A posted policy at Tio Taco + Tequila in Edison that said employees had to get five positive Google reviews per month to keep their jobs made its way through the internet over the weekend, resulting in thousands of one-star reviews for the restaurant from people all over the world.
But according to Andrea Bonfiglio, chief marketing officer of Triple T Hospitality Group, which owns the restaurant, the policy simply isn't real.
"We did not institute this policy," she said. "It's an insane policy."
According to Bonfiglio, a "rogue" general manager "took it upon himself" to type up the policy without Triple T Hospitality Group approval and post it for the restaurant's 75 employees to see on Friday.
One of those employees saw the posting, took a photo of it, shared it to Reddit, and then quit at the end of her shift before owners were aware of the policy. The Reddit post has 1,600 comments.
The posted policy was removed one hour later once restaurant group directors were made aware of it. Current management spoke with employees and let them know the policy is not real.
The general manager and assistant manager, who admitted to instituting the policy, were fired Saturday. They knew they made a mistake and were apologetic, Bonfiglio said.
Conversely, the restaurant often rewards employees with positive Google reviews by letting them choose a shift or section, or giving them a sweatshirt, Bonfiglio said. But there has never been a policy where they had to or were asked to.
"We reward people who go above and beyond, but we would never be like, 'You better get these,' " she said.
However, the damage has been done to Tio Taco + Tequila, which has locations in Edison, Marlboro and Clifton, and Tommy's Tavern + Tap, which has locations in Bridgewater, Princeton, Clifton, Morris Plains, Freehold, Sea Bright and Staten Island. The restaurant group is owned by Tommy Bonfiglio, Andrea's father, and employs 1,100 people.
The Reddit thread resulted in "thousands" of one-star Google reviews for the restaurant from people around the world who had never visited, Andrea Bonfiglio said. Google has already removed some of them.
Google referred to the commenters as a "cyber mob," she said. Some of them told her she should commit suicide.
"People are people and you can’t watch them 24/7," Bonfiglio said. "This one bad egg caused such chaos. We love our employees and our employees are like family. The thought of us doing this is ridiculous."
Jenna Intersimone has been a staff member at the USA Today Network New Jersey since 2014, after becoming a blogger-turned-reporter following the creation of her award-winning travel blog. To get unlimited access to her stories about food, drink and fun, please subscribe or activate your digital account today. Contact: JIntersimone@Gannett.com or @JIntersimone.
This article originally appeared on MyCentralJersey.com: NJ restaurant chain owner says 5-star review policy for servers untrue