Fake reviews are rife, but these underhand tactics only serve to discredit the industry, says Guild of Bangladeshi Restaurateurs chairman Enam Ali
Facing increasing pressure to sustain business in the recession, certain sectors of the restaurant trade are engaging in underhand tactics to divert business away from competitors. This is certainly the case in the UK curry industry, where the practice of restaurateurs posting fake negative reviews about their local competitors on listings and consumer websites is on the rise.
In a ferociously competitive market, curry restaurateurs seem to be using these dirty tactics against competitors in their local region. There have been cases in which an online review references a particular dish, where that dish doesn't even feature on the menu of the restaurant "under review", so to speak.
There are some key tell-tale signs suggesting that a review has been posted on a website by a competitor rather than a genuine customer. If the review is abusive, without any attempt to make balanced comments, it may not be independent. If there is a lack of detail on food that has been eaten, or if it is brief and there are vague damaging general comments on the food and the service, the report may not be genuine. And if the critic has only registered to publish a single review, this should be viewed with scepticism.
Whether good or bad, online reviews can be important to both restaurants and customers. But they must be genuine. Reviews should always be perceived critically, among a broader range of reviews, particularly comments from respected restaurant critics, both online and in the media. These may be favourable or critical, but they are more likely to be independent and accurate.
I feel the websites themselves have a responsibility and need to conduct checks into the reviews posted - such as monitoring the credibility of the eâ'mail address from which the review has been sent. In fact, the websites themselves run the risk of losing credibility with consumers. The websites lose credibility, consumers lose trust and restaurants lose business - so, all round, everyone loses out.