The Serbian Crown was an upscale French-Russian restaurant in the well-to-do town of Great Falls, VA. After operating for 40 years, owner Rene Bertagna had to close its doors in April 2013. The reason? WIRED reports that Bertagna is suing Google for reporting incorrect information about when the restaurant was closed.
Bertagna claims that in early 2012, he experienced a 75% drop in weekend business; prior to that, weekends were typically his busiest time, and when his restaurant made the bulk of its money. He told WIRED that the drop in business continued for months, to the point where he had to let some of his staff go. He had no idea why, until one of his regulars phoned him up. Bertagna explains,
Bertagna then found out that Google Places (which feeds other Google products, like Maps and standard Google searches) was incorrectly reporting the Serbian Crown as being completely closed Saturday through Monday.
The WIRED piece goes on to give further examples of instances where Google information has been subverted, either by malicious competing businesses or pranksters looking to make a point. We don’t doubt that this incorrect information could absolutely have some negative impact on business. We certainly get that Bertagna is upset that his longstanding restaurant had to close its doors.
However, it’s pretty clear that an incorrect Google Maps listing wasn’t this restaurant’s only problem. Here’s a partial list of things we noticed as we dug a little deeper:
The Serbian Crown website isn’t clear
The Serbian Crown website isn’t clear about the days the restaurant is open. We were amazed that the website was up a full year after the restaurant closed, but apparently someone’s still paying for web hosting. It gives lunch and dinner hours, but are you supposed to just assume that it’s open for those hours 7 days a week, 365 days a year? While restaurants don’t close for a lot of holidays, most close for at least one. If the restaurant website itself isn’t clear, then the Google listing was just adding to—not creating—the problem. (Photo: Serbian Crown)
The restaurant has tons of negative online reviews
Several online review sites display detailed, negative reviews of The Serbian Crown that seem to come from legit accounts. While we know that ratings sites like Yelp and Urbanspoon can certainly be used by a restaurant’s competitors to generate some negative reviews, any savvy Internet user can usually smell the fishy ones. Yelp’s ability to check in to a business helps; if you see multiple check-ins to a place, you can easily verify that the reviewer has actually been to that place multiple times, which lends confidence to that person’s reviews. Yelp reviews for Serbian Crown date back to 10/17/2006—long before the alleged Google gaffe. That very first review gives it a mediocre 3 stars, and goes on to explain the reviewer’s problem: both seating and service seem rather inept. A one-star review in February 2011 from Yelp user Susan G. says,
It was like some time machine had taken hold of us, propelled us into the ’70s at 2005 successful hedge fund prices.
I really have to believe the other reviews are fraudulent on here.
Someone ranked as a Senior Reviewer on TripAdvisor was also far from complimentary:
The Serbian Crown Made False Promises
Serbian Crown was known for exotic game, but apparently couldn’t always deliver. If this Yelp review is to be believed, the main draw for this restaurant wasn’t always available—AND staff allegedly treated this guy like a dumbass for even asking. That’s not acceptable customer service anywhere, be it a fine dining establishment or your local Mickey D’s. (Photo: Yelp)