Wednesday, October 26, 2011

ETHICAL REVIEW? MY ASS!


The way customers hear about a restaurant has dramatically changed over the past 2 to 3 years.
A good article by Fay Maschler in the ES would then assure you of a great occupancy for a long while.
However, with the democratisation of restaurant reviewing on the internet, it is really now down to consensus across restaurant reviewing/booking platforms to fill up a restaurant.

As a restaurateur, I always check our reviews online- toptable, opentable, Hardens, tripadvisor… I tend to check their sites every other day.
It is nice to know that every single guest has the potential to express their views and it helps us checking consistency and guest enjoyment on an almost day to day basis.
Also, sometimes guest take the time to email me directly to express their enjoyment but also their disappointments. I always make sure to respond as quickly as
possible after investigation and always try to buy back the trust our guests
have put in our brand.
It is not rare that we re-invites guests or sends them bottles of wines or Champagne or even reimburse their bills when we feel that we really made massive mistakes.
Those cases are very rare but they do happen.

But now we have almost felt the victim of a very nasty cocktail between Jeremy (diner) & London-Eating.co.uk(review site)

So last week, Jeremy after having diner here, sent Alice, our booking coordinator this email:

Date: 18 October 2011 at 12:57
Subject: RE: Booking from Jeremy , Oct 17th

Hi Alice,
Unfortunately we were not able to see the
kitchen last night, even though the restaurant was not full. In addition to my
email, I also asked a waiter halfway through the meal, who said it would be
fine. But by the end of our dinner, we had still not been taken to the kitchen,
so we asked again - by which time, we were told that the kitchen was closing!

I know it sounds like
a small detail, but my wife loves cooking, and it would have really helped to
make the occasion special. I hope if we visit again, we will be able to arrange
it.

Thanks
Jeremy

Upon receiving this email, Alice forwarded to me and after talking to my manager and watching the service on CCTV I replied with this email:

Dear Jeremy,
I was so sorry to read that you did not manage to visit my kitchen on Monday night when you came to celebrate your wife’s birthday.
It was really unfortunate, but as Alice told you, Monday night was very busy for us (the only table available was the one next to you) and the entire building was full.
Service is quite intense and it would have been considered as a safety hazard to have you coming down during the service.
However, I understand that your wife loves food and I really appreciate when my costumers are so passionate about food.
I noticed that your wife took many pictures during the meal and that is fascinating.
I wanted to send you one of my Anniversary book with a note, but Damian told me that he did gave you one upon your departure.
So, I was wondering if you were free Wednesday or Thursday next week.
As from Sunday, we are filming a week long TV programme with NHK (Japanese TV) with Harumi Kurihara – We would like to invite you for a complimentary diner for 2 – you will be able to visit the kitchen and meet myself and Mrs Kurihara.
Please do let me know if Wednesday or Thursday is good for you.
Kind regards
Alexis

I thought that it was the normal thing to do for a couple who did not have a chance to visit the kitchen.

Jeremy accepted my invitation promptly.

However, before receiving my reply, he did post a review on London-eating website stating that the whole experience was just ok and not good enough.
That the service was not up to standard- overall a bad review!
So when I checked London-eating, I was obviously unhappy with the review. I was going to take notes of it and learn from it. But I sadly learned something else when I realised that it was signed Jeremy.
I quickly sent an email to Jeremy to find out if it was him who wrote this email:

Good afternoon Jeremy,

I have just read with
horror our latest review on London Eating and it occurs to me that you share
the same name and dining date as the person who posted it. Did you do that
following my invitation back to the restaurant?

Please respond.
Kind regards

Alexis Gauthier

And this is the dreaded email I received back from Jeremy:

Good afternoon,

I actually wrote that
review the morning after our meal. We enjoyed most of the courses, but were
disappointed with one of the desserts, and the undercooked guinea fowl. In
hindsight I think the scores were harsh, and I actually emailed London Eating
last week, to amend the scores and some of the text. Unfortunately the changes
have not appeared on the website yet.

Please bear in mind
that I would not have written that review after your invitation, and they were
my own words - not my wife's. She was very much looking forward to the
occasion, so I would hate for her to miss out because of me. But whatever you
decide, please accept my apologies, and rest assured that the review is being
updated.

Jeremy

So here I was being reassured that that the review was being updated.
Updated by London-eating.co.uk following the order of Jeremy!

And yes, the review was magically updated during the courses of the afternoon.
So Jeremy’s review wasn’t just not good enough anymore- it wasn’t bad value for money anymore; Gauthier Soho became really good!
Unbelievable!!!
How many reviewers have managed over the years to transform their reviews?
I really wonder! But it seems so easy that I fear the whole thing is a massive joke.

As far as I am concerned I would not trust a word (good or bad) of what they publish.