London - Faced with a negative TripAdvisor review, most proprietors would take it on the chin and try to clean up their act.
But one cafe manager has taken a rather bold approach to his establishment’s online critics – by quoting them on its pavement blackboards.
Passers-by are now being tempted into the Nook cafe by witty signs reading: “Come in and try the worst porridge that one woman on Trip-Advisor had in her life.”
Another says: “Come into our cafe that Gary from TripAdvisor said was ‘small and cramped’. We’re called Nook for a reason Gary (we don’t really know what you were expecting).”
The tongue-in-cheek advertising campaign has now gone viral, clocking up more than 12 000 likes and 2 000 shares online. Manager Arlo Calderbank, 27, was stunned by a handful of unhappy comments among the generally rave reviews on the website, but realised he could turn them to his advantage.
Other boards by the cafe in Heaton Moor, Greater Manchester have included “free cake, unlimited refills, false advertising’ and ‘the finest (undercooked) porridge in town”.
Mr Calderbank said: “The customers have been loving the signs. They’ve been telling us how funny they are.
“The idea was just to try to do something a bit different. But now it’s really taken off.”
It was the board advertising “the worst porridge that one woman on TripAdvisor had in her life” that really saw the idea become a hit.
The diner who hated the porridge, “Dodd18” from Stockport, wrote that while she and her dining companion’s coffees were “nice”, their porridge was “tepid and undercooked”.
Two new portions were brought without an apology but these were just as bad, she continued.
“Very disappointing. I cannot understand how the porridge could leave the kitchen a second time undercooked. I will not return again,” she said.
Mr Calderbank said: “The lady’s comment was quite disappointing because we try to provide the best service at all times. Seeing the comment pop up on TripAdvisor was a bit of a shame.”
Contrary to what the signs may suggest, he insists TripAdvisor comments mean a lot to him.
“I check what’s being said on there every day. We do genuinely take all comments seriously. It’s really useful to see what the customers have been saying and to take on board feedback,” he said.
“We generally get good feedback and five-star ratings all the way. We are always quite busy.” Indeed, out of 44 reviews dating back to last December, 30 have rated it “excellent” and just two terrible or poor, with customers praising “incredibly friendly staff”, “excellent” coffee and “scrumptious” cakes.
And Mr Calderbank insisted the offending homemade porridge is actually a winner for many customers. “They tell us it’s great. Many of them actually come here instead of having it at home because they say it’s so good.” he said.
The cafe is now poised to take on any further criticism with a light-hearted slogan. Mr Calderbank added: “There will be a few good ones in the pipeline, so you’ll have to wait and see!”