The owner of Etica Ethical Pizzeria e Mozzarella in Adelaide is threatening to sue an unhappy patron with defamation after he left a less-than-glowing review on TripAdvisor.
The patron, Julian Tully, says he and a group of his friends dined at the pizzeria in early October and were served an inadequate amount of food in an unreasonably long amount of time.
He wrote on TripAdvisor, and also on the restaurant’s Facebook page:
"Stay away from this place. I went there with some friends tonight who are all seasoned foodies and were treated in a fashion that i didn't think was possible. For 7 people we got a tiny amount of food (waiting more than 50 minutes in between the portions) and when we tried to complain in reasonable way we literally got told "we have had our fill" and "we shouldn't go out for dinner if we cant afford it". Then they called the cops on us because we walked out. Avoid like the plague! (Unless you liked to be judged by a bunch of people who can't run a business in an 'ethical' way)
According to The Advertiser, the group complained about the amount of food they had received in relation to the price they were paying, and it was at this stage that the pizzeria’s co-owner, Federico Pisanelli said “If you can’t afford it, maybe you shouldn’t eat out.”
Tully’s friends and fellow diners Michael Pejin and Eric Steele left similar reviews online, with Pejin claiming that Pisanelli said “If I could, I would charge you double.”
Pisanelli has rejected the claims, arguing that they defame his business. He said that if the reviews had not been removed by 27 October and he had not received an apology than he would seek legal action “associated with, but not limited to, your verbal comments, written publications, and further, your table’s disruption at Etica on 10 October 2015”.
Tully, a University of Adelaide law graduate, emailed Pisanelli confirming that he won’t be apologising and stating that if legal action was taken against him he would use the defences of truth and honest opinion.
“I confirm that I will not issue an apology to Etica. However, I can provide you with the following picture of a cat,” the email – which did indeed include a picture of a kitten – read.
How to deal with negative reviews
Ken Burgin from Profitable Hospitality spoke with Hospitality a little while ago, sharing some pointers on how to deal with negative reviews online.
Dealing with a negative review can be daunting, but Burgin says that it should be done within 24 hours of the review’s publication.
“You don’t just leave bad reviews unattended. They won’t come down; it’s rare to be able to remove them so give up on that one. Instead of getting furious with Facebook, just respond to it.
“I think it’s quite important not to reply in the heat of the moment. Just breathe, have a coffee, do a little bit of investigation and maybe respond to it late in the day or the next day. You’ve got to respond but just calm down first.”
When responding to feedback, it’s important to realise you are not just responding to that person individually, but to everyone who may read it. Although you may not win back the customer who hasn’t enjoyed themselves, you may soften the impact that a scathing review can have on potential future customers.
Even if you don’t agree with the feedback, it’s still important to respond, even if to just acknowledge the diner’s experience.
Burgin suggests responding with “I’m very concerned about your feedback, it’s very rare, that’s not the experience of most of our guests…can you email me so I can investigate more.”
“You [should] always talk about how you’re making sure things work better in the future because really, you can’t revisit that moment and fix it. Maybe you are going to reprimand someone, but you’re not going to talk about that publically. There may be some bad stuff that has to be fixed up or cleaned up, but we’re talking about going forward,” Burgin says.