‘Take down our profiles’: Spanish restaurants sue TripAdvisor over three bad reviews

A Valencia restaurant group is suing TripAdvisor for €660,000 in moral damages for allowing three "slanderous" reviews about their restaurants to be posted by users.

'Take down our profiles': Spanish restaurants sue TripAdvisor over three bad reviews
Photo: Deposit Photos

Representatives of travel and restaurant review portal TripAdvisor appeared at a Commercial Court in Barcelona on Friday to defend the company in a case which brings the saying don’t shoot the messenger to mind.

TripAdvisor stands accused of causing moral damages to Spanish tourism company Recaba Inversiones Turísticas for allowing three bad reviews about two of their restaurants to be posted and for not asking the company for permission before creating online profiles for the establishments.

The comments, referring to two beachside Valencia restaurants it owns – Marina Beach and Panorama – included the words “they rip off Spain’s Social Security system”, “no workers’ rights” and “toxic food”.

Their TripAdvisor profiles have dozens of other negative comments criticising everything from the food to the service which haven't been brought up in the investigation.

TripAdvisor’s vice-president Bradford Young appeared in the Barcelona Court to defend how the company actions weren’t unfair competition nor “contrary to good faith”.

Young explained how they’ve developed an algorithmic system which guarantees “trustworthy opinions” – Spanish news agency EFE reported – as well as having a team that gathers data on reviews that go against what guidebooks and other reviews state.

According to TripAdvisor, “the business always has the last say”, giving them the chance to reply to negative comments and prevent complainants from continuing with the accusations.

Also worth noting is that the three bad reviews used by the Valencia restaurant group to open up a case against TripAdvisor were all flagged early on, two of which were taken down before the court case began.

“There are hundreds of reviews relating to offences that business owners would prefer weren’t posted online, but that’s not the reason why they get deleted, rather because they aren’t first-hand opinions.”

TripAdvisor doesn’t allow restaurant and other travel business profiles to be deleted all together, as the restaurant holding would’ve wanted, because they stand up for the rights of users to share their experiences and find accurate information on their destinations.

“If we took them down, we’d be silencing critics,” Young told the judge.

“We have to protect freedom of speech”



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Restaurant of legendary chef loses third Michelin star

The restaurant of famed French chef Paul Bocuse, who died almost two years ago, has lost the coveted Michelin three-star rating it had held since 1965, the guide said on Friday.

Restaurant of legendary chef loses third Michelin star
L'Auberge de Collonges-au-Mont-d'Or was 'no longer at the level of three stars', the guide said. Photo:
The retraction of the coveted three-star ranking, coming just three years after Bocuse's death,  has prompted anger and dismay from many of his peers.
The Auberge du Pont de Collonges, near food-obsessed Lyon in southeast France, was the oldest three-starred restaurant in the world, having held the accolade without interruption since 1965.
The Michelin Guide told AFP on Friday that the establishment “remained excellent but no longer at the level of three stars” and will have only two in the 2020 edition of the famous red book — known as the “Bible” of French cuisine.
The Bocuse d'Or organisation, which holds the annual international cooking competition he created, greeted the announcement with “sadness” and expressed its “unwavering support” for the restaurant.
Bocuse's family and his kitchen team said they were “upset” by the decision, and celebrity chef Marc Veyrat, who recently sued the Michelin Guide over a lost third star, described the move as “pathetic”.
“Monsieur Paul”, as Bocuse was known, died aged 91 on January 20, 2018, after a long battle with Parkinson's disease.
Dubbed the “pope” of French cuisine, he was one of the country's most celebrated of all time, helping shake up the food world in the 1970s with the lighter fare of the Nouvelle Cuisine revolution, and helping to introduce the notion of a celebrity chef.
Michelin boss Gwendal Poullennec visited Bocuse's restaurant on Thursday to deliver the news, guide spokeswoman Elisabeth Boucher-Anselin told AFP.
Even before Bocuse's death, some critics had commented that the restaurant was no longer quite up to scratch.
But Michelin's decision, a year after stripping Veyrat of his third star just a year after awarding it, immediately stirred controversy.
While food critic Perico Legasse told BFM television the guide had committed an “irreparable” error in a quest for media attention, Veyrat said he had “lost faith” in a new generation of Michelin editors he accused of trying to make a name for themselves by taking down the giants of French cuisine.
“I am sad for the team that took up the torch at Collonges,” tweeted the three-starred chef Georges Blanc.
The restaurant has been modernising its look and its menu, pursuing a philosophy its management team describes as “tradition in motion”.   
“The chefs have reworked the dishes. They have been refining them for more than a year, evolving them while retaining their original DNA and taste,” the restaurant's manager Vincent Le Roux told a regional newspaper recently.
The restaurant is scheduled to reopen on January 24 after three weeks of renovations — three days before the official launch of the latest Michelin Guide.
Bocuse described himself as a devotee of traditional cuisine. “I love butter, cream, wine” he once said, “not peas cut into quarters”.
According to Michelin, restaurants are selected on four criteria: the quality of the products, the expertise of the chef, the originality of the dishes and consistency throughout the meal and across seasons.
But critics say the costs of ensuring such standards have made Michelin stars an untenable proposition as more diners baulk at spending massively on a meal.
A handful of French restaurateurs have in recent years relinquished their prized three-star status because of the stress of being judged by Michelin inspectors.
In 2018, the guide allowed, for the first time, a restaurant to withdraw from its listings after Sebastien Bras, the chef at Le Suquet, said he no longer wished to cook under that type of pressure.
The 2003 suicide of three-star chef Bernard Loiseau was linked, among other reasons, to speculation that his restaurant was about to lose its three stars.