The owners of a restaurant criticised on Trip Advisor over claims of disappointing and overcooked food have hit back at the reviewers, calling their behaviour offensive.
Plume Restaurant in Matakana received a stinging review by a couple who dined there last weekend for allegedly having barely any meat in the beef ragu, "cheap" store-bought dipping sauces, small portion sizes and rude staff.
However, Plume manager and co-director Farida Cooper wrote a scathing response on the travel and hospitality review website to Daniel and Julia.
"Daniel, we have taken note of your unpleasant incident and objectionable behaviour at our restaurant on Saturday, June 29," she wrote.
"... you ended it by refusing a gesture of a free bottle of wine and walking out slamming the heavy restaurant wooden door behind you and when our manager came out you wanted to 'fist him in the mouth'."
Cooper went on to point out the couple were dining at the restaurant courtesy of a wedding gift voucher.
"We do believe we need to highlight the facts of this incident as you have used this to get money back from us on a Grab One voucher gifted to you and also to damage our reputation, and no hospitality business should allow customers like you to walk all over them for untruths just because you have the medium of reviews to harm a business."
The set menu included a starter, a main and dessert, for $34 per person.
Cooper wrote that the couple requested a refund despite finishing the bread and dips, one main and enjoying the desserts.
"... you took offense [sic] with the wait staff in an abusive manner as you felt the ragu was 's**t' as it had no meat in it at all."
Cooper said the restaurant was not obliged to give a refund under the Grab One rules but, as a show of goodwill, it did.
She wrote that dozens of other customers enjoyed the same meal the couple criticised.
"The beef ragu has been described as a 'slow cooked, melt in your mouth beef, with herbed mushrooms with home-made pasta' which is exactly what was served to you and to another 20 customers that day and near 200 for the month with excellent feedback from all the other customers.
She continued: "You have been highly abusive in your communication with our staff... You continuously used the 's…' word while you were in the restaurant and while you were talking on the phone even threatening to beat up the manager with a blow to his face.
"You further were offered any other dish from our a la carte menu but refused the offer."
Cooper said the olive oil served as bread dip was organic and made from olives from the Plume vineyard, and the tomato chutney was prepared in-house.
She finished by calling the couple racist.
Julia, a nurse, told the Herald the maitre d' asked how the meal was and when they complained she claimed he was extremely rude and confrontational.
The mother-of-one said at 39 weeks' pregnant she felt intimidated and wanted to leave but the couple were hungry and decided to give dessert a chance.
She said they were never offered any other food and the bottle of wine was rejected because the couple did not drink and she was pregnant.
When the couple left, Julia said they were followed to their car by the maitre d' prompting Daniel to say he "felt like punching him in the face because he was so aggressive towards us".
She said her husband would never have hit the man and they were not racist.
"I certainly haven't said anything racist."
Julia said Plume's handling of her complaint was poor and she noted another customer who gave a negative review on the restaurant's Facebook page also complained about a bad response from Plume.
Restaurant Association chief executive Marisa Bidois said responding to bad reviews was tricky.
"Business owners in the hospitality industry put their heart and soul into their businesses.
"When you work so hard and tirelessly on something it's personal and I can understand why people might be reactionary to these kinds of reviews, especially in circumstances where they feel the whole story hasn't been told correctly."
She said biased reviews were common in the industry and it was often hard to get host websites to correct them.
"I've seen reviews make it very difficult for some businesses. There's been a few cases where there have been other reasons for people giving bad reviews, ex-employees, certain situations where it's been a personal matter."
Her advice to restaurant owners was to address bad reviews, but in a positive and diplomatic way that can rectify the situation.