Cafe's worst review now T-shirt

OLIVIA WANNAN
Last updated 05:00 28/05/2013
Cafe
REVIEW THIS: Nikau Cafe waitress Rosa Yates wear a T-shirt with a twist.

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Wisdom says not to wear your heart upon your sleeve, but how about your cafe's worst review?

Wellington City Art Gallery's Nikau Cafe chose this rather unusual response to a particularly frustrating online review, posted two years ago.

Cafes and restaurants found dealing with anonymous reviews difficult, said Paul Schrader, who has owned Nikau for 15 years.

"We're slightly hamstrung in our ability to respond - the tone can be all wrong and you can come across as grumpy or sensitive or you might come across as a bit of an apologist."

Hearing Pizzeria Delfina in San Francisco had responded to their own bad reviews by printing the comments on tongue-in-cheek T-shirts for staff, Mr Schrader decided to do the same for his "own sanity". The shirts were given to staff and will also be sold.

The lemon print refers to the reviewer's disdain for the proportions: "I know I go on about losing weight but not now please! Three pieces of halloumi cheese (ok) and three slices of French stick, not long cuts, but mean little piddly bits that were hardly browned and wow! a piece of lemon."

As the cafe tended to get positive reviews, he didn't see this as "a biggie, just an annoyance".

Mr Schrader refers to review sites when eating out in a foreign city and knows the power the online reviewer wields.

"If it's one review that stops one customer from coming to you, that has its impact. The big issue is the anonymity."

Not all negative comments necessarily lead to a negative outcome, Hospitality NZ chief executive Bruce Robertson said. In fact, a complaint on a website gives a business the chance to show they do actually put things right. But others are simply "vexatious", he said.

"Some customers are simply unreasonable. They're a small minority but they can do significant damage."

Mr Robertson said websites should take such customers into account and introduce a process for removing their reviews.

In the early years, businesses were often concerned by the skewed nature of reviews, with only bad - or exceptionally good - service rousing people to post.

But that had changed, said Miriam Warren, of Yelp. The near-ubiquitous smartphone meant people on sites like hers were giving reviews as part of their daily lives.

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- Wellington

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