A LIMERICK restaurateur yesterday hit back at Trip Advisor, the online forum, claiming that the site is doing a disservice to both diners and the restaurant trade.
A number of prominent restaurateurs in the city have also complained to the site in writing about other restaurants who they believe are deceiving the public by writing positive reviews about their own establishment.
Trip Advisor lists 85 restaurants in Limerick, where the public are encouraged to give feedback to other prospective diners. But many business owners across the country say the site is being widely abused and is giving an unfair advantage to some unscrupulous businesses.
Diarmuid O’Callaghan, proprietor of the River Bistro, said they were somehow “demoted” on the site from 26th place to 40th in the guide, after they sent an email of complaint to the site about another restaurant posting a positive review of themselves.
Mr O’Callaghan said this restaurant posted the review of their restaurant on the River Bistro’s page in error, under their own name, and he contacted Trip Advisor’s administrators.
“Some reviews are so obviously written by the people [behind the restaurants] themselves, that we don’t look at Trip Advisor any more. Customers have come in to us and can’t believe the earlier reviews they’ve read. This is going on the whole time. They [restaurants] do it to counteract the bad reviews,” he said.
Asked if customers could trust the site at all, he said: “Not really, no. But some of the customers who come in to us say they would read between the lines anyway, especially if they have mostly great reviews. But you’ve no way of contacting Trip Advisor on the phone to contact them and explain this to them.”
He said it was somewhat laughable that cafes and bars are rated above some of the city’s best restaurants, and said this is “unfair to tourists who wouldn’t know any better.”
While those behind Trip Advisor are not easily contactable, they have taken measures to highlight those allegedly abusing the site.
One restaurant in the city centre is highlighed in red by Trip Advisor, carrying a cautionary note to customers.
The message states that “TripAdvisor has grounds to investigate that individuals or entities associated with or having an interest in this property may have attempted to interfere with traveller reviews and/or the popularity index for this property.”
The top 10 restaurants in Limerick, according to the site are, in this order: Freddy’s Bistro, the French Table, the Curragower Seafood Bar, the River restaurant (in the Strand hotel), the Cornstore, Bella Italia, the Glasshouse, Arabica Cafe, the Locke Bar, and at number 10, the recently opened Jack Mondays coffee house.
However, Padraic Frawley, of the Cornstore restaurants in Limerick and Cork, said he takes the reviews on Trip Advisor and any online medium very seriously, just as he would if they were made in person.
He said one diner once falsely claimed on Trip Advisor that a manager in the restaurant had slapped him across the head with a menu. Mr Frawley contacted the site, and said the remark was slanderous, especially as it contained the manager’s name, and said they had CCTV footage to prove this did not happen. The remark was later removed.
Mr Frawley said while he often uses the site himself for trips abroad or around Ireland, he believes they sometimes should be taken with a “pinch of salt.” He said the restaurant has had 85 reviews in the past six months, which are 92% positive, but this may not reflect the views of some 25,000 diners they have served in that time.
He said it can be “quite frustrating” that diners will tell the world via Facebook, Twitter and other sites what they think of the food and service, but not say it directly to the restaurant to improve their experience while they’re there.