There’s no question that Yelp, and other platforms like it, have helped a great many restaurants, large and small. User generated reviews offer a more authentic glimpse into a restaurant; there’s something more honest about a Yelp review than one you might read on a blog or news outlet. After reading enough good reviews, someone who’s never been there before will feel more comfortable heading there for a meal She’ll have a pretty good idea of what’s on the menu, as well as knowing the dishes that other people love. Even when people try something new, they still want it to feel familiar.

But there’s a flipside to that: the negative reviews. Familiarity, as they say, breeds contempt. Of course, there are times when a negative review is justified but there’s something about Yelpers that causes them to take it too far. They often respond in terms that are deeply emotional, as if whatever the restaurant got wrong was something that was done to them. For these people, simple mistakes turn into conspiracy theories, while staff’s adherence to policies is called discrimination.

Photo by L.A. Foodie (Flickr)

If you think that sounds like hyperbole, you’re either not a restaurant owner, or you somehow aren’t listed on the internet somewhere. In that case, read on and prepare to enter a new world. And for all you owners reading this nodding in agreement, have a laugh at these comments from real Yelpers giving one-star reviews. Out of respect for everyone involved, we’re not going to use names (of people or restaurants). Still, even without their names attached, experienced owners will probably recognise at least a few of these types of people.

People Who Don’t Understand What They’re Eating

This man, not quite getting it at a local burger joint:

A fast-food burger, not fast served or cheap. Fries are actually better at McDonald’s.”

Do you know what the word is for “a fast food burger not server fast or cheap?”  It’s burger. To recap: this person went to a non-fast-food restaurant, ordered a non-fast-food burger, and was then put off because it took longer and cost more than a fast food burger. Sure, he probably was referring to the quality when he described it that way, but he’s actually objectively wrong on that. This particular establishment uses fresh ingredients, nothing frozen or premade. They grind their own beef and make patties by hand daily, and their french fries are never more than a few hours away from having been a potato. We think what this reviewer was trying to say was, “I didn’t like it.”

People With First World Problems

This woman, who did not her due diligence before ordering Indian takeaway:

“Curry doesn’t come with rice… Are you kidding me? How are you supposed to eat it?! And you don’t even specify that on your menu? I get that bit of knowledge once my food is delivered? Now my boyfriend and I are waiting for our own rice to cook as our curry is getting cold.”

But where is the rice?
Photo by Masashi Kaburaki (Flickr)

One the one hand, yes, curry usually does come served with a side of rice. This is true of many places. What is also true about these places is that their menus always state it clearly: Curry (served w. rice), or something to that effect. If the menu does not say it is served with rice, it’s a safe bet that it isn’t. Of course, you could always ask just to be sure. Restaurant owners are not obligated to tell you what your meal doesn’t come with. If they were, menus would be 100 pages long, as they would need to list every other thing on the menu in the “Not Included” section for each item.

Also, yes: it’s disappointing when you’re looking forward to a relaxing night after work with some delicious food delivery and you get stuck making the rice. But how was the curry? Did it taste good? It seems a one-star review is a bit harsh for a business that delivered what they promised.

People Who Don’t Understand Regional Dishes

This woman, who ordered Mongolian Beef at a Thai Restaurant:

“This place was awful! Mongolian beef was something other than what they call ” Mongolian beef”…… I’m not one to ever write a review but I had to vent because no one should pay $50+ for the meal I had!”

First, I think we can all agree that none of us thinks we should pay $50+ for this woman’s meal. We don’t even know her. But if we were paying, we’d tell you not to order Mongolian Beef at a Thai place. “Mongolian” isn’t some exotic name to describe the sauce: it’s a geographical region from which the dish originated. And for what it’s worth, Mongolia is pretty far away from Thailand—roughly 3,500 km. Their respective food cultures have almost no overlap. To be fair, the restaurant deserves some criticism for going rogue on their menu like this, but still. One star? You’re the one that chose to order it. This is like going to a Polish restaurant and ordering the Paella. You’re going to be disappointed.

People Who Take it Too Far

This woman, who started with drama and ended way past the line of civility:

Photo by Josh Janssen (Flickr)

Wow. Wow is all I have to say.”

This is not all she had to say. There were another 116 words spent detailing how stunned she was that this restaurant would not deliver outside their stated 6.5km radius. She was only .16 km outside the radius, and complained they could have driver go that small distance. But that’s not how a delivery radius works. First, a radius is the straight line that runs from the center of a circle to any point on its edge. Roads are not built in straight lines from restaurants to your house. So that extra distance could actually be more like 2 or 3 km in terms of the drive.

Even so, though, there’s something else this customer isn’t understanding. People who own and/or work at restaurants spend an awful lot of time catering to the needs of every customer they serve. To do that requires a lot of effort, coordination, and literally hundreds of improvised decisions each day. When they set a policy of some kind, like a delivery radius, they do so because that’s one less thing to figure out and decide during the day. Outside the radius? Easy decision: no delivery. It’s not that they don’t want to make the accommodation for people just outside the line. They just don’t want to have to solve another problem and make another decision, and that cutoff has to exist somewhere. It’s nothing personal, which is something this reviewer didn’t quite understand. Because she ended up going way too far:

“Good luck ordering from these degenerates. So sad because I am a supporter of mom and pop business but this one is just– stunning. In the worst way possible.”

There’s just no excuse for this. The owners decided set their delivery policy long before she ever tried to order, she decided for them it was OK to bend that rule—and then publicly labeled them degenerates when she didn’t get her way  This is the type of behavior restaurant owners and staff have to put up with on a regular basis. If you’re amazed that someone can behave like this publicly and with a permanent record of it, think of how much more often attitudes like this surface when it’s in the heat of the moment.

Perhaps that’s another benefit of Yelp. People who’ve never worked in hospitality get to see firsthand what happens when customer expectations aren’t met. If these criticisms seem harsh, it’s because they are. Take a look at your favorite restaurant’s Yelp page, and then read the one- and two-star reviews. Take a note of how it feels to have someone unfairly judge the place that’s fed you so well so many times before. And then imagine what it’s like to actually work there, or have opened it yourself, and consider what how these reviews are received. After that? Go leave them a nice review.