Chef blackmailed with ‘bad reviews’

A Welsh chef received demands for money from an anonymous individual who threatened to swamp Google with damning reviews of his restaurant if they did not receive the cash.

Matt Powell, chef proprietor of Annwn restaurant in Pembrokeshire, Wales, was targeted by a blackmailer who demanded a pay-out. The fraudster stated that a string of negative false reviews would appear on Google Review if Powell didn’t cough up the cash.

After the Michelin Guide chef blocked the number, a series of false images were immediately posted on Google Reviews, seemingly showing food from Powell’s restaurant, including photos of “a fried rat” and “stuffed hamsters”.

One-star scores also started to pour in for the restaurant, which was named in the Michelin Guide in September 2023 for its menu based on Welsh grains and herbs, coracle-fished sewin (trout) and Pembrokeshire oysters and crabs.

Shortly after he blocked the number Powell was sent a message via What’s App from one ‘Masoom from Pakistan’, which read:

“Hello brother, I need the work of just £50 from you. I have posted bad reviews and added disgusting pics at your business bcz you blocked me.

“If you will block me again then we will post bad reviews and will add 40+ bad pics on a daily basis. To add bad reviews is not difficult for us bcz we have our own team.”

Powell contacted Google to report the incident and request that the reviews be taken down, which he said “took days”.

“It’s been a shock to have to deal with this and pretty stressful,” Powell told Wales Online. “The pain is you can’t get in touch with Google easily, even though it’s one of the richest companies on the planet. It took ages to get it sorted.”

“We’re just setting up and financially it’s difficult. People think you’re making a packet load of money but we’re a family business doing eight or ten covers for the love of it. We don’t make a lot of money and don’t go to bed until three in the morning after a service. It’s hard going, and then we get rubbish like this.”

The chef added that it is not the first time he has received such messages and said he usually blocks or deletes them “because we don’t want anything to do with it.”

He said that he is proud of the restaurant’s average 5-score on Google Reviews.

“We’re good at what we do and it’s a personal endeavour. We’ve only got four tables and it means a lot for us for people to enjoy it here.”

Although Powell believes that the damage caused by the false reviews was limited due to some of the photos of food being “bizarre and not believable,” he is calling for Google to impose stricter measures to ensure reviews are genuine.

“We’d really like to see Google introduce a system whereby restaurants could give a code to genuine diners that enables them to leave reviews on Google,” he said.

This article was originally published by the drinks business and has been shared with permission.

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