British Columbia

B.C. restaurant owner unapologetic about lashing out online after bad reviews

A Port Moody restaurateur says he makes no apologies for fighting back after a series of bad online reviews

'This was a disaster,' says owner of Port Moody's Saint St. Grill

The owner of Saint St Grill took matters into his own hands after negative reviews. (Saint St. Grill)

A Port Moody restaurateur says he makes no apologies for fighting back after a series of bad social media reviews.

The fury was sparked after a family of four, with a reservation for 5:30 p.m. at Saint St. Grill, was suddenly asked to leave at 7:30 p.m. to make way for the next group.

Edwards says the restaurant's policy is to inform guests when they make a reservation that they have the table for two hours. After that, it's needed for the next party.

Eventually, the online dispute got so heated the restaurant owner, Ross Edwards, called the former employer of one of the online reviewers to disparage her.

Policy not shared with guests

On the night in question, after talking with staff, Edwards realized the family hadn't been told about the seating policy. He said this was the restaurant's mistake.

"This was a disaster, this did not turn out any way that things should go," said Edwards in an interview. "It was a big night for them, we understand that."

By 8:00 p.m., an online review appeared on Saint St. Grill's Facebook page. The review and the page have since been taken down, but the reviewer wrote that her grandmother and three other family members were kicked out during a birthday celebration, as they drank wine and opened presents.

The CBC reached out to the Facebook user but didn't hear back.

Edwards responded to the post, saying he wanted to make the situation right, and have the family back at his expense.

But he quickly realized that the reviewer was a family member of the guests, and was not present at the dinner.

“There was no threat, if you are going to troll my restaurant, it's open season. Tit for tat,” says Port Moody restaurant owner. (Saint St. Grill)

Because of this and the negative review, Edwards posted that he was rescinding his offer to invite the family back to the restaurant at his expense.

"I no longer want them to return," he said. "If you can't be a decent human being in my restaurant or online — posting a review out of hearsay, that's inappropriate, and you didn't give me a chance to fix it," he said.

Situation spiralled

As sometimes happens with online comments and reactions to those comments, things started to spiral.

A friend of the original reviewer learned what happened at the restaurant, and even though she wasn't there that night either, posted a negative review, telling others to avoid the restaurant.

She said she did not expect what happened next. 

In an interview, she said she received a message from the restaurant owner who asked her to take down her online posts. He also told her he would contact her previous workplace.

Edwards admits he did contact the reviewer's former employer. He said he found it on Facebook and called to tell them he found her behaviour "inappropriate" and "scandalous."

He said he wasn't trying to threaten her, and makes no apologies for contacting the former employer.

"There was no threat, if you are going to troll my restaurant, it's open season. Tit for tat," he said.

Comments reach boiling point

The posts and comments boiled over onto numerous other sites such as Imgur and Yelp. The restaurant's Facebook page received 200 negative reviews from Brazil to California and the Philippines and has since been taken down.

Edwards said he's more than open to legitimate reviews, even the negative ones, because the feedback is important to him, and his restaurant.  

He says the online backlash amounts to cyber-bullying, and because of that, he has no regrets about his own words or actions.

"If the story is about me personally attacking people online because they left troll comments on my place of business, and attacked my livelihood — yeah, I'm coming out kicking and screaming."

About the Author

Cathy Kearney is a digital journalist with CBC News Vancouver. @CBCcathykearney