What's a chef to do when a diner rips their restaurant apart on a review site like TripAdvisor? If you're Kiren Puri of the Bladebone Inn in rural England, you refute their argument point by point in a neat and thorough smackdown. TripAdvisor user Sinsand complained of "aweful food and dire complaint handling [sic]" after a meal at the Bladebone, taking particular issues with some ribs and the fact that "when the bill was presented there was no acknowledgement of our feedback."
Puri was not about to let that stand. Noting that "I have never met a self professed foodie start his meal with a bowl of chips," he addresses the ribs situation: "We served six other portions that evening to a universal response of 'excellent', although I am open to the suggestion that food fairies may have bought another one into the building and replaced the one on your plate as a personal slight against you. Naughty fairies!"
Puri notes that he's not one to respond to review sites, but that "unfortunately, there are a small minority of people that use these sites for ulterior and more sinister motives." In other words, people who complain about food in order to get comped meals. Puri and company went so far as to check their CCTV tapes to see whether this particular reviewer had eaten their entire meal. (He had.)
The Bladebone isn't the only restaurant in England to bite back at nasty reviews: last summer, chef Sat Bains responded to a number of bad reviews, writing on one "What a shame he isn't coming back..." Below, Puri's entire response; you can read the original review that inspired it here.
I never respond to reviews on here, good or bad. I am a believer that these sites offer a communal platform to share experiences on, that enable us all to eat, drink and sleep better, and that can't be a bad thing. Alas, we can never please 100% of people 100% of the time, no matter how hard we try, but we never stop trying.
Unfortunately, there are a small minority of people that use these sites for ulterior and more sinister motives and these people, like yourself, are a disease upon our wonderful industry, and it must be addressed. Therefore, I have chosen to respond for the first time in two years to your review as I do not think it is a fair reflection of the evening in question. I have tried to address each of your points as fairly as I have seen it;
All plates that return to the kitchen unfinished are kept for either my or the head chef's inspection. We both inspected what was left on your two plates (one plate was completely clear, whilst the other had the most miniscule piece of meat left.), the meat was tender and unctuous. We served six other portions that evening to a universal response of 'excellent', although I am open to the suggestion that food fairies may have bought another one into the building and replaced the one on your plate as a personal slight against you. Naughty fairies!
You falsely claim that half was left. Now I think someone has a little problem here telling the truth. I saw the plate, and our cctv shows that next to nothing was left, I would be more than happy to show you these images if your memory is hazy. Your parents seemed like lovely people, I'll bet that they taught you better than that.
Your comments were fed back to the chef, and on his and my inspection, we agreed that the line we would use is "We have fed your comments back to the chef, and the chef thanks you for your feedback.". Unfortunately this was not enough for you. We did not feel based on our inspection of the meal that the comments were fair, and decided against going deeper into the matter as I felt that a problem was out to be caused by yourself, and I was not prepared to indulge you in that.
The rude and incompetent waiter you speak off was me. I am the chef/patron and the business owner. I know, even I struggle to believe that sometimes! I have trained in the finest restaurants in the world, numerous three Michelin star etc, and I feel that I can recognise when there is a problem with the food by now. I did not feel that there was any issue whatsoever with your meal, this is my job and my chosen career. My regular customers know that I am very quick to 'comp' food if the food service or quality does not come up to my high expectations.
You are absolutely correct in that I was concerned about a scene escalating. My restaurant was fully booked, and I had eleven other tables enjoying their evening, and an atmosphere I wanted to protect. I made the decision to remove your bill, refuse your money, rather than risk one cancerous person ruin the atmosphere for everyone else, you were not the only customer. This is a decision I stand by.
You state that you left money to cover one meal and drinks. It did not cover that. The money was dispatched into the Air Ambulance charity box. If that is the value that you put on a meal in my restaurant, I would rather not have it.
You claim to be foodies. I have never met a self professed foodie start his meal with a bowl of chips.
I love looking after my customers and serving the food that we serve. After a while in this industry, you start to learn those who are out to look for problems and try and get a free ride. Unfortunately, we noticed straight away with yourself, and I asked the front of house team to take extra extra care with your table. I made sure that I took the order myself, even feeding back cooking times so that you would be aware that one of the dishes took a little longer to cook (they call this customer service), but unfortunately we were never going to win this one.
As you have been so kind to give me some advice about how to run this business, I would like to give you some feedback on how to be a customer.
1. Tell the truth. Lying and distorting the truth beyond recognition is not cool, big nor clever even if it is a tool towards achieving your end result.
2. Having read the pseudo-criticisms on your other reviews, there are a couple of consistencies. I.e. You are after freebies and money off. If you are going to constantly do this, have the decency and ask for a reduction on the bill at booking or free courses. I'm sure all restaurants would love to take your reservation at this point, or at least recommend somewhere that would appreciate your custom. Margins are tight and the industry is harder than to make a success from. It is not fair to demand things (check your own reviews and you will find the same theme).
3. Remember that you are (thankfully) not a food critic. If you were, I would not be a chef. To quote Voltaire 'I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend unto the death your right to say it.' However, Voltaire also said 'one always speaks badly when one has nothing to say'. If you one day learn how to complain correctly and accept that we will listen to your feed back where appropriate. But, you will never tell me nor my staff to give you something for nothing when it is unwarranted.
4. Stick to venues that will satiate you. I can recommend an endless list of chains that have endless capital and will not mind gifting you the freebies and discounts that you so obviously crave.
5. Have a little respect for you fellow guests. Your parents appeared to be as embarrassed to be with you as I was to have you in my restaurant. That's not fair on anyone.
Kiren and The Bladebone Team