We live in a world where for the most part we are fortunate enough to have freedom of speech to make our opinions heard.
However, the internet has long blurred the lines between freedom of speech and flat-out cyber bullying - with some forums leaving users particularly vulnerable.
Working in the restaurant industry, we leave ourselves open to the opinions of others - it's what we do - but the vast difference between how people behave to your face compared to the vitriol online is stark, and is something I think employees should be protected from.
Tripadvisor is used by hundreds of millions of people and is an excellent service. It allows businesses within the service industry to build their reputations and for guests to share their experience of the food, service, ambience and so much more.
Recently though, I have questioned whether users been given too much freedom to personally attack employees.
Scrolling through reviews left for a newly opened Dublin restaurant, I came across one such review which I perceived as slanderous and offensive to the staff member involved. I too have felt the horror of being shamed online by a customer, so my stomach sank when I read the following review:
first and foremost: the waitress is lovely! apart from that just found dirty ikea glasses, cheap dips in to go plastic ramekins, ages waiting for food and a rude manager/something... the pizza is grand anyway. we popped in just for a quick bite and a glass of wine... the hostess gave us a lovely table the waitress was superb but the ginger guy ruined our whole night! hope u guys dont run into him! Xx”
I wondered if the reviewer would ever say something like this to the man in question's face?
Imagine for argument's sake you have been given the role of restaurant manager in a newly opened, publicly-hyped and heavily promoted restaurant. You have spent weeks if not months in preparation for a role which essentially will make or break you;
If you succeed and you are hailed manager of the year, your restaurants owner will respect and trust you, your decisions are backed and your ability is never questioned.
If you fail, your name will not hold weight in any Dublin restaurant, word gets around quickly and that's that, P45.
As a manager you are the sole point of contact for everything that happens within the four walls of your restaurant. Take an average Saturday where you're packed to the rafters. You have one staff member out sick, another who has been covering them for the past 6 days and is exhausted. You too are on day four of a six day week having already clocked 52 hours. The KP hasn't showed up yet, the dishes are piling up, the oven won’t heat and the queues keep coming. You still don’t have the roster for the following week completed and you're dying to go to the toilet for the past 2 hours. Food wise you probably ate a slice of toast 7 hours ago and you haven’t slept for more than 20 hours in 4 days.
Yet, you are calm, you are composed, no customer will ever know any of this and you will open and close: business as usual. You make sure that every table is serviced, that every customer appears to be enjoying their meal. Babies are sleeping and parents are getting their hour of downtime, the chefs aren’t shouting too loud and the staff are fed, watered and raring to go. You close up shop 12 hours after you started, count your tills, inform everyone of how much you took in and finally you remember you need to go to the toilet. You make the call that the roster can wait until tomorrow and head home to sleep before Sunday hits you in the face.
A manager doesn't turn off. You get home and crack open a beer, you try to relax and you think, 'okay, maybe I’ll just check TripAdvisor, make sure that I've done my job, that all our hard work is paying off and that maybe *just maybe* someone's left a great review'.
I can't describe how it feels to read a review like the one above. The blood drains from your body, every hair stands tall on your back and shoulders and the nausea that ensues can only be likened to a 4-day boat trip across the Pacific.
Any pride you had for yourself goes out the window.
It's so easy to write a personal, nasty review, and so hard for the person on the receiving end to read it.
I’m not saying that the manager in question was not "awful" - maybe he wasn't up to scratch that night.
No matter what, he did not deserve to be laid bare at the mercy of hungry googlers.
We’re all trying. As my mother used to say, no one goes out to buy a present hoping some one will hate it. No one works in the service industry hoping people will hate them.
Please think twice about your next review - is what you're saying helpful? Or needlessly nasty? Would you say it to their face?
Your Local Restaurant Manager.