Bad online reviews: They’re the bane of every restaurant owner. It used to be if you ran a crappy café, months might pass before word of mouth let the whole town know your soufflé sucked. Now, thanks to sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor, all of France can read about your dessert disaster a mere moment after it arrives collapsed.
But who reviews the online reviewers? No one, really. And that reality inspired one French chef to fight back.
Michelin-starred chef Pascal Favre d’Anne recently launched a petition to help curb rogue reviewing. Titled Non aux avis insultants envers les restaurateurs, (“No insulting reviews to restaurateurs”) the online petition states, “We call for the prohibition of judging and of posting defamatory comments and subjective observations on members of staff in our restaurants. We ask reviewing sites to moderate their users and to ask for proof of their visits to our establishments.”
At first glance, such demands might just sound like sour grapes. But upon closer inspection, the concept may hold more water than a glass that an inattentive waiter never came by to refill.
According to the French site The Local, “A study conducted by the DGCCRF (General Directorate of Competition, Consumption and Repression of Frauds) found nearly 45 percent of online reviews were biased or simply untrue, an increase from 28.8 percent in 2012.” The same article also provides anecdotal evidence of restaurant owners paying students to write bad reviews about competitors.
Apparently, plenty of people think unmoderated reviews are a problem. The petition has received more than 1,500 signatures “including some of the biggest names in French gastronomy.” And though no plan seems to have been suggested as to how to implement such a system, adding accountability to online reviews probably wouldn’t be such a horrible thing.
And don’t worry. If you really can’t hold in all of your unvetted opinions, just start your own a food blog.