Zomato sees rise in trade wars

It is true that a review can make or break an establishment, especially in the hospitality industry.

In an era of online food reviews, many ‘foodies’ are taking to platforms like Zomato to share their experiences instantly. This platform helps people not only to find their kind of place but also to leave a remark or two.

On the flip side, dishonest reviews can hurt a restaurant in many ways. Business owners in the city talk about the many challenges they face, including diners cancelling orders when a restaurant has already started preparing food or hampering their business by leaving a negative remark for a personal grudge against the restaurant.

A restaurateur in New BEL Road, who doesn’t wish to be named, says “When an existing restaurant, cafe or pub finds out about a new place within their vicinity,  which can pose as a competition, they engage their own marketing team to visit these places and try the food. These reviewers then write negative reviews, giving the new place a bad rating. Similarly, an old establishment would send their regular guests to try the new place. This could be entirely paid for by the old place or the diner can avail a free meal of the same value they spent at the new place,”
he says.  

It is like a propaganda to drive out the new place within six months, he observes. 

“What they fail to understand is, there are genuine people who have put all their savings into the business. It is their interest and passion to serve good food to people,” he adds. 

“We have had many people who have clearly mentioned that the food is better at the other place (mostly a competitor’s place) because they don’t say no to anything or serve a lot of free accompaniments. Such diners have brazenly asked us to give them a free meal or asked us to get ready to face bad ratings,” he says.  

So what should Zomato do to control this behaviour of their users? “They will not control anything as they are making money either ways. However, they need to think past themselves and also focus on establishment owners,” says the restaurateur.  

Safal Aboobacker of ‘Blow’ on Church Street says, “My restaurant had a 4.1 star, it came down to 3.7 and now I am sitting on 3.8. When the government made an issue over ‘sheesha’, I had voiced my protest but owners of other similar places didn’t come out in support. That was when I had some argument of sorts with them. Now I feel they are taking it out against me, by asking their friends to review us. My team and I don’t even remember serving some of these reviewers on Zomato. We are not a big place with thousands of people flocking in every day; we remember each and every customer who comes into our place.”

He doesn’t find any real reason for these reviewers to put up a negative comment. He says that Zomato can’t remove all negative reviews. This will result in restaurant owners misusing the platform.

“It is unfortunate that a restaurant’s image today is totally based on Zomato reviews. When new people come to the city, most of them look for a restaurant based on the star ratings,” says Safal.  

He points out that some people compare two places of an entirely different league or write their opinion on dishes they haven’t tried.

“Some people actually come in and order for one cup of coffee and sit. They later write a review mentioning different items, which they haven’t even tried.” 

Another restaurateur on Church Street recalls an incident that caused some of her customers to leave a negative review for the place.

“A group of food bloggers, who were invited by us, were creating a ruckus and disturbing the other guests. When we requested them to tone down, the bloggers were extremely offended. They took it to Zomato to write us a review with personal attacks on us and nothing specific to the food and service. This was a clear case of personal vendetta, but it had an impact on our reputation,” she says. 

They say seeing is believing. Maybe it is time we implemented this practice when it comes to our food preferences.

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Zomato sees rise in trade wars

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