10 non-social media observations on the Lemp Brewpub mess

Update ? June 13, 2013: Lemp responds with a press release (courtesy NDTV)

Lemp Press Release by ndtvonline

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Original post ? June 12, 2013

Lemp Brewpub is all over the place online, I see.

A lot has been written about the blog post (now removed, but the contents can be accessed here) that caused everything? on Firstpost, Lighthouse Insights and even QZ (with a mighty bombastic headline, at that)! Lemp is truly going places, for all the wrong reasons.

Here are 10 observations that I found interesting.

1. Till the issue surfaced (that is, yesterday), there were 382 reviews on Zomato for the place. The average rating was 3.10 and that is not bad at all! And yes, out of these 382, there are 31 5-star reviews and 27 4-star reviews, with 38 1-star reviews.

2. After yesterday, on last count, Zomato now has 900+ reviews for Lemp? almost all of them severely negative, merely talking about the blog post and abusing the restaurant than talking about it in any meaningful terms.

3. The first review ? posted in January 2012 ? happens to be by a lady named Shruti Sharma. Shruti was also the name of the person who posted a response to the damaging blog that surfaced yesterday. Arrive at any conclusion as you deem fit. Shruti also has 4 reviews on Zomato? and 3 are for Lemp; 1 written in January 2012 and 2 more written as a response to yesterday?s blog post. A 4th review is for Downtown pub in Sector 30 Gurgaon? posted, again, in January 2012. She gave it a 1-star rating and tore it apart.

4. There were 3 reviews for Lemp on Burrp before the issue surfaced yesterday. And, after yesterday, there are 17 more, in one day ? all of them negative, merely cross-posting the blog?s link.

5. It is mildly baffling that the blog post had no names, because Burrp and Zomato have one review each from people claiming to have gone through that ordeal, complete with their real, full name. On Burrp, that person has left almost the same details (as the blog post), in brief and linked the blog post at the end. I?m not posting any names or screenshots of these reviews in the assumption that they could be targeted ? an assumption, at best ? by the restaurant management.

On Zomato, a lady from the group has posted the same experience for which the now-viral boorish response from Lemp management can still be seen. So, if they can name themselves on Burrp and Zomato, why not on the blog (which has now been removed)?

6. Lemp has been randomly responding to customer reviews on Zomato since their launch. Earlier, it was an unnamed person (?Sr. GM? or unnamed) responding to many positive and negative reviews, very politely.

Then, a person named Mayank Shekhar started responding. Again, he was polite and treated all customers with respect, even if it was a negative review.

And then, about 9 months ago, a person named Akshay Luthria started responding. His tone was polite and respectful too! But, strangely, he also started clicking on Zomato?s ?Do you find this review helpful? option a lot. So, for every positive review, it ended with ?Akshay Luthria finds this review helpful?, while for the negative reviews, he, understandably, did not find them as helpful.

The question is? if Sr.GM, Mayank and Akshay can be this polite and respectful even to severely negative comments, why is the management behaving this rudely now, with this set of customers? Does that mean the management is saying the truth? Or, does it just mean the sane voices (like Mayank and Akshay) are no longer with the management? All this, however, doesn?t change the fact that there have been many people who have complained about the place?s boorish behavior long before the blog post surfaced yesterday.

7. Is there a real-world impact for Lemp Brewpub because of this blog post going ?viral? on Twitter and Facebook? That is, would people avoid going to the place in the assumption that the points mentioned in the blog post is all true?

Restaurants, like any other thing we consume or experience, are something we do a background check before plonking our money. These days, we trust and seek feedback on every small thing? because we can. Google is your friend, for these ? whether you trust the reviews you see online or not, is a different question. But, just like you asked your friend, colleague or family before going to a place, just to know if someone has been to the place and how the place is, you do what is easily accessible to you, online.

And, when you Google, you land on either Zomato or Burrp. I personally have avoided ordering from or going to restaurants that ?seemed to have? more negative reviews than positive on either Zomato or Burrp. So, they do serve a purpose and it is not as if you can completely ignore those reviews.

But, having said this, if the target group for Lemp is the kind that does not have the patience or skills to read reviews online, they could surely stay in business for a little longer. But, consider the other angle ? what if the online viral goes offline, on print? Yesterday, from Twitter and Facebook, the issue entered Firstpost? Why can?t it enter print newspaper in a day/week? Would that impact business? More probable, than a purely online viral.

8. What could Lemp have done, to stem the damage, yesterday? This is obviously a hypothetical question, but let me consider it from two perspectives.

a. The blog post was fabricated and Lemp was right.
The need is still to stem the damage. How does a restaurant deal with a customer (or a group of customers) who are lying? There are obviously 2 ways ? one, you suck up to them, apologize and invite them over to give them a better experience the next time. This is merely damage control and this response is likely to be tagged along with the original blog post when people share it left, right and center. Basically, it adds to the conversation something positive about the restaurant in question and dilutes the severely negative damage being done.

Two, the restaurant can get more, irrefutable proof to counter the claims in the blog post. This is a dicey option, but if the proof they have is very good, they could use it to meaningfully dilute the debate and let people see both sides of the story. There are 2 sides even now ? one severely aggrieved blog post and the second an abrasive, boorish response from the management on Zomato + a lady who goes all soft on her favorite restaurant and has one blog out of the random created yesterday (with no comments!). That doesn?t augur well for the restaurant?s image, right now.

What they seemed to have done is actually different ? they have filed a complaint against the bloggers (customers) with the police! And that has made it to the newspapers. And then the blog has been removed. This sequence of things could mean 2 things ? one, the blog was indeed false and was removed since cops are involved now. Or, two, the bloggers were right, but got scared and decided to drop the matter from escalating.

b. The blog post was true (largely) and the Lemp was wrong.
The damage has been done? quite extensively. And the repercussions are likely to be felt for quite some time to come in the reviews section of Burrp and Zomato, besides a week?s worth of outrage on social media platforms. So, how do you stem the tide now, after all the damage?

A simple sorry is not going to help, obviously. A well written sorry is not going to help either, going by the magnitude of hatred against Lemp. In my opinion, what they need is something dramatic that people can (a) appreciate (b) agree and most importantly (c) share!

My suggestion would be to get the 3 men named in the blog post ? Robin, Kamal Singh Thapa and Shashank ? to do the murga in a crisp video, on Vine or as a GIF. And follow it up with a heartfelt and honest apology. No reasons added to dilute the apology, but stay true to the fact that it is an unconditional apology and that they will take this as a lesson to make amends immediately.

9. Zomato was quick to respond yesterday since their reputation was at stake. Their blog was logical and to the point. In fact, delisting Lemp from Zomato would probably help Lemp, since people won?t know the feedback ? positive or negative? and might end up trying it out!

10. It looks like Lemp has changed its name, at least on Facebook. A May 27 cover pic on Facebook calls it Lemp, but now, the Facebook profile’s page?s name (at least) has PurleBar in it and Lemp in brackets! Has the change been reflected in the restaurant too, offline? Clever, short-term move by the restaurant!

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