'We are servers, not servants' : Hospitality workers hit back

Image: Ketut Subiyanto
Image: Ketut Subiyanto

Margaret River business owner Richard Moroney has spoken out against online reviewers who do not make an effort to connect with management before posting negative online reviews.

Mr Moroney posted a response to a customer review on Google over the weekend that has since gone viral, amassing shares across social media thanks to an army of hospitality employees and business owners supporting his message.

The original review was posted by a potential customer at Mr Moroney's restaurant, Burger Baby, who was unhappy at not being able to secure a table.

In our efforts to deliver our best we give so much of ourselves, and that has at time created a toxic relationship that leaves us feeling disempowered.

Richard Moroney, Burger Baby owner

"We were busy, they couldn't get a table, only a third of the venue was in use - these were the customer's friction points," Mr Moroney told the Mail.

"Ours were that we were flat our servicing our delivery and phone orders, and we had a 45-50 minute wait at the time."

The customer left the store and soon after posted a review, questioning whether Margaret River businesses were really eager to welcome tourists to the town.

Mr Moroney said the fact the reviewer did not seek to discuss the matter with management first meant she "failed to gain an insight into why we could not sate your immediate desire for a seat in our venue."

"If we had an opportunity to speak with this reviewer, we could have suggested a drink in our bar or go for a wander and check out some of the other places around town for a drink, so when her takeaway was ready we could call her.

"Or that around 7.30pm things would settle down and we usually have tables available."

Acknowledging that hospitality and retail businesses sometimes do "get it wrong", Mr Moroney said every business in the industry could expect a visit from difficult customers, and that the COVID-19 pandemic had increased stress from all angles.

"The last six months have been really tough, I've had people abuse us for not allowing other venues' food in our place, and have had bad reviews posted that won't be removed unless I pay them money.

"I feel it is important now more than ever for our industry to remind ourselves that we are servers, not servants."

The business owner was quick to respond to the negative review, calling it an "insult to the hardworking people in our community."

"You are old enough that you should not succumb to temper tantrums because you did not get your own way, a review should be constructive, honest and informing," Mr Moroney wrote.

"If there was a Google Customer Review you would get 1 star from me, as you have simply constructed a bunch of words together in a manner reminiscent of turning a full blender on without the lid."

"Reviews like this are of little benefit to anyone," the business owner told the Mail.

"We should not be afraid to respond and call it when it needs to be called.

"Retail and hospitality are unlike any other businesses and they are at the mercy of social media.

"In our efforts to deliver our best we give so much of ourselves, and that has at time created a toxic relationship that leaves us feeling disempowered.

"If the first we hear about an issue is on Facebook or Google, that power balance is already skewed.

"Don't get me wrong, if we deserve criticism or constructive feedback then by all means own it, but when these sort of 'go nowhere, say nothing' one star reviews get thrown around we need to stand up and say something."

The review and the subsequent response were quickly shared across social media platforms, garnering praise for Mr Moroney's comments.

"It's so much better for you and more courageous for the punter to tell you face to face any grievances so that you can work it out with them there and then, which I know you guys would, fair and square. There's too many keyboard warriors and therefore bullies in this day and age," said Freya Cheffers.

Another customer said when a problem arose with her Burger Baby order, staff were only too happy to solve it.

"Instead of jumping on to give a negative review, we jumped on the phone to let you know," she said.

"And guess what? Your staff apologised profusely for the mistake and organised for a replacement to be sent which arrived within ten minutes of our phone call. Everyone was happy. It's not hard to talk like adults when you have a problem with something."

Sana Turnock said Mr Moroney had created a "template" for small business to follow in dealing with negativity online.

"It was an intelligent response outlining in a balanced way why the review wasn't valid or fair.

"You have provided a great example for others in small business to follow, especially if they are scared to offer a reply or don't know how to respond when someone offers a poor comment or review without context."

Mr Moroney said the Burger Baby crew were battling to adapt on a daily basis as were all local businesses.

"We are desperate to make revenue and survive and this is balanced by the need to deliver our experience.

"As we redefine what that means through the lens of the current state of play, friction points will occur and we will keep doing our best and keep on improving and adapting."