Michelin-starred restaurants are targeted by scammers – Robb Report
No one likes a bad review. And absolutely no one likes to be scammed. Combine the two, and you have a rather annoying scheme on your hands.
That’s exactly what’s happening in San Francisco, where scammers target Michelin-starred restaurants with bad Google reviews, telling them they’ll only stop leaving negative reviews if the restaurants send money, according to Eater SF. A few of the places that have been harassed so far include Nightbird, Acquerello, 3rd Cousin, Californios and Sons & Daughters.
“I’m surprised it has not happened before, I mean, it seems like a pretty smart scam,” Val Cantu, the chef at Californios, told Eater. “Restaurants are so vulnerable too [bad reviews] and not that it’s the end of the world, but these reviews tend to affect dinner visitors and hospitality is at the heart of what we do – when someone is not happy, we will fix it. “
The scammers seem to leave one-star reviews without text, posting several times for each restaurant. An email to the restaurants informs them that the scammers will continue to leave the bad reviews unless they send a $ 75 Google Play gift card, according to one of the messages Eater reviewed. The sender tries to use courtesy to mask the rude in the claims, and writes: “We sincerely apologize for our actions, and do not want to harm your business, but we have no other choice.” Acquerello’s Giancarlo Paterlini said he had heard from other business owners that replying to emails only leads to tougher tactics, including more requests for money and harassing phone calls to businesses.
Google, meanwhile, has only been a little helpful to those affected by the scheme. The company helped Greg Lutes from 3rd Cousin get the reviews taken down, but Julianna Yang at Sons & Daughters had bigger problems with the technology giant. In its first search, Google told her that the reviews did not break any guidelines (it seems to have been removed later). And Paterlini simply got an automatic response from Google that said an actual response could take weeks.
“I just wish the company that let this thing happen would patrol their own territory a little better,” he told Eater. (Google did not immediately respond to the publication’s request for comment.)
Of course, these are some of the most notable restaurants in the Bay Area, so it is unlikely that they will be strongly affected by the scam. But if smaller restaurants are also targeted, it may take a little more effort for them to come out of the ordeal unscathed.