It's hardly news these days that chefs and review sites often find themselves at odds. Reviews can determine whether a restaurant sinks or swims -- a Yelp study conducted earlier this year found that even a half-star increase can net an eatery 19 percent more reservations.
That's why we didn't bat an eye when we heard that an Australian restaurant owner is gunning for travel review site TripAdvisor.
Claire Rampling, who took over ownership of New South Wales eatery Milano's on the Lake about four months ago, told news.com.au that she wants her restaurant's listing -- and negative reviews -- removed from the site.
Rampling mentions reviews that referred to her as a "stressed out *****" and that the reviewer would "rather go to KFC," but The Huffington Post was unable to locate those reviews. Only two of the 18 reviews for the restaurant are negative, and although less-than-flattering, both appear to cite real grievances.
Still, Rampling's told news.com.au that she'd "never had such bad criticism" and threatened TripAdvisor with legal action unless her restaurant be removed from the site. By her count, only one review was truly negative:
"It's ridiculous they can't remove the comment and my listing. Anyone can just write anything - vindictive people out there who have a platform to destroy your business and destroy it they will... I have only one negative review on my site now, 95 per cent of them are fantastic, but that one review could destroy my business and reputation."
For now, Milano's on the Lake profile remains on TripAdvisor. According to the company's official policy, TripAdvisor will only remove listings for businesses that have closed, not those that have changed ownership.
Rampling isn't the only one to express frustration with TripAdvisor. The Accommodation Association of Australia (AAA) released a statement in May highlighting the "possibility for abuse" of businesses by TripAdvisor users. As an example, it cited a review in which a property manager was accused of inebriation on duty -- it was later determined that the author of that post was the manager's disgruntled former partner.
But sites like TripAdvisor, Yelp and others have never claimed that commenters employ the same kind of rigor in reviewing a restaurant as might a recognized critic. Although review sites give disgruntled patrons a broader platform, one could argue that, in theory, writing an online review is no different from sharing those opinions with a friend.
The problem for me is that crowd sourcing is very beneficial except when it comes to things like restaurant criticism and restaurant reviews and restaurant recommenders. Just the same way I don't ask my five year old to tell me whether or not I should go see the movie This Is Forty or Sessions or The French Lieutenant's Woman, I don't ask my son which John Updike book is his favorite — because he'll just point at any old random one.
Other restaurateurs and chefs aren't as unnerved as Zimmern or Rampling when it comes to negative reviews. Earlier this year, Marc Murphy of New York's Landmarc restaurants told attendees at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival that online reviews were "a lot of noise."
“I figure if you don’t respond to them, they’re just gonna go away," he said.