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Gastronomy at it's best or not: Are food critics always right?

Food experts in Delhi are speaking up against negative reviews by guests; say they have biases and get personal.

morefromlifestyle Updated: Jul 20, 2015 19:05 IST
Aditi Caroli
Aditi Caroli
Hindustan Times
Many a time reviews are not true, deliberately vindictive and are best left ignored. (Images Bazaar photo)
Many a time reviews are not true, deliberately vindictive and are best left ignored. (Images Bazaar photo)

Is the customer always right? This debate kicked off on the internet after a war of words between a customer and the management of a city restaurant on a popular food review website, last week. Pankaj Sharma, a resident of the city, who apparently had a bad experience at Underdoggs Sports Bar & Grill in Gurgaon, recently, called the staff at the eatery 'idiots' and the place 'useless' in his review on a food website.

The management did not take his review lightly and retaliated by calling him 'frustrated' and advised that he should never visit them again.

Indeed, the popularity of reviewing websites and the new-age trend of everyone turning into a food blogger has put restaurateurs in a tough situation, say industry experts. Chef Manish Mehrotra, whose restaurant bags top scores on popular food reviewing websites, says many a time reviews are not true, deliberately vindictive and are best left ignored. "It's very easy to post on such sites. I don't understand why people take it so seriously? We get all sorts of people. Sometimes people find our restaurant expensive and rate it low. But that's fine. It's their personal opinion," says Mehrotra.

Chef and restaurateur Ritu Dalmia says while she has stopped paying heed to such reviews, sometimes reaction is necessary when things turn really ugly. "Today, everyone is a food blogger and critic, even if they lack basic knowledge about food. My problem is not with negative reviews, but with personal comments. Once guests went to the extent of writing in the reviews that they pay for our salaries, cars ... I always reply to this kind of criticism," says Dalmia.

Restaurateur Shiv Karan Singh agrees, saying, "Guests blackmail saying if you don't give us free food or discount, we'll write a bad review. 90% of these foodies don't even know the difference between one meat and the other. No restaurant wants to give you a bad experience. Bashing them on public platforms is not fair," he says.

However, foodies in the city say that restaurants should learn to take criticism in their stride. "I agree that critics should be balanced and avoid personal comments. But a restaurant can't pick up the same tone to defend itself either," says businessman Naresh Goel.

Pankaj Sharma's online review
No wonder the place got closed at Ambience Mall which is always bustling with the happening crowd waiting to enter into eating joints with a difference. It re-opened at the Global Foyer only to disappoint. The starters were below average for both veg and non veg, barring the babycorn. To my surprise the soft drinks they offered were higher than room temperature and they said they could only offer me ice. Do they want me too wait till my drink reaches a drinkable temperature and then I should have a plain, non fizzy drink. Idiots.!! The Mocktail had a similar story, was chilled but without a fizz, though I got a hint of it in between. Beer was good. To end it on a poor note, the main course dinner was equally bad, with none of the dishes living upto the basic standards of cooking. I'm not going here again. Useless!! (sic)

Management's response
Hi Pankaj, it is obvious from your review that you are a frustrated person with no manners or control over your self. How can the cold drink be at higher temperature then the room temperature. We certainly didn't microwave it before serving it to you. You have not given any specifications about the food and want us to think you know what you are talking about. All Mocktails do not have fizz so please ask for a mocktail with fizz next place you go to. Thank god the beer met your standards. We will actually appreciate it if you did not visit our places again. Regards, Mgmt (sic)