Jason Mace, who owns two restaurants in Rotherham under the Real Steakhouse brand, says his staff have been subject to threats of bad reviews ‘on several occasions’ and is now urging TripAdvisor to change its policies.
“Tripadvisor is a great concept in principle if people use it correctly,” said Mace. “What it doesn’t do is protect genuine restaurants from purposely malicious users, as it allows them to retain their anonymity, which leads to unnecessarily harmful reviews.
“This is breeding a small band of malicious customers who are threatening restaurants with really bad reviews if their demands are not met. It’s verging on blackmail plain and simple and as restaurateurs we need to band together to make sure this cannot be allowed to happen.
“By allowing this to happen, Tripadvisor is losing its credibility and its influence over the consumer.”
But TripAdvisor spokesperson James Kay was quick to jump to the firm’s defence, claiming allegations of blackmail or threatening behaviour by guests against property owners ‘are taken very seriously’.
“Not only is it strictly against our guidelines, but it may also be illegal in many jurisdictions,” said Kay. “If an owner experiences this, we urge them to contact us immediately.
“We now have a way for owners to proactively report these threats before a corresponding review is submitted. Immediate reporting of blackmail threats, via the Management Centre, can supplement our investigative procedure and help us keep blackmail reviews from ever reaching the site.”
Mace, who established the Real Steakhouse brand in 2013, is demanding that Tripadvisor goes a step further; by removing anonymity and providing better policing of its site in order to protect both restaurants and the public.
“What shouldn’t be allowed to happen is that restaurants are held to ransom by a small band of unscrupulous customers,” he added. “It’s still a very challenging and competitive market for restaurants and the last thing we need is a tiny minority of customers spoiling it for everyone else.
“If this continues, more restaurants will be at the mercy of these malicious individuals and will end up closing down, leading to job losses, further economic hardship and less choice for the customer – this isn’t in anyone’s best interest.”
He did, however, point out that TripAdvisor does have its benefits for hospitality businesses. “On the plus side, some customers now come into the restaurant asking for Sarah and say ‘we love your review responses, so we decided to come and try this place.’ This always creates a great talking point for the evening.”
What do you think about this - should TripAdvisor remove anonymity? Perhaps you’ve experienced something similar to the above, or maybe you think the review website is already providing the right level of policing… Leave a comment below and let us know your thoughts.