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  Life   More Features  28 Nov 2017  Eateries feel the bite online

Eateries feel the bite online

THE ASIAN AGE. | NIRTIKA PANDITA
Published : Nov 28, 2017, 12:01 am IST
Updated : Nov 28, 2017, 12:01 am IST

Social media can be a boon for restaurants trying to get word out about themselves.

Papillon restaurant
 Papillon restaurant

Thanks to social media, there is nothing in today’s time that can slip the human eye or attention. While the reputation of a restaurant earlier lay in a critic’s words, today, any phone-wielding individual can change the narrative of a joint. Besides hurting the business, negative social media exposure can also cause a harrowing time for the accused party.

The team behind the Irla-based food outlet Pappilon recently went through this very experience. Mumbai-based Falguni Somaiya raised a stink after she apparently found a dead rat in her sambar. In no time, she shot and circulated a video that went viral, accusing Papillon of making a slip up. However, according to the restaurant, the incident was staged.

The team at Pappilon stated, “We at Pappilon were a target of such publicity stunt conducted by a lady (politically connected) who orders food home on 23rd November 2017 at 10.30 am. After an hour of the food delivery she walks into the restaurant with the food delivered complaining there was a rat in the Idli sambar served by us. She gets the food in her own cutlery. And takes a video of the rat in the sambar, the point here is how is it possible for a dead rat to be present in the sambar as its served in a polythene bag. Secondly the rat looked freshly soaked in the sambar (sic).”

Sambar with the ratSambar with the rat

The post went on to add that the woman didn’t even take the matter the police or the food department. “In fact the BMC have miffed the case saying, her allegations are false and supporting us,” the statement read.

Incidents like these give rise to the question how difficult it is for the hospitality industry to hold its ground, when it comes to irate customers. Restaurant owners in the city admit that the perils of running a restaurant are high when a simple slip up can ruin your reputation and business both.

Owner of Gymkhana 91 Bar & Kitchen, Aditya Hegde, says that the Pappilon incident seems unlikely since surprise checks are conduced by the government on a daily basis. “There is no way an owner would take a chance with something like having a rat in a sambar,” he says. “Even at my restaurant, there have been four surprise checks in six months.”

However, the power of social media is such that it makes even the most uninformed customers feel powerful. Pritina Shreshtha, managing director, Mojo’s Bistro, says that even as they take every criticism seriously, at times, they have had to take it with a pinch of salt.

She explains, “When a customer posts a complaint on review-based sites like Zomato, we do a recce at our end and look at the loophole. But there have been instances where people have bashed us on social media and complained about a cocktail or dish. When we checked, we realised that the particular dish or cocktail wasn’t even on our menu.”

The GST rate of 18 per cent that was in effect till a while back in restaurants, invited the fury of customers, which unfortunately had to be dealt with the hospitality staff on the ground level. Vishesh Khanna, owner at Door No 1 says, “With the GST change, there were a couple of guests who would ask the tax rate to be flatly changed. When we refused, they complained that they would snitch on social media.”

Aditya recalls an incident where a group of guests didn’t take it well when they were asked to not photograph people without permission at his restaurant. He says, “Once we requested a customer to not click pictures without taking permission, as it was making the other guests uncomfortable.” But, trouble started when the client decided to seek vengeance online. “That customer created a fake profile and wrote bad reviews. In a situation like this, it is pointless to start a dialogue with a customer, because they have already made up their mind to tarnish the restaurant’s image. There is very little we can do then,” he shrugs.

For the owner of BKC Dive, Pranay Goel, reviews — both good and bad — are an opportunity to improve their image. “While a positive review encourages us to be good at our work, a negative review helps us improvise,” he asserts.

Pritina says that she conducts a weekly motivational programme to avert such a situation, and lift the team’s spirit. “Right from the dishwasher to the general manager, everyone is involved. If they ever face such a bad customer, we ask them to keep their cool and use their charm instead of mindlessly reacting to it,” she concludes.

Tags: social media, papillon restaurant