Restaurants say online reviewers exploit their power

Restaurant owner Sonny Mayugba was given an offer he almost could not refuse this month.

Not by a local gangster, but by a user of a popular online review site, Yelp.com.

Mayugba said the user threatened to blast the Red Rabbit Kitchen and Bar in Sacramento, which Mayugba co-owns, on Yelp because he believed he and his party got food poisoning from their meals.

Mayugba said it was impossible to prove whether the man got food poisoning from the restaurant but offered to give him a $60 gift card to a restaurant of his choice. The man said he deserved $100. If the restaurant did not pay up, he said he would write a bad Yelp review and report him to health authorities.

Restaurant owners say online websites have changed consumer behavior as many people rely more on citizen reviews than on reviews of professional critics or advertisements. Yelp had a monthly average of more than 71 million unique visitors and 27 million reviews worldwide this year from January to the end of March, the company said.

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