How quickly the reputation of a successful restaurant can be sullied by an antagonistic posting on social media such as Facebook.
Most restaurants will get a bad review from a customer from time to time, but Florindo's Italian Cuisine of Glenwood Springs is being victimized by an apparently bogus claim posted by a former employee.
Now the restaurant is getting reviews on sites such as Yelp, UrbanSpoon and TripAdvisor titled "Fraud," "Don't Eat Here," and "Don't Give This Place A Dime."
The lesson here is the power of social media to foment hysteria and damage a business's stature, and the need for businesses to be vigilant in monitoring their online reputation.
On March 10, former Florindo's waiter Damian Cardone posted a message on his Facebook page claiming to be a restaurant chef who disregarded customers' requests for gluten-free meals. Cardone didn't mention Florindo's, where he worked as a part-time waiter from January 2010 until early March 2011, but he called celiac patients "idiots" and claimed that their gluten intolerance was "all in their heads."
Within two weeks, the online celiac disease community discovered the post, made the connection to Florindo's and began pelting Cardone and Florindo's with angry comments on blogs and restaurant review websites.
Restaurant review posts are being made by people who have never been to Florindo's but have fallen for Cardone's claims and are trying to warn away other diners who have celiac disease.
On Yelp, seven of 14 reviews about Florindo's are from people angry about the claims in Cardone's post. On UrbanSpoon, three of 10 posts warn celiac sufferers away from the restaurant, while one debunked the claim after seeing news reports.
Like many traditional restaurateurs, Florent and Roza Gallicchio rely on word-of-mouth among customers to build business and maintain their reputation. With today's proliferation of Internet communication, however, posts by uninformed interest groups can cause considerable damage.
In a valley where tourism is the leading business, owners of restaurants, hotels, guide services and attractions should take note. Yesterday's word-of-mouth reputation is today's global online community, where negative posts hold the potential to wreck a business's reputation whether the charge is true or not.
Business owners can take action through many review sites by signing up for a verified listing through an owner support section, and Google alerts will let owners know whenever their name pops up on the Internet.
Meanwhile, residents and visitors to the valley can show support for Florindo's and all our valley's fine restaurants by enjoying a meal out and, if you are so inclined, by posting a review on the Internet.