Premature review for French restaurant led to €7,500 fine

A French commenter is facing a several thousand euro fine for writing a fake negative review for an eatery that had yet to even open its doors.

The anonymous reviewer called it "overrated" days before it even opened

A view of the entrance of the French restaurant 'Loiseau des Ducs' on February 24, 2014, in Dijon. A new Michelin restaurant guide star was awarded to the Bernard Loiseau company restaurant "L'oiseau des Ducs" in Dijon, on February 24, 2014. (Jeff Pachoud/AFP/Getty Images)

Online restaurant reviews can get vicious, but it usually takes until after patrons try the food for criticism to appear.

A French website commenter is facing a several thousand euro fine for writing a fake negative review for an high-end restaurant that hadn't even opened its doors yet.

The amateur reviewer, known only as the "Clarifieur" or Clarifier,  wrote a review on a Yelp-like site, Pages Jaunes (known to the English speaking world as the Yellow Pages,) about Loiseau des Ducs, a restaurant in Dijon, France.

The commenter called it "very overrated, all for show and with very little on the plate," according to the BBC, which, like the French reports, does not state the person's name. "The only thing that was well loaded was the bill." 

"I was devastated," said Dominique Loiseau, the owner of the Bernard Loiseau group, which runs Loiseau des Ducs, to As it Happens.

She's also the widow of cherished French chef Bernard Loiseau.

"We discovered that [review] the Friday before," she said. "We not understand how people can do that."

The review was posted on 11 July 2013, five days before Loiseau des Ducs, now Michelin-starred, opened up to the public.

The anonymous reviewer soon discovered that their imagined meal was more expensive than they could have guessed.

On Oct. 6, Dijon's high court demanded the reviewer to pay €2,500 in damages to the Bernard Loiseau group and then 5,000 more to cover the restaurant's cost of finding them, according to the Guardian.

That's about $10,833.26 Cdn.

The director of the restaurant group, Ahlame Buisard, explained to the BBC that their case was a point of principle, and that the group was not against bad reviews. 

Loiseau said that bad reviews can have a negative impact to the way people perceive the restaurant, but that they try to find any mistakes by being in constant communication with their visitors.

"People have to be fair," Loiseau told As it Happens, adding that the restaurant industry as a whole can lose money because of fraudulent reviews. 

"Our clients, especially to my place, they drive sometimes five hours and then they pay for one meal three hours, or for dinner they spend the night with us. We see them at breakfast. And we talk a lot with our clients. So if something is wrong, usually we have direct what they think about and if is not good they say, and that's the best."

Pages Jaunes now has two reviews of the restaurants, and both users praise the restaurant's quality. One reviewer notes that the restaurant is expensive but worth it.  On a much larger scale, the 163 reviews on Trip Advisor rank it sixth out of 456 restaurants in Dijon. 

"The appetizers of escargots in a pea sauce and a sweet beet soup were incredible. The duck was excellent, as was the cheese desert course. With two glasses each of fantastic Burgundy wines the bill came to about $100. each," said one Trip Advisor review, written by user SANTravelers who said they visited in September. 

The namesake of the group who will be receiving the nearly $11,000, Bernard Loiseau committed suicide in 2003 after his restaurant Cote d'Or, was downgraded from 19/20 to 17/20 in the prominent restaurant guide GaultMillau, according to a BBC report.  


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