Last week, restaurant Emjeez in Knokke-Heist faced a wave of over 100 negative reviews on Google, all originating from individuals who had never even dined at the establishment. The onslaught of poor ratings was the result of a dispute with a group of customers outside the restaurant. In an attempt to exact revenge, one angry customer called upon a Whatsapp group to flood the restaurant’s online presence with negative feedback. The fabricated reviews included claims of ants in the food and an aggressive boss. Fortunately, Google intervened and removed the malicious reviews. Despite the ordeal, the owners of Emjeez remain resilient and have received an outpouring of support from the community.
A dispute with a group of customers in restaurant Emjeez on Lippenslaan in Knokke-Heist led to more than 100 negative reviews on Google last week, all from people who had never been to the restaurant. The angry customer had called on a Whatsapp group to put as many poor reviews online as possible. For example, it said that there were ants in the food and that the boss was an aggressive guy. Fortunately, Google itself intervened and removed the reviews.
“Last Friday there was a discussion outside on our terrace,” says Miguel Hillewaert (25), who has been running the business for almost three years with his partner Yves Gijeels and his girlfriend Bo Smagge (23). “A Dutch group of five people made it a problem that the soles for the daughter of about 15 years old were not filleted. But they hadn’t asked to do that at all. My girlfriend immediately took the plate back and took it to the kitchen. We then filleted the soles, but the discussion was not over. It only got worse. Those people entered the business and a woman from the group made a gesture as if she would strangle me. It ended with some pushing and shoving, but it was close to a scuffle.”
“We also called in the police. No sooner had they left than I received a message on my smartphone from people I don’t know, with a screenshot of a Whatsapp message calling for us to give negative reviews. I first heard that the Whatsapp group had 1,600 members, but apparently such a group can only have a maximum of 1,024 members. Which is enough of course. In no time there were more than 100 new reviews, all negative. There would also have been people in the group who thought that such a thing was not possible, but they were removed from the group.”
“Our score dropped from 4.5 to around 3. But the next day the negative reviews were all gone”
What Miguel was allowed to read was not pretty. There would be ants in the food at Emjeez, there were complaints about the parking – while the restaurant has no private parking – and the boss would be an aggressive guy. “All crazy stuff,” says Miguel. “The number of reviews increased from 70 to 80 before the incident to more than 180 shortly afterwards. Our score dropped from 4.5 to around 3. But the next day the negative reviews were all gone. Someone we know showed us a photo that showed that you were temporarily unable to post reviews due to a counterfeit or something. Apparently, Google itself intervened. Without my asking anyway.”
Still turned out positively
“I do think that such reviews can do a lot of harm to your business,” says Miguel. “Many people don’t judge what they get on their plate, but based on the first impression they get or what they see on social media. I’m going to go to the police again later to file a complaint for defamation and defamation. Fortunately, the restaurant is now back to normal. In fact, from day one. We did get a lot of feedback from customers. So something negative has turned into something positive. Many people, also on the network of Knokke-Heist shopkeepers, encouraged us with positive comments about our business. That we shouldn’t hang our heads and all that. And we certainly don’t intend to.”
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