Social media users take restaurant to task; it responds with a lesson in how not to do things

lemp's zomato ratingFor couple of days in the second week of June “Lemp” was a top trending topic for over 20 million users of Twitter in India, non-stop. Surprisingly Lemp is not the name of a champion Indian cricketer, a famous Bollywood actor or a corrupt politician caught in yet another scandal.

Lemp is a name of a brewery-restaurant located in the New Delhi suburb of Gurgaon, caught in the eye of a social media storm after a group of youngsters were cheated and mentally harassed by the management and owners of the property.

The youngsters chose to tell the world about their plight through a blog post. Due to whatever reason the original blog post was removed, but thanks to Google cache it will forever live on. I would strongly suggest you to read more about the incident at Scribd before proceeding further.

It is yet another example of how a young, educated and web savvy population in India is making sure their voice is not muzzled and their rights not being taken for granted by people in power.

A visit to a restaurant for a ‘Hawaiian Sunday Brunch’ turned out to be too ghastly for a group of youngsters this Sunday, after they had checked out Sunday brunch events listed in the review site, Zomato. Apart from not being served any advertised Hawaiian food, they were overcharged when they wished to leave and threatened with police arrest when they protested about the bill. Besides, the Haryana/Gurgaon police instead of coming to their rescue, chose to side with the owner and manager of the restaurant. The youngsters were just short of being detained for not paying the ‘overcharged’ bill.

As mentioned earlier, the youngsters decided to blog about their experience and that enraged the Indian twitterverse to the say the least. The news was even picked up by the biggest newspaper of the country, Times of India besides other major publications and one of the biggest online news publishers, FirstPost and other leading media outlets of the country, offline and online.

Zomato, the website used to initially decide their Sunday hangout, even came out with a blog post on it’s website supporting the youngsters. To put this is perspective, Zomato is akin to Yelp for Indian netizens.

Incidentally, the user rating for Lemp Brewpub & Kitchen on Zomato (pictured) has had a huge fall to 1.2 from its earlier 3 point something, after the blog post went viral on social media.

Lemp opted for a rebuttal by a fake customer, who incidentally had access to all of their CCTV footage. They also threatened the diners with a defamation suit in a very cocky reply to their review, although the unrelenting attack also forced them to change their name to PurpleBar. So much for transparency.

There were two possible options for Lemp:

1)   Brazen this out, offer their version and prove that those diners were indeed trying to fleece the restaurant. One of the better ways could have been to show CCTV footage of the altercation, without obvious editing of the same.

2)   Apologize. Admit that they messed up, a spur-of-the-hour moment for them, which shall never be repeated, with sincere apologies on video by the management and the owner. Convince those youngsters to visit the restaurant once more and actually organize a Hawaiian Sunday brunch, on the house for them. Considering the egos involved, this certainly seems like a definite no-go and I’m not surprised that Lemp has decided to go ahead with option 1.

After much hullabaloo, Lemp issued a statement last night (on Scribd) offering their version of events, including insights from their social media agency, as to who could be behind all of this, clearly going on the offensive. They also agreed for a Google Hangout with a social media website, only to back out of it a day before the scheduled event.

In a country where consumer rights are always taken for granted, India’s proud history of free speech and the opportunities provided by the power of social media is making sure that the voice of the common man can be heard loud and clear.

Although the bar management have not admitted to their mistake yet, the increased noise and awareness about the incident has certainly made other businesses aware of the mighty power of the Internet and social media. It’s a welcome change and one that the common Indian hopes will make the “high and mighty” think twice before taking him for a ride.

Vishal blogs at vishal1mehra.com and you can follow him on Twitter @ vishal1mehra.