That’s not ASDA price

09 April 2018 | Lloyd Hughes

Trip Advisor is both a blessing and a curse for those working in the hospitality business. If your reviews are good then it can provide an excellent boost to your reputation.

Joe Public takes Trip Advisor seriously, so a raft of good reviews does a fair whack in convincing them to choose your restaurant/hotel/bar. However, it’s not infallible.

A recent story (that gained international interest), saw a journalist effectively create a fake restaurant to fool Trip Advisor. By convincing friends to post positive reviews, with seemingly legitimate photography, he was able – somewhat unbelievably – to get it to be the top ranked restaurant in London.

During its time at the top, the journalist was receiving hundreds of phone calls (and even job applications) for a restaurant that didn’t exist. While potentially highlighting the fallibility of Trip Advisor, it also demonstrates the power of a positive review score on the site.

So what power a negative one then? While Trip Advisor has its benefits, many hospitality business owners lament unfair reviews, which serve to reduce their on-site star rating, potentially putting off prospective guests.

Of course, if the reviews are justified then it casts a stark light on failings that you’d rather potential customers didn’t see, but sometimes it’s the case that people are disgruntled for a different reason (or may have been rebuffed in a bid for a freebie) so choose to wield Trip Advisor as their weapon, whether it’s an accurate reflection of the service or not.

Obviously, not all bad reviews are dishonest or unfair though.

A legitimate post that came to light over the weekend caused a stir thanks to a pretty unfortunate faux pas by one of a Bristol-based restaurant’s chefs. The reviewer (who opted for a somewhat charitable 2-star review, given the circumstance) pointed out that their camembert – priced at a princely £13 – was left in its original packaging, which rather unfortunately, revealed its origin to be ASDA, where it usually retailed for a much more palatable £1.15.

Now, I’m sure that just because it’s from ASDA doesn’t mean that the quality is reduced, after all, the product has to come from somewhere. But the price difference is considerable, even taking into account the table service, the ambience, the cooking and the various other associated overheads of running a restaurant.

Even I, with my very limited culinary skillset, can rustle up a decent camembert and also use a terracotta dish – as the reviewer mentioned in their post. Leaving it in the packaging then, is a pretty monumental fail given the price mark up.

ASDA is often seen as a budget supermarket option, which makes the error all the more unfortunate. If it had been Waitrose, the review might have reached the heady heights of 3-stars…

It’s an embarrassing slip up, which will lead customers to question not only the quality, but also the integrity of the restaurant in question – something that might cause trouble in a competitive market place.

On a similar line, but a different service, my father-in-law was informing us at the weekend of a policeman in Inverness who had asked his friend to take his car into its associated dealership for a new exhaust (while he was on duty), only to see it being driven down the road to Kwik Fit to have the exhaust fitted as he was sat in his patrol car.

Making enquiries, it emerged Kwik Fit was charging £90…whereas the dealership wanted over £300. Outrageous!

Although anecdotal, stories like that don’t do much to allay my deep-rooted fears that car dealerships are out to rip you off. Should I be concerned by restaurants next?!