Food Fight

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

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:

Immediately, Twitter was buzzing with discussions about that decision.

Frequent Houston Press commenter Chic Chick Chic Eats wrote:

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 the comments.

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Kaitlin Steinberg