A RESTAURATEUR’S EYE ON FORUMS.

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03 Jul 2011 00:00 by Gladiator Star rating. 4 posts Send private message

 Just to let you know who I am and where I stand. I am Paul Hickling, I have a face that can be spoken to and I have been the proud owner of the Roman Oasis Restaurant for the past 30 years.  My restaurant has cost me over a million pounds, a marriage, a family and more stress, worries and troubles than a man deserves and I am still doing it and I’m loving it. So I think I’ve earned the right to speak here, not only for myself but for other restaurant owners out there. I’m not just making criticisms of this particular site but all sites in general. We restaurateurs have remained silent too long after having to read the content of some of these ‘forums’. Actually in my case luckily most of the posts are complimentary and a fittingly few are not. Although that’s not by luck.

                     It has been my whole life since I levelled a barren hillside devoid of water or electricity to create my dream. I’m one of the longest surviving restaurants under the same ownership on this coast of broken dreams if not the longest and there is a reason for this. It’s because I have dedicated over half my life in serving some quarter of a million satisfied customers and created lasting memories for them.  I’ve watched the babies of my customers grow into adulthood and now those babies come along with their own babies! I care so very much about my customers and do everything in my power to do everything possible to please them. If I get a complaint it doesn’t ruin my day, it ruins my month. I’m afraid the general public who have never worked in the hospitality business have no idea what giving you that service with a smile entails. For they don’t see what troubles, personal problems etc. are covered by the makeup of the clown but that’s what we choose to do and we do it without complaint. We don’t ask for sympathy but what we do like is to be treated with a little respect and patience when necessary and if we do make a mistake or something makes you unhappy we want to hear it direct from you at the time so we can do something about it, and by the way, I always do something about it.

               Naturally no matter how hard you work or the effort you put in you cannot please everybody particularly when you are relying on staff, so as we are all human there will always be the odd mistake and thus the dissatisfied customer. In the old days anyone who had a complaint asked for the person in charge, complained and got some satisfaction but now we have the internet all that has changed and in a very dangerous way as anyone can anonymously post anything they like. What they post may be true but it may also be detrimental or downright lies and it is thrust in the public eye to be seen by a multitude of people that it can influence. Also quite often comments are simply not accurate particularly on prices that are quoted from memory after perhaps a few glasses of wine.

                 Anonymous opens up a whole can of worms as the person posting might just dislike or be jealous of the owner, be a competitor, never even been to the restaurant at all or could even be a wilful child. It’s a one sided and unjust form of criticism as once posted the restaurant owner who is the accused has no way of defending himself. I had the misfortune to experience an example of this after I sacked somebody because after being trouble they broke a bottle over another staff’s head (I’ve only sacked 2 people in 30 years so I guess you could say I’m pretty tolerant). Within a few days I had the most awful review, not a provincial website, but on an internationally famous site and it was obviously done by that person as you would have had to work in the restaurant to know certain things. It was there for nearly two weeks for all and sundry to see and cause who knows what damage to my reputation as there was no way to contact the site apart from a comment form to submit but after a thorough investigation the website deleted it. In the restaurant business you’re only as good as your last meal and also I’ve always said that if a customer is happy they’ll tell a few people but if they’re not happy they’ll tell everybody and this is the case in the forums. So in that vein some people do compliment but it more likely to see scathing reviews and usually after one bad post others jump on the bandwagon and add their two pennyworths so what you are getting is an unbalanced overall picture.

                 I am sure what I am about to say doesn’t apply to most of you who are reading this but as they say, ’If the cap fits, wear it’. Some of these venomous posts must be written by some of those sad little people who sit behind their computers with nothing better to do but criticise those who have actually got off their arse and created something successful in their lives which they failed to do. One wonders if the number of posts, sometimes in the 100’s  that a person posts indicates this type because I certainly don’t have that time in my busy life for its taken me a couple of years to find time to post just this!  Of course in the worst scenario if what is printed is libellous, defamatory and damaging the aggrieved has the option of replying with the law. Plucked out of their cocoon of anonymity and plunged into the limelight of a court could mean having to paying considerable damages and costs. (As EOS clearly state on the website, ‘Though we make every effort to preserve user privacy, we may need to disclose personal information when required by law wherein we have a good-faith belief that such action is necessary to comply with a current judicial proceeding, a court order or legal process served on our Web site.’)

                A word about prices in these difficult times. Over the last three years I have dropped my prices which you can see clearly on my website (which the site does not allow me to post here) and in addition have introduced a daytime Tapa menu ‘Tapacadabra’ where we put a little magic into tapas and 2 Happy Hours although we call them Overjoyed Hours as we don’t think ‘Happy’ is good enough. You can get tapas from 2 Euros all day and during happy hours, a pint for 2.50 and a bottle of wine for only 7 Euros. I am certainly not expensive. Our cold buffet is outstanding value at 14 Euros, far from run of the mill and has some 20 dishes including Scottish Smoked Salmon, prawns, Thai Beef Salad etc. soup and garlic bread.

                 So some tips if visiting me; If you haven’t seen my website and therefore the prices you are most welcome to actually walk round and see what’s on offer and if you don’t think it’s the excellent value that all my returning customers do, then feel free to leave. But  if you come with champagne tastes but a ginger beer pocket then please don’t whinge about something you can’t afford. Better still, don’t come at all.

                  So there it is folks I’ve almost got it all off my chest. You know who I am and where to find me. If anyone wants to write to me to agree with me, disagree with me about this or any other matter my E mail address is (site does not allow me to post this here) or if you really hate me and want to shoot me I must tell you I do present a very slim target as I rush round the tables.

 

O.K. SO NOW I’M GOING TO GIVE MY REVIEW TO JUSTIN ALDRIDGE, ‘THE MODERATOR’ AND REPUTED OWNER OF THIS WEBSITE, AND;

(a) Let’s see if he allows this to be printed. Of course he can delete this bit and allow the previous.

(b) Let’s see if he has the bottle to take it as well as he, his site and the people he allows to post on it

      dish it out.

 (c) Let’s see if I will actually hear from him this time because the last time our paths crossed the

      silence was deafening in response to a challenge thrown down.

 

Well Justin, first of all I would like to invite you to come to my restaurant as my guest so you can see first hand how it has changed today. Please E mail me or call the restaurant 952892380 and I’ll be pleased to welcome you.

Points you could consider in the light of what I have said;

1. Regarding negative postings. Surely it would be possible to at least allow the person accused to post a reply as prominently and as publicly as the poster underneath theirs because right or wrong there are two sides to every story. Of course in a perfect world it would be nice if one was notified in advance by the site administrator if an adverse review was going to be published.

2. Another criticism is that the comments stay up there for years. Things like ‘I was there in 2006 and had a bad meal’, in 2005 they were expensive, etc. Surely after a couple of years it is only fair to wipe the slate clean and give people a fresh start as of course over the years things can and do change. And please let’s have the most recent one the first we read and not the last where we have to read through all the old and sometimes obsolete and usually inaccurate ones before getting to the current ones.

3. How come I get reviews in February when I close on October 1st. Do people really wait four months to write a review and then there are several dated the same date in February. Does the site save them up to post? if not it doesn’t sound genuine and seems very strange that someone goes to a restaurant in July and then waits until February to post?

4. Not only are some of the people on your site anonymous but it seems the site is a bit. Normally it’s a bit suspect if a company doesn’t show a company address nor an E mail address or even a telephone number. Of course the cop out reply will be that, ‘We are so busy we can’t possibly cope with all the E mails people send us so fill in the FAQ form’  I bet you get a pretty rapid response if you click on the ‘I want to advertise’ button.

                 On a personal note I am flattered that you think I am ‘quite a character’, some people also find me pretty solid. You will forgive me for not remembering you as, correct me if I’m wrong, the last time you were in my restaurant was four years ago. I tried to remember you from  your profile which I think used to be on the site but along with contact details it cannot be found  and nobody would recognise your photo with the hat, shades and face in shadow. I see your comments are still up there gathering cyber dust with the others of yesteryear like…... ‘The last couple of times I've been I have been disappointed………The fact that you can't see the kids whilst they are playing kind of puts me off since mine are only five.’ That’s a bit lame isn’t it? We are in the country so we have trees and nice vegetation which admittedly does obstruct the view of the Play Area from some tables, but not all. It is fenced in so the little darlings can’t escape and would be abducted with the greatest difficulty. So should I supply child minders for you as well? I have racked my brains and I can’t think of any other restaurants that have made the effort to create a Play Area so that the kids and parents can have a good time without each other. It also keeps the undisciplined children from bothering other diners by screaming round the tables.

                     So may I suggest you revisit the places you haven’t been to for a while, take your finger off the keyboard and put it on the pulse of this coast where businesses like mine continue to keep it’s heart beating.





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03 Jul 2011 19:13 by sandra Star rating in . 810 posts Send private message

sandra´s avatar

Slack day Paul?



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05 Jul 2011 22:35 by Gladiator Star rating. 4 posts Send private message

 

A real thank to you Justin for such a warm and informative reply that you have posted and I really look forward very much to welcoming you in the near future. As you say I do get many good reviews and what I wrote wasn’t just for me it was really to voice the opinions of other restaurateurs who feel the same way as well.  To answer your question sadly Laurence the wonderful St.Bernard with the Mitsubishi air conditioned kennel went to the other big kennel in the sky 11 years ago and we still miss him.
                How refreshing also to see so many positive and constructive comments posted. I must say it has restored my faith in this site. Except, oh dear did I hit a nerve somewhere in my post? Because ‘Sandra’, the whoever she is or isn’t serial poster posted on the restaurant reviews in reply to my post the very cheap three word shot, ‘Slack day Paul?’ Just to reassure her, I’m never slack and if I were to have a slack day in my restaurant which I suppose she’s inferring, then I would go and put more leaflets on the cars like I have done for 30 years and so continue to do. However I must say I am excited to glean the only two riveting facts she offers from her profile. Sandra is ‘una mujer’ and an ex smoker to boot.




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05 Jul 2011 23:32 by clondalkin Star rating. 29 posts Send private message

  sounds like a lovely place to eat and he sounds like a very hard working man just might drop in when we are over in spain next mags x





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