Restaurants sue competitor for tanking their businesses with one-star reviews

Two restaurants in Singapore are suing a third party for $70,000 and $50,000, respectively.

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singapore hawker stalls
Photo: ROSLAN RAHMAN / AFP (Getty Images)

Though I’m familiar with restaurant rivalry drama in the pizza business (it’s generally a friendly game, but sometimes it can get dirty), I always wondered if competing restaurants try to sabotage each other online. Turns out, the answer is a resounding yes. Yahoo News reports that two Singaporean restaurants are suing a third restaurant for a total of $120,000 after alleging online harassment.

Mentai-ya Japanese Cuisine (seeking $70k) and The Social Outcast (seeking $50k) have both requested compensation from a Japanese restaurant called Ishiro. The businesses are demanding money for “significant damage” to their reputations and for “emotional and mental distress.” Representatives for the restaurants allege that an Ishiro employee (or multiple employees) created fake accounts on Google and Facebook to talk trash about Mentai-ya and Social Outcast. Oh, the perils of social media.

The owner of Mentai-ya, Khoo Keat Hwee, told Yahoo that a slew of one-star reviews started piling up on Google starting in May. At first the restaurant brushed off the negative reviews, but they started adding up, and Khoo went so far as to upload a video on Facebook apologizing for what he thought was bad service. But the poor reviews didn’t stop.

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He said, “Every few days… every morning I wake up, oh another one-star review.” After taking a closer look at the matter, he realized the negative reviews had come from a group of eight or nine users who then gave glowing five-star reviews to Ishiro. After doing some personal sleuthing, Khoo also claims to have found other evidence that pointed at Ishiro and eventually filed two police reports.

The Social Outcast found a similar pattern of harassment that started with a racial slur in the comments on a Facebook video. The offending user then went on to post negative reviews of The Social Outcast as well.

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Ishiro admitted to the wrongdoing on Facebook and issued an apology to “Mentai-ya and all businesses,” claiming that this was all due to a rogue employee acting on their own. But the negative reviews continued anyway. Now lawyers are involved, and both Mentai-ya and The Social Outcast are looking for a stop to the harassment, along with compensation for the loss of business. I don’t see this turning out well for Ishiro, but we’ll have to see how it plays out. In the meantime, take a close look at any one-star restaurant reviews you might encounter, and take some of the more outlandish ones with a grain of salt.