Duo Deli Restaurant in Perth
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Paula chats about why she loves to hate, and hates to love, this reviewing giant.

My Love / Hate Relationship with Trip Advisor

Paula chats about why she loves to hate, and hates to love, this reviewing giant.

Hi Everyone,

WOW! I feel like I’ve hardly been away – Thailand is but a distant memory after a crazy busy February. I’ve been mulling over in my head what to write for this blog and I keep coming back to the same thing… Tripadvisor. It’s a bit of a tricky one for me to be my usual frank self about because in order to be completely honest, I will need to bite the hand the feeds.  However, I really believe as a restaurateur that someone needs to talk out about the flaws in this global phenonomen.    But before I launch into my criticisms, I’ll start by saying that as a concept, I like Tripadvisor. It has been fantastic for promoting the business – its gives choice, helps to publicise your website and allows people to shop around without the spin of the business owner as their only guidance. The premise is a positive one and this is what has made it so difficult to speak out.

4 and a half starsBecause here I am – currently sitting on 4.5 stars, ranked 12 out of 159 and with a certificate of excellence on the door. I want to assure you that this blog hasn’t come from us being ruined by this site.  On the contrary, 90% of Pig’Halle’s reviewers would recommend us.  So please believe me when I say that my thoughts here are driven by years in the trade and my own passionate believes surrounding the culture of eating out.

My main issue is that the site isn’t policed properly; it is abused both by the public and the industry.  Now, that is a loud call I know and I’m aware that it is only a very small percentage of the public and only a very shoddy side of the industry that this includes.  Nevertheless, in a society where the power of online words seems to grow daily, you are only as good as your last review.  For me, this is a worrying situation for all involved.

Food at Pig  halleLet’s kick off with criteria for reviewing; anyone can review any restaurant, hotel or attraction. This means that you don’t have to have visited and you don’t have to have eaten what you claimed you did.  Without a requirement to state what you had, how much you paid, and what date / time you visited there is no way I can comment properly on your feedback.  So, if this is negative feedback and I need to start digging around and asking these questions, I look defensive and as though I’m questioning the reviewer’s judgement. (To be honest, sometimes I might be, but I have no desire to seem rude about it!).  But think about it - if your experience has been genuinely bad, then as a business owner I want to know what you had and who served you.  It is not defensive, it is simply me trying to establish what happened. The problem is, I’m being forced to do this on a public platform after the fact. Tricky indeed. 

The flip side of this is the industry abuse; I know that there are business owners who leave negative reviews on their competitors’ page. You may not want to believe this, but I am telling you I know this as a fact.  I also know of a large, national chain that set staff a competition to win a trip to New York – the person with the most positive mentions won the trip. They knew, as I did, that these kids were stirring up reviews from Mums, aunties and friends… the result was a significant increase in their positive reviews and scores. Successful from a business point of view, yes. But I’d argue that it was morally lacking.

I was already spitting tacks about this when I was made aware of a site called fiverr (there is meant to be a double r!). Here, you can ask a complete stranger to leave you a trip advisor review for $5!  Seriously. I was horrified!

If you force a person to leave specifics such as time, date, food eaten and price then it may not solve the issue altogether but it will act as a deterrent and it would allow me to address good and bad reviews with some understanding and memory of the transaction.  

Bad HairNext, I don’t want to come across as arrogant here, but I would consider myself fairly knowledgeable about food and drink. I don’t know everything, I certainly couldn’t run a kitchen shift (can you imagine!?) but after 25 years in this glorious industry I have learned one or two things. This doesn’t mean I know what you like; it doesn’t mean you and I are going to agree on what’s good, what’s bad and what’s indifferent.  You see, a pair of shoes that suits you might not suit me, or a haircut that you like won’t be a haircut that I like – because as people we are all intrinsically different. 

It’s the same with restaurants; just because you don’t like it doesn’t mean it’s bad.    I have had someone describe my décor in Pig’Halle as terrible; now that is an opinion not a fact and it has nothing to do with my food or my service.  Do I have an issue with this? You bet your backside I have an issue with this. I do not like the way Trip Advisor allows people to get personal about things. 

So you hate my choice in wallpaper? This does not mean my husband makes a bad steak tartare.  I have eaten some incredible food in some dodgy looking places over the years. Worse than this though, is that suddenly I am fair game. It is ok for anyone to walk into my business, a business I have poured blood, sweat and tears into, and give their opinion on me and my efforts.  Imagine if I came to your place of work and started to criticise you and your methods with no background knowledge or experience?  I have no issue with the fact that you may not like my restaurant – none at all.  As I said, we’re all individuals and we like different things. But unless there has been incredibly bad service or bad food then you should simply be choosing not to come back again.  My red walls are of no concern.

Occasionally, we make mistakes. Yes, we do. We are human beings and sometimes things don’t go according to plan. This is life, I’m sure you’ll agree. Someone phones in sick, the delivery of meat is late, a table arrives 45 minutes after it was due…. All of these things will impact on your service and I will be the first to admit that when things like this happen, try as I might, I don’t always pull it back in time. But if we make a mistake, if your steak is overcooked or you feel that you’ve had slow service or whatever it might be, please, I am asking you now, tell me there and then.  Of course you have the right to complain – I’m not trying to take this away from people. But what I would like to do is sort out any issues while you are in my restaurant. Sometimes I might decide not to charge you, other times I’ll bring you some drinks and always I will offer you my sincerest apologies and reassurances. From a personal point of view, I want people to leave my restaurant happy. Professionally, I need to know if there any issues that need to be sorted at a “behind the scenes / staff training” level so I welcome your feedback. Once you’ve left, I can’t fix anything.

I also think it’s true, that if you don’t say what’s bothering you right away, if you leave annoyed, you get home and start typing into tripadvisor.  Then you read other comments and before you know where you are you’ve added arms, legs and a head onto what was a cold main course.  I have read feedback that I know to be simply untrue – sometimes impossible to have been true! And how can I respond? I can’t go on and call someone a liar and to be honest, I don’t think people intend to lie. I think they just get carried away.

Pighalle You see, we all work hard. It is a labour of love running a restaurant and we do it for your enjoyment. So when we are personally criticised, slated for a choice in napkin colour or wallpaper or described as sour-faced or dowdy, then it hurts. It is a real human emotion that you are dealing with. It is not a computer or a website that your review is directed toward; it is a hard working person.  If you would not be prepared to say what you are writing to their face, then don’t type it into a website.

So there we are, my love hate relationship with trip advisor and little insight into things from this side of the fence. I know people in the trade that hate this site and won’t even look at it and I can understand why. Me, I’m far too nosey to stay away even though I know I should!  I will finish by saying that if you come into my restaurant and you have a bad experience in any way shape or form please speak to me about it. I would be horrified to think you left me unhappy.  For the record, I am also open to praise, love and adulation! ;-)

Love Paula XX

 

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