Killen's BBQ Bans Negative Comments from Facebook: Censorship or Smart PR?

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Photo via Killen's
Ronnie Killen would like you to stop saying nasty things on his Facebook (as if there's anything mean to say about that awesome barbecue).
In case you haven't noticed, there's a new box on Yelp right above the comments that contains the following message:

Your trust is our top concern, so businesses can't pay to alter or remove their reviews.

While the business review website is making an effort to convince people that the commentary posted on the site is unbiased, Facebook makes no such claim. That's why it was not unexpected to see a restaurateur admit to editing negative responses on his business's Facebook page yesterday afternoon.

On the page for Killen's BBQ, chef/owner Ronnie Killen wrote:

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Immediately, Twitter was buzzing with discussions about that decision.

Frequent Houston Press commenter Chic Chick Chic Eats wrote:

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Several people on Twitter reiterated her opinion, which seemed to be essentially, if you can't take the heat, get out of the kitchen. Everyone faces criticism. Why bother hiding it?

While sites like Yelp work to ensure that reviews are unbiased (of course, how hard Yelp works is debatable), Facebook is different. A business creates and runs its own Facebook page, and therefore has the right to post or remove whatever it wants. It's just one step away from a personal Facebook account, though understanding that Ronnie Killen himself runs the page adds to the intimacy of it. It's essentially a personal page for him, and one that he feels he has the right to edit.

Most of his followers agreed with him, and those that did were badmouthed, prompting them to excuse themselves from the conversation, which has since been removed from the Killen's BBQ Facebook page.

Though we acknowledge that many business owners probably engage in this same practice on their respective Facebook pages, we have to wonder: Is deleting negative comments simply a way to ensure good PR, or do restaurants have a responsibility to acknowledge and respond to criticism, no matter how nasty?

Of course, what we still can't figure out is how anyone could have anything bad to say about Killen's fantastic barbecue.

We've reached out to Killen for a response, and he's indicated he'd like to comment. We'll update when he does.

Tell us your thoughts...and criticisms...in the comments.

Location Info

Killen's Barbecue

3613 E Broadway, Pearland, TX

Category: Restaurant


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27 comments
twaynewren
twaynewren

"(D)o restaurants have a responsibility to acknowledge and respond to criticism, no matter how nasty?"


No.

booby
booby

This guy must take marketing lessons from Ricky over at Hubcap... both douches that can't take criticism that doesn't fit the narrative that the cock slurping local foodie press has created...

Nojusticenopiece
Nojusticenopiece

This guy has been slurping up the media attention from day one and has acted like a total ass to people with negative comments. As one commenter on the Facebook post pointed out, he told people to email him privately with a complaint, but he has posted people's private email addresses/full names on Facebook when they've emailed him to complain.

bettyvatel
bettyvatel

After reading the words of several food "writers" (Press, Culturemap, Houstonia Mag) who went orgasmic over Killen's brisket I took a ride to his shop and was, to say the least, underwhelmed. I can only think that, like so many other reviews I read on the aforementioned sites, the Killen worshipful love letters are the product of poor palates. I won't be returning to Killen's, and this "comments" policy of his is as distasteful as his meat. 

j_glover
j_glover

Today, the customer controls the dialogue about your restaurant. You can acknowledge, address, guide it, and participate OR you can ignore it. Banning sincere, negative feedback from a customer is basically telling them that their opinion isn't valid. And since they probably won't be posting that message regularly, most people who do post negative comments that are removed will be confused and offended. If you choose to participate in an avenue of social media, you have to be prepared to operate on that platform in its' full functionality.

tlafaver
tlafaver

There are plenty of BBQ places in Houston.  Why deal with a long drive, long lines and an over abundance of arrogance?  I think I'll let egos get deflated a bit before I try this place. 

Anse
Anse

I'm on the fence because there are so many ways to get a clear picture of the quality of a place. If you're only paying attention to Facebook, you probably deserve to be disappointed once in a while. I'll also admit that while I do post on internet message boards with some regularity, one should be careful to take such comments seriously. I just assume people who have bad experiences are more likely to post comments anyway, and the numerous good experiences rarely get reported.

belleficus
belleficus

Glad he can cook a good brisket because his marketing is ham-handed. This example illustrates why a restaurant owner should focus, cook and worry about operations, and leave marketing to professionals (and I don't mean PR people).

Facebook is only the tip of an iceberg; there are reviews and commentary about his place across the web: tripadvisor, HP, opentable, eater, urbanspoon, yelp, culturemap, google/zagat, chron and about 100 other relevant places. 

If he's worried about reputation management, which is really just an adjunct of social media, he needs to delegate that to someone who knows how to do it. 

If you choose, as a business, to open a channel you got to know how it fits into the whole digital marketing platform, and know how to use it, and more importantly, realize that you don't know what you're doing when that becomes apparent.


Mayling Tate
Mayling Tate

I'm suspicious of a restaurant that won't let people post their negative experiences. I've been wanting to take my family here but after reading this I'm sure I can find somewhere else to go.

Stefan Puffer
Stefan Puffer

I ate there once and while it was good BBQ I don't understand why people are falling over themselves to get in. One thing that really bothered me was that there is no condiment bar. When I go eat BBQ I expect there to be a bar when I can grab onions, pickles, jalapenos...etc. Maybe I'm spoiled or maybe that's just what I'm used to.

massmurdermedia
massmurdermedia

this makes the owner look thin-skinned and in denial that someone would take issue with their dining experience...  social media consultants usually advise that you address negative comments directly, rather than ignoring or deleting them...  if a commenter has a complaint tell him publicly why he's wrong, correct the problem and/or apologize...  evidently, Killen is the Comcast of BBQ joints, otherwise they'd have few, if any. complaints...

Miles Stiles
Miles Stiles

Their bbq is second to none. In order to be that good of a chef you have to be obsessive and a bit of an ego maniac. I think this guy is a little of both.

Trillian Ninetysix
Trillian Ninetysix

When there's nary a thing but rave reviews on a page, I'm suspicious. They've probably not done themselves the favor they think they have.

kevin818
kevin818

"or do restaurants have a responsibility to acknowledge and respond to criticism".  No, they don't have such a responsibility.  They have a responsibility to serving their guests first and foremost, and often the criticisms are off-base, vindictive, subversive, or tiresome.  Of course, a business should review such criticism, to determine if there's a pattern worth addressing, but they have no responsibility toward publishing such criticisms.

Gilles378
Gilles378

There's a restaurant writer in town name of Jack Tyler who's convinced that his writing only about good experiences holds appeal and offers fascinating insight for readers. Of course, he's completely wrong, but there's another spin on 'being all positive'. Frankly it's dull.

hennigan
hennigan

It's a great idea! -- if you care more about your ego than your customers and their opinions. Respond, don't delete. Whether the comments are negative or positive, you're there to engage, not to flee.


marklipman60
marklipman60

The BBQ is quite good but no better than The Swinging Door, Gatlin's, Luling City Market, Vergie's, Blake's or Corkscrew so why put up with the drive or the wait? Seems people have been drinking the punch on this one.

Steve1152
Steve1152

Maybe I was there on a bad day but the brisket was super fatty and the sauce was cloying. I wouldn't go back if it was half the price and without a 30 minute wait, y'now like most barbecue places.

BobbyFreshpants
BobbyFreshpants topcommenter

Is the food actually worth it? Long drive, long wait, arrogance. I was excited to try this BBQ at first but the more I read about it the less I care.

MarkShowJr
MarkShowJr

"a article", "a accolade", "a issue"...

Makes me cringe just reading it. Come on, Ronnie.

XYYz
XYYz

This is inherently poor social media practice. while comments which are clearly trolling can be removed, sincere criticism should be addressed. Simply address the comment in a proactive, positive manner. Only allowing good comments essentially transforms what should be a two- or multi-way conversation between the business and its customers into borderline propaganda. Killen's should reconsider this policy and address valid concerns and criticisms directly. Chances are, dissatisfied customers will give them another chance. By deleting negative comments, you probably lose a customer permanently. Not cool.

slimthug
slimthug

@bettyvatel Yo! Htownsexymama, you change your handle to bettyvatel? EdithBourdain gonna tan your hide, girl!

carriebwc
carriebwc

@kevin818 I don't know, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth (see what I did there) that they allow positive comments, but not negative ones.   If they don't have a responsibility to leave negative comments, then perhaps they should have a no comment policy.

gossamersixteen
gossamersixteen topcommenter

@XYYz Wow you do make cogent coherent points from time to time, kudos. Well said.

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