Tough to swallow: Restaurant owners fight back against negative Yelp reviews

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DENVER -- There’s a new trend in the restaurant world: Owners and chefs are publicly lashing out against people who give them negative reviews on websites such as Yelp.

In Denver, one owner is getting a lot of attention. Mark Nery owns Onefold, an up-and-coming breakfast and lunch venue in Uptown. After Nery fought back against a man who gave him a nasty review, a dining blog wrote about it and it went viral.

“These people come in, act horrible and then write this horrible review,” Nery said. “I’ll just say something to them, write back and say, 'Here’s what I think of you.'"

Case in point: The conversation he had with customer, Michael U. on Yelp.

"Between the subpar food and subsequent vitriol from the owner it would be hard to fathom a worse overall experience than the one that was offered," Michael U. wrote.

“To be fair I would like to review your visit as well, I won't make it as long and boring as yours," Nery responded. "Creepy guy walks in, creeps out workers and customers. ... Verified with other restaurant friends of mine how creepy you were on your visits to their establishments and how you requested special treatment because you are a 'food critic.'"

The list goes on and on. One woman, named Jan M. writes, “I am a 74-year-old woman with health issues, which is why I had concerns about the coffee and duck fat.”

Nery fired back by saying, “After you drank five cups of coffee then asked for decaf shows me you are not too concerned about caffeine. You were terribly rude to my staff, you actually made one of the girls cry. Given your age I think some duck fat would be really good for you.”

Nery said at first he decided to respond as negatively as the commenters did out of fun. But after a while it turned into defending his staff.

After the comments went viral, Nery said he has been receiving Yelp reviews every five to 10 minutes. On top of that, business at his restaurant has nearly doubled.

“I’m still at 4.5 stars (out of 5),” he said with a chuckle about his overall Yelp rating.

Onefold has been featured in 5280 Eats and Westword as a hot spot for foodies.

In the case of Michael U., Nery said the man claimed the food was so terrible he didn’t eat a bite. To prove Michael U. wrong, Nery went through surveillance footage and found Michael U. with an empty plate. Nery said he ate every bite.

“I had security footage from the cameras and I was like, 'Yeah you did I have photos’ and he was like put it up. And there he was sitting right there with empty plates,” Nery said.

Depending on who you ask, responding to customers’ reviews in an aggressive or negative fashion can be a bad idea. Some critics believe owners should be more polite and professional.

But the Colorado Association of Restaurants said it should be up to the owner how they respond.

According to the New York Post, some restaurant owners in Boston have fought back against negative Yelp reviewers by posting the hash tag: #WeDoNotNegotiateWithYelpers.

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