Chef and co-owner Davide Cerretini has been in the restaurant business for 20 years and says he and his business partner Michele Massimo just got fed up with what they say were aggressive advertising solicitations from Yelp.
The company has been repeatedly accused of manipulating reviews for businesses that do not buy advertising, but Yelp continues to deny such allegations. Earlier this month, a federal appeals court ruled that businesses do not have a right to positive reviews and if Yelp wanted to manipulate reviews, it would not amount to extortion.
"We did everything; played the game, advertised with them," Cerretini said. "It just it became this huge monster that pretty much every business has no control of."
So six months ago, the two decided they were going to start playing by their own rules. Rather than simply ignore Yelp, they were going to actively try to combat the Yelp system and campaign to become the worst restaurant on the site.
"It's the way for us to finally be ourselves -- Italian," Cerretini said. "If they hate us, who cares? All we want is just to be noticed. If I can't be noticed for good food, then I'm going to be noticed for being the worst."
Botto Bistro is now offering a 25 percent discount to anyone who leaves a one-star review on Yelp. Cerretini says the campaign was immediately successful for the 5-year-old restaurant. In recent days, the restaurant's Yelp page has been flooded with bad reviews from all over the globe -- while many acknowledge that they have never in fact actually eaten Botto Bistro's food, the most common complaint is that they will not deliver to places as far away as Virginia and even England.
"As of today I'm to happy to have 500 one-star reviews; I can't believe I'm saying that," Cerretini said.
In response to a request for comment, Yelp issued a statement saying, "Millions of consumers use Yelp each month to find great local businesses because they trust the content on our site. That's why businesses can't pay Yelp to manipulate their reviews and why it's a violation of our Terms of Service to pay for or incentivize reviews."
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