Top Swansea chef Andrew Hanson batters TripAdvisor
IN a 21-year career of working magic in the kitchen, Andrew Hanson has picked up his share of awards.
His restaurant Hanson at The Chelsea, tucked away off Swansea's Wind Street, has once again found its way into the latest AA Guide, with a coveted two rosettes to boot, and the Good Food Guide.
So it is all going well?
Well, while recognition from industry experts is always welcome, Mr Hanson has got a bit of a beef with reviewers of his business.
Not those from the aforementioned prestigious culinary publications, but some of those who use the customer-contributed TripAdvisor website.
Like the person who felt moved to tap away on the keyboards in response to a meal at the Chelsea.
"Someone complained about their main course," says Mr Hanson. "I changed it for a completely fresh meal, and knocked it off the bill. They left 100 per cent happy and still went and slagged me off on TripAdvisor. I changed the whole meal and gave it for free for the inconvenience and yet they have still gone and slagged me off. It is unbelievable."
Then there was the woman he thought was just trying it on, in other words attempting to get a free meal.
"One person had a starter and main course and then complained" he says. "She ate everything and then didn't want to pay. We made her pay because she had eaten it, and then she thrashed us on TripAdvisor."
Mr Hanson's attitude to her was, 'When exactly did you decide you didn't like it, because you have eaten it?'
"I don't go on the site and read reviews of my business or anyone else's," he says. "TripAdvisor even sent me a certificate for excellence. I didn't bother putting it up.
"Staff told me there were a couple of bad write-ups. If there is a problem, in all my career, I will always try my best to put it right before they leave.
"I like to think of a man in a man's world. If you are man enough in a restaurant and something is not right you can speak up. You don't go back to the security of your own home and then thrash someone about something.
"Nobody has got anywhere. They have still had a disappointing meal, if that is the case. I like to sort the problem before they leave. If a person has got a problem with the starter, raise it then."
Mr Hanson thinks TripAdvisor can be a good thing if the write-ups are accurate. But he feels it is open to abuse, with no safeguards in place to protect those being criticised.
"A lot of people will write anything on anybody," he says. "You only have to have a little gripe about somebody in another restaurant and start slagging them off. Or staff write good reports about their own restaurants. We all know this goes on. There is not a lot of credibility in it.
"No one is liable for it. You can go on, write what you like and are not liable. You can basically say what you like. You might have a gripe against someone who owns a different business and thrash them on that. You have got no cover from law."
So while he chose not to display his own TripAdvisor certificate of excellence, he is more than happy to put the AA and Good Food Guide ones up.
"They are the best two," he says. "They carry the credibility. They have got professional reviewers and you only get what you deserve. If you are not good enough, they don't go and thrash you on any site. You just don't get into their guides. The accuracy is good, they are genuine and they carry full credibility.
"On TripAdvisor people can hold you a bit to ransom. If they don't get their way they will go on TripAdvisor. You know some people are going to write on it. They tell you they are going to tell everyone when they get home.
"What they have got to remember is that a lot of people haven't got the skill, the drive, the motivation to get their own business but they are quick enough to slag everyone else off. If someone was legally liable for what they said, it would change the whole face of it. It would be a safeguard, not just for restaurants, but hotels, pubs, even sewing shops.
"I don't read it because I don't think Doris from Plasmarl is in a position to say whether I am the best or the worst in Swansea when they come out for one meal a year.
"There is a culture with some people that if they don't leave with a belly busting full you are rubbish. Some people don't read the menu correctly, or don't get advice if they are not sure, if there are French words for example."
So Mr Hanson thinks issues should be raised when they arise, not afterwards online. He does not read reviews, so he will not respond to them.
"There is certainly no point in moaning about it when you have gone home," he says.