Online review platforms are treacherous terrain for business owners, opening up their reputations to the whims of the public.

And whilst all bosses must concede that it’s impossible to keep every customer and staff member happy, some refuse to take unjust criticism lying down (just remember that infamous Chinese takeaway...).

This is what happened when Gary Usher, who runs the Sticky Walnut in Chester, spotted a two-star critique of his high-end restaurant on Tripadvisor.

The eatery may have racked up more than 1,990 reviews and earned itself an average rating of 4.5 out of five, but this didn’t stop Usher from responding to the critic with a stinging essay-length rebuttal.

The reviewer, named only as Rob V, titled his comment ‘Excellent food let down by Ryanair style management’.

He began by offering readers the “good news” which is that the food at the Sticky Walnut is “very, very tasty”, however, moving on to the “bad news”, he said: “The restaurant management doesn’t give a toss about customer experience.”

“I ate here on July 9 [and] had a complaint that was dealt with badly enough by the manager that I wrote to the owner,” he wrote.

“A restaurant that aspires to offer fine dining experience but has lost the ability to empathise with customers and ignores them when they complain? That really is a shame.”

The review was titled ‘Excellent food let down by Ryanair style management’Tripadvisor

One might expect a restaurant to respond to such condemnation by apologising for the diner’s negative experience, but Usher took a different approach.

In a jaw-dropping reply, the restaurateur set out his staff’s side of the story, accusing Rob V of trying to “intimidate” and “bully” servers during his meal.

Beginning his response, Usher reminded Rob V that he had agreed to a 1 hour 45 minute time slot when he booked his table with them on a busy Friday evening.

“After your dessert course the Manager, who you said ‘doesn’t give a toss’, gently reminded you that we would need the table back shortly,” he wrote. “You ignored the Manager and proceeded to order another round of drinks.

“Perhaps if your party had arrived on time for your reservation this could have been avoided,” he continued. “When the Manager came back a final time to politely let you know we needed to clear the table for our next guests you got up out of your seat, towering over the Manager, pointing in their face.”

Usher said the manager then asked Rob V to “stop pointing in [their] face”, but the furious customer “proceeded to tell the Manager that they didn’t deserve to be a Manager and weren’t qualified to be in the position”.

He went on: “Your Mother then joined in by adding to the vitriol being directed towards the Manager. That’s when both you and your Mother showed your true colours with the classic ‘We’ve both worked in restaurants so we know how it works. We should be getting these drinks for free’.”

He said Rob V then “threatened the Manager by telling them that you would be contacting the owner because you know him” (“him” being Usher, of course).

Describing himself as Usher’s “friend”, Rob V apparently claimed the boss would be “appalled” to know how he had been treated.

Usher clarified that he did not, in fact, know Rob V, and was certainly not his mate.

“Every few months in a restaurant a rude guest will use the ‘I know the owner!’ line to try and intimidate team members and bully them into thinking that they will get into trouble because they didn’t look after the owner’s ‘friends’ well enough,” he pointed out.

The restaurant owner then confirmed that he’d received an email from Rob V, adding: “I did ‘give a toss’, but not about you Rob, but about the way you treated the team.”

“So instead of replying to you we chose to block your number, and your Mum’s, and put a note on our booking system to not accept any future bookings from you,” he continued.

Ending his post, Usher wrote: “With regards to the Manager who ‘doesn’t give a toss’ they have managed Sticky Walnut for the last 8 years. Coincidentally the same length of time that Sticky Walnut has achieved a top 100 position in the National Restaurant Awards in the UK.

“I think that makes them both extremely deserving to be the Manager and absolutely qualified to hold that position.”

Then, with a final flourish, he signed off: “Not your mate, Gary”.

Gary Usher issued a strong rebuttal Tripadvisor

He signed if off: “Not your mate, Gary” Tripadvisor

The review was the first one Rob V has ever written on Tripadvisor, despite joining the platform in 2010.

After all this, we doubt he’s in a hurry to write another one any time soon...

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