Online food and restaurant guide Zomato was in a strange fix this afternoon. A blogpost, by a few youngsters complaining of the “horrid experience” they went through on their visit to one of the restaurants listed on Zomato went viral, as angry customers joined the chorus.
The blogpost titled “How a lunch at Lemp Brewpub Gurgaon turned out to be the most horrid experience ever,” was published yesterday and went viral by today afternoon.
The story goes like this:
A few “Young, 25-year old, working, well educated, aware, well traveled, well spoken,” people wanted to go out in Gurgaon. On Zomato, they found that Lemp Brewpub, Gurgaon was serving “Hawaiian Sunday Brunch” for Rs 999. They called the restaurant to confirm & went in.
The youngsters wrote that they couldn’t find any Hawaiian food, Tiki Bar, exotic music or live music and dancing as promised on the Zomato listing. What followed was an altercation between the staff and the visitors. They also complained of being over charged ( Rs 12,000 for 8 people = math doesn’t add up).
After waiting for a long time, they wrote, when the bill did not arrive, they decided to inform the manager and leave. When they did so, bouncers and hotel staff blocked their way. Soon, cops arrived with the owner of the place and demanded a written complaint. They owner, who revised the bill to Rs 4,463 and took the money, returned the cash and insisted on registering a case.
That was that.
The rest of the drama unfolded in a parallel universe called the Internet. As soon as the post went up, it found many supporters. Twitter folks also joined the cause.
Another post, ostensibly from a customer who went to Lemp, sought to support the restaurant. This one titled “People for Lemp Brewpub and Kitchen” seriously smells of a rat. The post said that the youngsters were exaggerating and accused them of trying to flee without paying.
“The Lemp CCTV footage shows clearly what went down. First they tried to flee without paying and when they were caught,” said the blogpost. We wonder how the writer got access to CCTV footage?
And this was this.
Now, it was Zomato’s turn to do something about it. This is what the company had to say:
Zomato only displays what is sent to us via email by the restaurant owners or their PR firms. So essentially, all these offers are validated offers from the management itself. However, whether the restaurant eventually honors the offer is entirely up to the restaurant. In this case, what has been outlined in the blog against Lemp is that the manager even confirmed the offer on the phone, but refused to honor it on the premises. There is nothing anyone can do about such behavior.
Zomato said it doesn’t delete negative reviews but deletes abusive ones. What did they learn?
Next steps for us: we are implementing a widget on our reviews page for a restaurant where you can filter reviews which are 1/2/3/4/5 star rated specifically. Currently, you have to scroll through a chronologically stack of reviews to find out why some place is not good or worth visiting.
That’s a good take away. Its practically impossible for platforms to sift through every review and make sure that every restaurant honors the listing, but does Zomato need more checks and balances? Or a better feedback mechanism? Maybe.