An Auckland eatery has banned food critics from eating at the establishment after a reviewer made his distaste for venison known in a piece on another restaurant.
Coco's Cantina Restaurant & Bar posted a message on social media to long-time reviewer Peter Calder telling him and "all the other self-acclaimed reviewers of the world, check your mail boxes, you are not welcome at Coco's and have no right in our restaurant".
Dear Peter Calder and all the other self acclaimed food reviewers of the world, Check your mail boxes. You are not welcome at Coco's, and have no right in our restaurant. We critic ourselves, our restaurant and our art everyday. Maybe what needs to be reviewed, is what you contribute to the world, and not whether or not you like venison. #maybeyouactaullythinkyoureareviewer #lol #trepassnotice #therealcrooksmakealivingoffourart #realreviewsdiedwithaagill #bebetterpeter #celebratedonthate #peteryourgameistired #aucklandeats #cocosforlife
The Herald understands this was sparked in part by Calder's Herald on Sunday review of Cazador in Mt Eden.
The post made reference to Calder's dislike of venison, saying: "Maybe what needs to be reviewed is what you contribute to the world, and not whether or not you like venison".
The review, started with an anecdote explaining how his strong distaste for venison could not be swayed by the restaurant's menu.
He refused to try the gamey meat and went on to describe Cazador as an "excellent, distinctive local restaurant that improves on its parent. Expect no more and you'll be thrilled".
He gave the restaurant 4.5 out of 5 stars in the review.
Hospitality New Zealand general manager Rachael Shadbolt said, although the post appeared to be "semi in jest", it warned its members that trespassing someone was not something that should be taken lightly and was generally not used to respond to food reviews.
Coco's was not a Hospitality New Zealand member, she said.
Bars were not public places under the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act so a trespass notice could be issued, she said. Before a formal written notice was given, a verbal warning to leave and not return must be given as part of the trespassing process.
Cazador co-owner Rebecca Smidt believed this review was behind the subsequent "trespass notice" Coco's Cantina referred to in the post.
However, she said it was likely to be a "metaphorical" order which expressed a general frustration with certain reviews.
"I expect them [reviewers] to be open-minded," she said. "He started with a rant about why he didn't like venison; then to just write it off without even trying it?"
Calder declined to comment on the matter.
Smidt, who the Herald approached for comment after coming across the trespass order, wanted to be clear she had no bones to pick with Calder.
"There's no comeback, it just sounds like you have an axe to grind, so you just let it go."
However, Smidt said at the very least she wanted reviewers to come armed with some knowledge and to engage in a more constructive conversation.
"A reviewer doesn't owe a restaurant anything. They are not there to promote us," she said.
"Of course there's a place for reviews. We'd have to be naive to think that media won't engage with what we are doing, but I think the reviewer has an obligation to have some level of expertise."
She said Cazador would not be closing its doors to reviewers, but said customers were the priority.
"We aren't in a position to get on our high horse about anything. We are a small vulnerable local restaurant.
"I just say to my staff, your customer is the one with a baby who finally gets a nice night out; someone celebrating a fiftieth anniversary...these are the customers we aim to please."
Restaurant critic Jesse Mulligan said a bad review did not necessarily translate into fewer customers.
"It's the job of reviewers to think critically about restaurants, but it's the job of readers to think critically about restaurant reviewers," he said.
Mulligan said it hurts to get a bad review, "but when you put yourself out there you have to take it on the chin".
"It's okay to get angry - if you don't get angry you probably don't care enough."
He said in this case Cazador could take comfort from the fact that in his experience a lot of people just skim words and look at the rating.
"Will people stop going to Cazador because Peter Calder doesn't like venison? I wouldn't bet on it."
The owners of Coco's Cantina were unable to comment in time for this article, but indicated they were willing to engage in a conversation on the issue once back in New Zealand.
A New Zealand police spokeswoman said a member of the public was entitled to issue a verbal trespass notice themselves without notifying police.
A formal notice required three copies of a trespass form to be completed - one for the person being served with the trespass notice; one for the person issuing the notice; and a third to enter into police records.