Slating the slating

Tripadvisor is a vent for many. Yet chefs make themselves heard. Two cases in England

This is how represented the t

This is how represented the tit for tat between the chef at Purnell's in Birmingham and an anonymous user, who had criticised the restaurant on Tripadvisor

Among chefs, there are those who ignore Tripadvisor, those who despise it, those who desperately look for positive reviews, and those who would even buy them. There’s Matteo Fronduti, of Manna in Milan, who replies with an exquisite irony. Yet the new trend, at least in England, is to reply to each and every point, and slate the slating, as well as the credibility of its author. Two lovely episodes took place in the last few days.

The latest was also covered in the Daily Mail, which went searching for the unfortunate reviewer. She had complained about the portions served at restaurant Purnell’s in Birmingham, one Michelin star. According to her, the “tiny portions” she was presented with had “immoral prices” and therefore she suggested the chef, Glynn Purnell, to “watch Masterchef The Professionals for a few lessons on how food should be served and give some decent portions of wonderful food, not just the content of a decent starter over 6 courses”.

Glynn Purnell

Glynn Purnell

Purnell replied that “perhaps the reviewer would have more satisfaction watching Man vs Food more, and, being ironic about the many mistakes in the negative review that was “littered with lies” as when Michelin became “Michlen” – he had fun challenging every critique, in some twenty points.

A biting reply that went all around the web and recalled a similar episode, only a few days earlier. "Over-priced and very rude staff ", was the title of the negative comment on the restaurant in York, posted by user Hannah C, again on TripAdvisor.

After the harsh review, not only did the reviewer receive a bitter reply by the restaurant manager, but she also got a detailed lesson in the cost management at Bennett's Café & Bistro in York. Having arrived at the café with a tight budget, Hannah ordered a cup of hot water with a slice of lemon and paid it 2 pounds. The price had the girl lose control so she protested with the waiters and received this reply: "Do you know how much a lemon costs?". The argument then continued: "My friend ordered a slice of chocolate cake which was 1.90".

The slating on Tripadvisor, signed by Hannah C., of Bennett's Cafè & Bistro in York. The manager bit back (giving all the data)

The slating on Tripadvisor, signed by Hannah C., of Bennett's Cafè & Bistro in York. The manager bit back (giving all the data)

The reply of the restaurant manager was prompt and sparkling: "I’m sorry you feel you were «ripped off» and I’ll try to explain why you weren’t”. She then explained in details the different tasks the waiter had accomplished before, during and after the service required by the client: “You entered the cafe and the waiter showed you to your seat, gave you a menu and waited for a time and then took your order. He entered it into the till, collected a cup, saucer and spoon and took them into the kitchen. Then, he selected a knife, chopping board, got a lemon from the fridge, cut off a slice and put it in the cup. Then, he returned to the dining room, drew off the necessary hot water and carried the cup to the table. When you were leaving, he printed off your bill, took it to you, processed your credit card payment and cashed off the till. After you left, he cleared away your cup, saucer and spoon, took them into the kitchen, washed and dried them, along with the chopping board and knife and put away the lemon. Then, returning to the dining room he restacked the cup, saucer and spoon, wiped down your table and replaced the menu, awaiting the next customer. That’s at least 2-3 minutes work for the water”.

Bennett's Cafè & Bistro

Bennett's Cafè & Bistro

Hence the bill was explained: “The cost of overheads for the business, i.e. rent, business rates, electricity costs, bank charges, etc. works out at £27.50 per hour of trading. I pay my colleagues a decent living wage and after taking into account holiday pay, national insurance and non-productive time prior to opening and after closing, the waiter who served you costs me £12.50 per hour. Therefore, together the cost is £40 per hour or 67p per minute, meaning that the cost of providing you with 2-3 minutes of service was £1.34 - £2.00. Then the government add on VAT at 20% which takes the cost of that cup of fruit infusion to between £1.60 and £2.40 irrespective of whether you had a teabag costing one and a half pence or a slice of lemon costing five pence”.

Of course, she added, all this means “the price of a cuppa in a city centre cafe looks expensive to the one you make at home but unfortunately that’s the cruel reality of life”.

The manager finally bit back about the remarks on the seemingly not very elegant attitude of the staff, accusing the girl: "Perhaps, the rudeness that you perceived in me was triggered by the disrespect that I perceived in you by your presumption that you could use our facilities and be waited on for free”.


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