When a place goes bad – or at least a little off – do you want to know? No matter the cost and consequences?

27 Comments

On Sunday night, Bennie and I visited an old favourite we hadn’t checked out for a while.

We’d heard there were new owners running the place.

Indeed, about the time this joint was on the market, our previous post on it received quite few visitors. Prospective buyers doing their research?

Would the food in particular and the experience as a whole be of the same excellent standard as previously?

Yes, there was a new crew running the place – and doing a grand job of it.

The service was tip-top, the smiles wides, with walk-ins being treated to the same standard of friendliness as the many phone-ins.

The phone barely stopped ringing the whole time we were in the house.

The food?

Well, on the one hand what we got was all anyone could rightfully expect of a pair of $5 burgers, bacon $1 extra, small serve of chips for $3.

But on the other hand, the chips were dull and quite a few of them were barely lukewarm.

The burgers seemed equally drab and a mite miserly, with the patties those cheapy kind that when cooked have texture and taste closer to meatloaf than a beefy burger.

It was an average meal but typical of the kind you’d expect from such an establishment. But it was notably less impressive than those we’d been served by the previous owners.

Were this a bigger business or a trendy one with plenty of supporters and fans and potential defenders, I’d be up for an explicit and honest review.

But … this is a lovely little “mom and pop” operation.

And as it stands – today, right now – I’m feeling squeamish about laying it all out. As well, it could be that other aspects of the food available – such as fish and chips – remain excellent.

So, dear readers, the question is: Do you want to know – no matter what, and no matter the cost and consequences, potentially quite damaging, to the businesses involved in such cases?

(To those of you really curious and who take the time to email me, I’ll spill the beans!)

27 thoughts on “When a place goes bad – or at least a little off – do you want to know? No matter the cost and consequences?

  1. If you feel squeamish about it, maybe you could discuss your findings with them and give them an opportunity for some remedial action and then pay them a surprise visit again a little down the track. If they haven’t lifted their game then I reckon it’s a fair enough service you provide to us otherwise unsuspecting punters and the truth should out.

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  2. Yup – I sure do wanna know. I try many places based on reviews like yours..I think its great that you provide a voice to the stomachs of the west. I would rather know .. and spend my $5 on a good reviewed place than potentially throw a burger in the bin!

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  3. A Facebook friend wrote: “Absolutely! You can’t confine your opinion to only those you sprinkle with fairy dust. Good, the bad and the ugly for me — but you would have known that.”

    I replied: “Yep, I would’ve known that! There’s bloggers at both extremes. And it’s a lot easier when you’ve got a masthead to hide behind. You don’t think there’s scope for taking on board the consequences for a small business – and its employees?”

    Facebook friend: ” I do, actually. But you are a good (clever) enough writer to make them believe you are doing them a gentle, heartfelt favour. Fact is: if they’ve gone off, they’ve got to be told. Otherwise, the malaise perpetuates.”

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  4. I think, if reviews are going to be at all useful, they need to be honest.

    Also, if a business is serving substandard products then it’s not the bad review that’s going to do the damage to their income. And perhaps some direct, public feedback would actually help them?

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  5. I think it you are doing your reviews in a correct manner you should name them automatically without this drama otherwise you are not a true reviewer

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    • Hi Pauline! I hear where you’re coming from. So maybe I’m not a true reviewer. Do you think it makes any difference whether it’s a blog such as this or, OTOH, a publication like The Age or Broadsheet? And presumably you’re happy to let the chips lie where they fall, so to speak, regardless of whether jobs may be at risk?

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  6. I, too, rely quite a bit on blogs such as yours, but I think you should trust your own conscience. I don’t want any sugar coated reviews, but I don’t want to throw any proverbial burger in a bin, either.

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  7. Here’s what Vien had to say at the FFB FB page post:

    “This is one of the problems with social media nowadays, especially prevalent with food blogging…we (the general public) have been given so much power, but do we really know how to use it responsibly? The fact of the matter is, popular food blogs wield a lot of power. People DO listen to you, and the impact you can potentially have on someones business is enormous. The question you need to ask yourself is this; would you really be able to live with yourself if you helped destroy a small family run business because your $5 burger or your $8 bowl of noodles wasnt up to scratch? The businesses im referring to and this article is referring to are “mom and pop” operations. Small, family run. You have to bare in mind that these businesses arent generally big money earners. More often than not they are the sole income of an entire family. You are dealing with real humans, with real problems. In my opinion, if the prices are low, then they are allowed to have a few bad days. Personally, i wouldnt post a negative review of the experience. Let me give you an example as to why. There is a small, family run restaurant i have been going to for a few years. Last year the food and service dropped big time for a few months. It was verging on unbearable. But i kept my mouth shut and didnt really tell anyone about it. I found out why the standards were dropping…the ‘mom’ in this ‘mom and pop’ restaurant was dying of cancer. Now can you imagine if i had told all my friends about the negative experiences and they all stopped going there? Now imagine doing that on a larger platform like a blog with a lot of followers. The impact you would have would be huge, and CAN potentially destroy this familys business. Always remember the human element, with power comes responsibility.”

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  8. Thanks for leaving Vien’s post. I agree. For larger businesses they can afford a drop in business, and may also get a larger number of people reviewing positively anyway. Keep the name and the feedback private for now and see how they go over the next few months.

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  9. Hi Kenny – I’ve only just started reading your blog. To me, your concerns about this issue reflect your values about how you interact with, and support, your local community. To me this is a positive thing. I am seeking fair reviews – and maybe a bad review is only fair on a small business if the experience is repeated by yourself and/or others?

    I work as a corporate writer, and am a creative writer by night. I was considering starting a book review blog on Aussie authors – but the idea died once I had started reading the first couple of books I intended to review – I was dissapointed to discover I didn’t enjoy either or them! I had to confront my reluctance to diss my fellow Aussie writers, especially when I know how hard it is to get a novel written and published. I decided that I wasn’t comfortable writing negative reviews on this subject – so I shelved the idea. (In the past I have worked as a movie reviewer and had no problem writing negative reviews of big Hollywood movies – in fact, it was fun to do so when warranted. Differnt stakes – different reactions)

    Good luck with whatever you decide
    Naomi

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    • Hi Naomi! I hear you. In another life, I regularly reviewed all sorts of music for the Sunday Herald Sun and, before that, for many other publications. There’s no doubt myself and my colleagues had different approaches for big stars, especially international ones, compared to Australian artists, especially indie ones. Oddly enough, it was while writing mostly music for one of those publications – Rhythms – that I actually made my first forays into scribbling about food. And I hated it! I found it spoiled my eating out adventures. No problems this time ’round and with this blog – can’t shut me up! Honestly, I just love it, yet don’t really know where it comes from. And I love it even when it’s a post about not posting. But a lot of it is the inter-action with readers such as yourself. So thanks everyone!

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      • Hi there – I haven’t started a book review blog yet for the reasons outlined above. Plus I had a baby last year, so I don’t have much spare time for writing at the moment. Soon I hope! Your question has prompted me to get organised and get it happening!

        The Australian Womens Writers Challenge was started a couple of years ago in an effort to increase the number of book reviews of women writers in this country. Here’s the online index of links for these reviews by book bloggers. This may be a good place to start if you want to see how different people approach reviewing.

        http://auswomenwriters.weebly.com/index.html

        Good luck and happy writing.
        Naomi

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  10. It’s obviously ??? in ???, the quality since the new owners took over in Feb has been shocking. I just discovered this blog looking for reviews for the Lakehouse (deciding to go there when their prices aren’t much different than Movida). I can’t find a negative review on here, I’d rather someone be honest so I have a guide as to where to spend or not.

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    • Hi James, you’ve guessed correctly, but for the time being anyway – for reasons given by myself and others above – I am going to refrain from naming the place. Several other readers have also guessed correctly – there are clues there! And I suspect this’ll get back to the new management one way or the other.

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  11. I think that if you have a negative experience at a restaurant then it is your responsibility to tell the owners and staff, not future customers, so that they have an opportunity to improve, explain or even apologise if the service or meal isn’t up to scratch. We all have bad days. The fact that people read blogs like these and make decisions based on one experience does give the writer a lot of power – often without a right of reply.

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    • Interesting point, Cleo, but I have to say I’m tempted to reject outright any dictate that says we, as bloggers, be required to give feedback to each and every place we eat at. We’re customers, too, and if we don’t like we, too, will go elsewhere.

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  12. Another point to keep in mind, or another way of looking at it:

    Those with whom I have corresponded about this place, and the very similar posts at the place’s Urbanspoon entry, are very much based around a before-and-after new management narrative.

    I think it could be argued that in this case, and those like it, it would be best to consider the new setup a completely different eatery – even if the name and the location are the same.

    And in this case, had the place been serving all along the kind of food it does now, we would’ve been unlikely to visit it in the first place and even more unlikely to return.

    And thus we would not have any basis for making negative comparisons.

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  13. If I’ve guessed the right place, it looks like it is for sale again. The original owners took home more than 160% of current owners, so looks like the quality downgrade has defeated them

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