Is Urbanspoon reliable?

Is Urbanspoon reliable?

03-Sep-2013
A Perth restaurant owner has denied using an Urbanspoon profile with a fake name to criticise his competitors and boost the profile of his own restaurant.

Panchos Mexican restaurant owner Ken O'Driscoll became the subject of ire from food bloggers and MasterChef alumni after supposedly being caught out 'disliking' his competitors' restaurants on the popular review website.

"It's disappointing to know there are people willing to stoop to this level" 


A link to a profile with the username "newsletter", allegedly run by Mr O'Driscoll, was posted on Twitter several times after it was used to contact a diner who left a negative review for Pancho's.

Pancho's Mexican restaurant owner Ken O'Driscoll denies the "newsletter" profile belongs to him.

Pancho's Mexican restaurant owner Ken O'Driscoll denies the "newsletter" profile belongs to him.

In the email response to the diner, the user identified themselves as "Ken...the owner of Pancho's".

"Can you please tell me why you think our food is overpriced and the staff were rude?" the email reads.

"Ken" then went on to say the diner should have brought any issues to the attention of management on the night.

The account, which people allege belongs to Mr O'Driscoll, likes Pancho's but dislikes every other Mexican restaurant.
The account, which people allege belongs to Mr O'Driscoll, likes Pancho's but dislikes every other Mexican restaurant.

"Moreover, on a whirlwind visit such as yours it is impossible to get under the surface, to come to understand what makes things tick at Pancho's," the email reads.

"I have never understood why customers post their feelings of an establishment on the internet and not take the time to write directly to the restaurant and get their reply first."

The Urbanspoon account has liked only the pages for Mr Driscoll's restaurants in Mount Lawley and Victoria Park, but disliked those of other Mexican restaurants in Perth.

The person behind the account identified themsleves as "Ken".
The person behind the account identified themsleves as "Ken".

The account also has the Pancho's logo as its display photo and includes photos of the restaurant.

But Mr O'Driscoll denies the profile was created by him.
"It's not me," he said."There's no doubt about that."

He said he had never experienced a similar incident in his 30-year history with Pancho's.

"I'm not aware of it happening to us in the past," he said. "This is the first time it's come up."


MasterChef 2012 contestant Wade Drummond said he had heard of restaurant owners submitting false reviews on several occasions.

"You've got owners who slag-off other places and promote themselves," he said.

"I know a few instances where owners have done that and it happens quite a bit.

"When you have to resort to doing that, you're not doing it right."

Mr Drummond, whose CV includes the popular Pata Negra and West End Deli, said such behaviour made him "despise" Urbanspoon.

"It's disappointing to know there are people willing to stoop to this level," he said.

"Yes, technically in hospitality you are in competition with each other, but you don't' need to stab each other in the back."

It tricked users of the website and was unfair to other restaurant owners, who usually had no recourse to get the review removed, he said.

"I can't stand Urbanspoon for a number of reasons and that's one," Mr Drummond said.

"It's unregulated and it's a case of your word against someone else's.

"There was a scenario at West End Deli of someone slagging us off, saying we had the worst pancakes and horrible service and we've never made pancakes.

"[Then] we get a negative percentage and we've got no recourse for that."

The inability to know who's behind negative reviews and 'dislikes' on Urbanspoon is something restaurateurs have long-lamented, according to Restaurant & Catering Industry Association CEO John Hart.

When an argument between a customer and restaurant owner went viral after it was posted on Urbanspoon in March, Mr Hart described the website as "word of mouth on steroids".

"One of the issues is that you don't know whether they're a competitor or disgruntled, because you can't access who they are," he said.

Mr Hart said Urbanspoon was frequently used inappropriately.
"Unfortunately it's subject to a whole lot more of abuse and the regulation around those blog sites hasn't caught up with the practice," he said.

"In some of the sites it's very difficult to have stuff taken down that you can demonstrate is vexatious."

Mr Hart said more accountability on Urbanspoon was needed.

"We've just got to be very careful that in providing this performance-enhancing substance to word-of-mouth that we don't end up with an environment where the extremes are not ironed out," he said.

"They have to be taken out of that process because there's obviously other motivations."

Urbanspoon have removed the newsletter account's votes from each restaurant it liked or disliked.

To read the original article from WA Today click here.