Toronto restaurants can get one-star reviews for lots of reasons, but it’s rare that someone online gets mad because they don’t think a restaurant exists.
“You cannot contact them by phone or email so after reading about them and receiving a flyer re East York Eats, I decided to go and order in person,” reads a one-star Google review for Southern Crown Caribbean Smokehouse from about a week ago.
“NO SIGN OF THEM. I doubt they exist. BEWARE!”
Screenshot of one-star review for Southern Crown.
The restaurant responded pretty much immediately: “We unfortunately had to close for a few weeks for personal reasons. Sorry for the inconvenience this has caused you. When we reopen we would love to make it up to you.”
“One was a health reason for me,” Kyle McClure of Southern Crown tells blogTO. “The other is Barry and I run two other very busy operations, our real jobs, and it’s gotten crazy busy the last few weeks. I will be ready to get back soon.”
They’re planning on reopening the Smokehouse concept in the food hall around June 1. They had originally been operating out of Lob, one of the other businesses McClure is referring to.
East York Eats is the food hall where Southern Crown has been located, alongside Conspiracy Pizza, Phamilyeats and others. It didn’t take long for Phamilyeats owner Peter Pham to take notice of the one-star review and support his neighbouring business by firing back at it.
“Small business pro tip number one,” he says sarcastically in a social media video. “Make sure your business exists.”
“Metrolinx gave us advertising credit due to the construction happening in front of the store,” Pham tells blogTO. “We used those credits to send out flyers to the neighbourhood advertising all the shops we had operating at the time.”
Suddenly, Omicron peaked, but before anyone knew it things were given the green light to open back up again.
“Things started to pick up way faster than anticipated,” says Pham, saying the Southern Crown owners are in the process of hiring a chef to help keep things running. Pham was there to greet the one-star reviewer the day he came in wanting to try Southern Crown, which was temporarily closed at that point.
“I said, ‘Sorry, they aren’t open, they are dealing with personal matters,'” says Pham.
“He folds the flyer furiously and grunts, ‘well, that’s irresponsible,’ and storms off. As he’s walking towards the exit, he turns his head to the side and yells out ‘I’M NEVER COMING BACK.’ Everyone’s shrugging their shoulders.”
Pham says he texted the Southern Crown owners, who sent him the one-star review about 20 minutes later.
“Like any reasonable business owner he tried to reach out with a reply and reconcile the situation,” says Pham.
“We are all aware that people are going through hard times and they all deal with it differently. Some people take it out on businesses and leave one-star reviews. Which happens quite often for Conspiracy Pizza. It’s one of the sad realities of running a business.”
According to Pham, Southern Crown has tried to make it as clear as possible that they’re temporarily closed, including posting on social media, turning off delivery apps, and updating Google. Pham unfortunately was sick recently and had to do the exact same thing.
“Not everyone uses technology, or remembers to use it. People just show up and there’s not much you can do. Even if the signs on the door say our store hours or if we’re closed, those get ignored too. There’s only so much we can do. We can’t control the randomness of the human element,” says Pham.
“Kyle mentioned that everyone else has been very understanding of their situation and are very excited when they start up again. One thing you learn quickly in this business is that you can’t please everyone, but you must absolutely try your best to.”