abuse and anyone who facilitates such abusive behavior via their website should be held responsible.

Another Great Idea!
Someone, somewhere must have decided it would be a great idea to have a website where John-doe/Jane-doe could tell everybody in the whole wide world all about his/her last good or bad restaurant experience. The restaurant review website was born and like all great ideas this one has been copied over and over again. The internet is now full of ways for customers (or so we’re lead to believe) to complement or slag off a restaurant and as My Grandfather Always Said “Paper Never Refused Ink”

So how do I set myself up as a restaurant pundit on the World Wide Web?
Well you don’t need to be a member of the NUJ. Just find a review website and pick a user name, let’s say “jonnyrotten127”. All you need now is a valid email address and let’s face it; a halfwit could setup a new email address in the time it would take to flip a burger. When you signup the website will send you a security email to verify your identity. You simply reply to that security email and Jonnyrotten127 has now been vetted by the security department in the review website who have just proved that jonnyrotten127 of jonnyrotten127@hotmail.com is in fact jonnyrotten127. Now that you have worked your way through this security minefield and you have been given clearance, you can publish whatever you like. Don’t be worried about having to visit a restaurant, if you prefer to go to the pub that’s fine, you don’t have to go to the restaurant; you just have to say you were there and tell your story, warts and all.

Should The Restaurant Engage and Reply to a Web Review?
Most of these review websites give the restaurant the right to reply. One day I found myself writing a reply to a bad review, I started to type “Dear wooleyhead23” and then it struck me, this is just stupid! I’m writing to someone called wooleyhead23, a guy, a girl, a sheep, who knows what, I have no idea who they are or if they actually visited my restaurant at all. So in my opinion, until there is a website where you know who you are replying to, don’t bother.

My Verdict!
If everybody was honest review websites as they are would be fantastic and would do the public and the restaurant business a great service. But alias, we’re not as honest as we should be and a lot of what is said about restaurants on these sites could be true, could be lies, could be exaggerated, could be made up by a disgruntled ex-employee having the final say, could be a competitor trying to make you look bad or could even be the restaurant themselves. Who knows?

TrueReview, a website where the reviewer has a real name?
Now, wouldn’t that be refreshing, a website where you could see who was writing the review and to review a restaurant the user would have to prove to the website who they actually are and their real name was their user name.  There would be a tiny fraction of reviewers compared to the current review format used by all websites but at least they would most likely be true.

This is just another sorry example of people and company’s trying to make easy money out of the hardworking restaurateurs’ without so much as washing a plate.

I have had the pleasure of meeting Nick Munier a couple of times and he is an utter gentleman. I have eaten in his restaurant on many an occasion and I have always enjoyed the wonderful food and good service. I have been so close to lashing out after being at the receiving end of this type of anonymous abuse and I can tell you, it can be difficult to ignore. On this occasion, it’s a big hats-off to Nick, it’s about time someone lost the head with these guys and told them where to go.  

I believe this type of anonymous abuse facilitated by websites and directed at restaurants or individuals via the internet will come to an end when someone sues the pants off someone else.

Monday, 4 February 2013

"Great Deal & Great Restaurant" but are you sure?

“It doesn’t always do exactly what it says on the tin”
The restaurant business is tough, as every restaurateur knows. If a restaurant is well run I think it would be fair to say there are probably a bunch of workaholics involved. At Ouzos we’re blessed to have some of the finest workaholics in the business. From the restaurant floor to our kitchens our staff are truly remarkable people who work incredibly hard to keep Ouzos going and give our customers great food, value for money and great service.
I do get annoyed when some company’s or individuals try to take advantage of restaurants and make money without so much as washing a plate. Below I have given you two good examples of what i mean.     
1.     The Daily Deal Websites!
In 2005 we were approached by a UK marketing company. They did what the likes of Living Social, Groupon, Deal Rush and so on do today. The only difference was this company sold the deals locally and door to door. At the time it seemed like a great idea and a great deal, we signed up and I can tell you I still feel sick when I think of the money we lost on that deal.
If you don’t know how these Daily Deal companies work, I will tell you and I’ll keep it simple. A typical deal would be, meal for 2 + wine, value €100, this is discounted by 50% so you, the customer, can buy this deal for €50. That’s a great deal for you, but what about the restaurant? Well, a Daily Deal website recently quoted my company a commission rate of 50%. So we sell the €100 worth of food and wine for €50, we pay the Daily Deal site €25 and we get €25. As a restaurateur, you don’t have to be mathematicians to figure out you’ve just lost your shirt!  
When Discount Deal Websites sell a vouchers for restaurants that has been heavily discounted, the restaurants lose money and the restaurants nearby and around those restaurants have to try and compete, so everyone loses. Restaurants that lose money close and people lose their jobs. The reality is, deals websites are very profitable for their owners but in my opinion they have done nothing but damage to the restaurant trade in Ireland.
2.     The Plaque Plague!

Outside practically every restaurant in the country you will find these restaurant critic or restaurant guide plaques stuck to the wall in an effort to attract potential new customers. They proclaim things like “Best in Ireland 2013”, “Best Restaurant Award” or “recommended By……” and so on and so on…….So the big question is, do the general public believe that restaurants displaying these plaques are better than the restaurants who have no such plaques displayed?
Before you answer that question consider this, did you know that the plaques are not presented; they are not won in some grand competition. They are simply ordered and purchased by the restaurants? Did you know that the price of these plaques is between €125 and €300 per year? Did you know one company selling its famous plaque will even sell you backdated plaques at a discount?
So here are the problems, when a restaurant purchases a plaque from a restaurant guide or a restaurant critic they effectively become a customer of the guide or the critic? Surly that can’t be right? Surly restaurant critics or restaurant guides must stay impartial in order to have any credibility? I don’t believe they can, as long as they continue to sell their seal of approval. Then there's the really big question, Is it right to allow the public to be duped into believing that these plaques have been awarded to the restaurants when the fact is the plaques have been bought and paid for by the restaurants they are meant to be endorsing?  
At Ouzos we don’t do plaques or Daily Deals, we believe in offering our customers great food, value for money, great service, then we rely on the oldest and the best marketing method of them all “Word-of-Mouth” look after the customers you have and they will spread the word.