Anonymous restaurant review sites are being used by customers to satisfy personal vendettas, a local restaurant manager says.
Sites such as MenuMania have enjoyed increasing popularity in recent years but controversy about their legitimacy and capacity for baseless, anonymous slander are putting more diners off.
Boardwalk Beach Restaurant and Bar, Napier general manager David Perreaux said "negative people" mainly used the sites.
One customer had posted a bogus review based on a personal vendetta he had with a staff member, Mr Perreaux said.
"They made accusations of things which never, ever happened. So I lost faith right there and then."
Disgruntled customers were more compelled to write reviews than satisfied ones, so the posts tended to be skewed.
"We'll see 2000 people in a week and the only person who writes something is the one who complains, but the 1999 [others] you don't hear from. That's why it's so unbalanced."
One customer wrote they had seen a chef spit into a burger, he said. "If you'd seen that happen, surely you wouldn't eat it.
"There's not a 'Beat up your builder' website or a 'I hate my bank' website. It's only hospitality. It's bad for the industry as a whole."
Online reviews of various Hawke's Bay eateries reveal frustration with high prices, poor quality and inappropriate staff behaviour.
Restaurant Association NZ national president Mike Egan said online review sites had grown "hugely" in recent years.
But concerns about the legitimacy of some reviews was pushing people back to word of mouth as a more reliable source.
"I read a review the other day where someone claimed the side dishes were deep fried in butter. You actually can't deep fry in butter because you can't get it up to that temperature." APNZ