Scamming Restaurants

/ / Business

A new scam is threatening restaurants’ reputations: leaving one-star reviews.

In recent days, small, large and even Michelin-starred restaurants across the U.S. have received a barrage of poor reviews on Google. These have no descriptions nor photos, simply the infamous one-star rankings. And, as restaurants try to recover from the coronavirus pandemic,  owners report that, days later, they receive an email from someone claiming they posted the review and, if the restaurant wants it removed, they must pay up. If they don’t, the bad reviews will increase.

“You’re just kind of defenseless,” said Julianna Yang, the general manager of Sons & Daughters in San Francisco, who has taken on much of her restaurant’s response to the messages. “It seems like we’re just sitting ducks, and it’s out of luck that these reviews might stop.”

Law enforcement is encouraging restaurant owners to contact Google, and to report these cybercrimes to their local police department, the F.B.I. and the Federal Trade Commission. Removing the reviews – and tracking down the anonymous posters – is an almost hopeless task. Google has an automated system to monitor reviews for abuses. But it’s challenging for restaurants to reach someone at Google, with many reviews never being removed.

“We don’t have a lot of money to fund this kind of crazy thing from happening to us,” said an owner of Sochi Saigonese Kitchen in Chicago. Her one-star reviews were removed after customers came to her defense on social media.

“This is another nightmare for us to handle,” said William Talbot, manager at EL Ideas Restaurant in Chicago. “I’m losing my mind. I don’t know how to get us out of this.”

Read more (The New York Times)