The assistant manager of a Blenheim restaurant that was attacked on social media says unmoderated and inaccurate comments could potentially close a business and cost jobs.
Comments posted about Redwood Tavern's Vines restaurant on Facebook group Online Garage Sale Marlborough claimed the food was cold, meals had to be returned and one customer faced a 30-minute wait for his order to arrive.
The Facebook group has 7500 members and is used to trade second-hand goods.
Redwood Tavern assistant bar and restaurant manager Michael Neal said eight regulars told him about the disparaging remarks on Sunday.
"It has snowballed and people have put responses up on the page, liking the comments."
He said some were inaccurate. A right of reply Neal posted on the site was deleted, but the disparaging comments remained, he said.
Online Garage Sale Marlborough is run by a collective administration team. According to their group guidelines, members who made negative or abusive comments would be blocked.
"Do not play things out on the wall, you will be instantly banned for causing drama," the administrators say.
The Express asked the administrators why Neal's right of reply was deleted but they had not responded at the time of going to press.
The comments were made after a family meal at the restaurant for a grandparent's birthday on Saturday. A group of nine booked in but forgot to order one meal. The post claimed the grandparent waited 30 minutes for their dinner, but Neal said a cover docket showed a meal was cooked and put on the table within 15 minutes.
The group later complained that the seafood platter wasn't cooked, he said. The chef provided a replacement meal and the restaurant refunded the group $69 in cash and provided $82 of free deserts.
"We thought we had done our bit," Neal said.
A member of the party rang the tavern on Sunday morning to complain he had suffered food poisoning.
"I said if you can go to your doctor's and get medical evidence we will pay for your medical bills, but he refused to do that," Neal said.
A member of the party had since demanded a full refund of the $131 bill, he said.
"It is annoying that on social media people can say what they want. We don't want to lose customers because people are making up lies.
"We cooked 105 meals that night and had just one complaint. We tried our best to do the right thing. In this business when we make a mistake we fix our mistakes.
"I respect people's opinion but it shouldn't be aired in a public forum on social media where the right of reply is removed."
It was an example of the downside of social media, Neal said.
"It leaves restaurants and bars very vulnerable. Reputation is everything.
"It could cost jobs if it goes too far. It could close a business at the end of the day."
- The Marlborough Express