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24th Mar 2023

OPINION: A sour Guinness critique for one Dublin pub has us questioning the role played by reviews

Fiona Frawley

What came first, the chicken or the review of the chicken?

I recently moved to a new part of Dublin and obviously, the first port of call was to suss out the best takeaways. The usual way to go about it is to open up Just Eat, Deliveroo or similar, type in your cuisine of choice and check the ratings, usually quickly clicking out of a restaurant’s page if the reviews give you reason to. Takeaways are often ordered at a time where you need comfort most, providing nourishment to both the body and soul and when you’re feeling sensitive, fragile or hungover, you simply can’t risk a dodgy curry sauce or soggy pizza. There’s too much at stake. So, with that considered, you do pay attention to the reviews, scanning them meticulously to ensure you don’t get caught out in your time of need.

It’s a shame, because a lot of consumers rarely take the time to write a positive review. If your food arrives on time, piping hot, in the arms of a friendly delivery person, it’s unlikely you’ll pause before tucking in to give them five stars. Not much spurs a person to get creative quite like a forgotten garlic dip or cold portion of chips, and suddenly one error made one time becomes a restaurant or takeaway’s entire identity. Plenty of people could enjoy the place, it could be a go-to local for the entire community but if someone’s basing their decision solely on online reviews, they may never know.

Would a bad Guinness review turn you off a pub? Image via Shutterstock 

One bad review

A discussion about the importance of reviews has been spurred by a negative critique for one Dublin pub, The Strawberry Hall in Dublin 20.

This week, manager Ciara Cummins shared her experience of a Guinness blogger being served a bad pint at the establishment, and giving them a rating to match. These specific review style pages have grown in popularity in recent years, with Shit London Guinness flying the flag across the pond and many reviewers looking to hone in on one product specifically to assess. We do it ourselves at Lovin with our spice bag and chicken fillet roll reviews. But with a good pint of plain being something of huge importance to most punters, the Strawberry Hall team feared the effect the review could have on a pub – especially since this particular review was being re-shared and reiterated months after the initial pint was served, making it hard to take it on the chin and write it off as a one-off mistake.

Ciara alleges that the blogger in question posted the bad review on their own page, but also commented beneath another blogger’s positive review of the pub to re-iterate their negative experience in front of a separate following. The publican also says that the blogger re-shared a pic The Strawberry Hall posted of a pair of creamy pints (the Irish pub version of a thirst trap), and again reiterated their own experience of being served a bad pint there six months previously, making the event more difficult to shake off for the business.

Speaking on Newstalk about the bad Guinness review, and the fact that it was being reiterated again by the blogger in question on different platforms Ciara said “It would be kind of similar to if someone was to stand outside the pub and say “well I got a bad pint in there six months ago”.


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A post shared by Strawberry Hall (@strawberry.hall)

Obviously, a reviewer or consumer is entitled to leave a bad review. But aren’t businesses entitled to work to move past the review, improve and not have it become their entire identity?

Other business owners weighed in on the topic too, with Aidan Duke of Dukes Coffee Company in Cork commenting “I don’t think they affect businesses in the negative on the whole really… the whole review culture, we’re beginning to decipher and filter through what’s real and what’s bogus… it’s how you respond to these negative reviews that’s crucial”.

A bad Guinness review can be hard to shake. Image via Instagram/Guinness

Woes of hospitality

As anyone who’s ever worked in hospitality will be quick to point out, there are so many elements constantly at play in a kitchen or behind a bar that could contribute to one negative experience, one time. The chef could have a teething baby at home and be working off about half an hour’s sleep. The bartender could have had to deal with a fight breaking out in the lounge, and not been able to give their full attention to that one particular pint. In my years of working in pubs and cafés I’ve seen barmen be spat at, bitten, baristas be blamed personally for traffic on the road – there really is no shortage of external, bizarre elements that could be at play.

As Jennette McCurdy jokes in her book I’m Glad My Mom Died:

“Who wants to read a review from someone who takes the time to write a review? Can’t trust ’em, too much time on their hands.”

It’s definitely one way of thinking. There’s no harm in throwing an eye over the reviews for a bar or restaurant when looking to book somewhere, and plenty of people (ourselves included) take the time to write honest, positive ones. But it’s also worth bearing in mind that they don’t define an establishment. Sure, the ball can be dropped sometimes during a hectic brunch service, or when the bartender has just gotten bad personal news they have to work through. But in what’s undoubtedly a tough time for the hospitality industry, our advice is to be sound and give businesses second chances – if you can afford to do so, of course.

Header image via Shutterstock 


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