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Restaurants are battling an epidemic of fake and malicious online reviews according to the results of a new survey, with up to 85% of hospitality businesses having been targeted.
A survey by the British Hospitality Association of its members and those of the affiliate Restaurant Association found that said reviews have risen by 20% over the past two years, while half said customers had attempted to blackmail them with the threat of a negative review in order to obtain a refund, according to a report in The Caterer.
There are chefs and restaurateurs that will bite back online, but what about fake reviews? Recently we reported how scientists at the University of Chicago have developed bots that are able to write fake restaurant reviews, indistinguishable from the real thing.
What's being done?
Not much unfortunately. According to the same survey, 60% of businesses feel that online review sites have not been helpful in tackling the problem, while 65% said greater transparency was needed.
In 2012, Trip Advisor was legally banned from claiming that all its reviews were honest by the Advertising Standards Agency in the UK, and in 2015 a Twitter campaign was launched using the hashtag #NoReceiptNoReview, in an effort to get the reviews site to only accept reviews with proof of purchase. However it rejected the idea on the basis that it was “unfair to genuine customers” who didn’t have a receipt, according to Big Hospitality.
71% of respondents still said that online reviews are useful for their businesses, with one claiming that "it's the only advertising worth having."