‘You punch the bully in the face.’ Cheesesteak shop owner fights back against negative online reviews

The owner of a New Jersey cheesesteak shop is fighting back against those who leave negative reviews online.
“You get the people that come on and they feel like Superman and they feel like they're a badass and they go on the internet and say, ‘This place is terrible.’ ‘This guy's a real jerk,’” says Gaetano's Cheesesteaks owner Bill Hansen.
Bill Hansen is defending his cheesesteak shop against negative online reviews. Bill Hansen is defending his cheesesteak shop against negative online reviews.
Like almost every restaurant or small business owner today, Hansen finds himself at the mercy of online reviewers on Google or Yelp who can pan the place with a one-star review that could publicly stain his business forever.
But unlike most other owners, Hansen does not follow the advice of social media experts and business consultants who say owners should not engage or fire back.
“If someone bullies you, you punch the bully in the face,” he says.
Hansen doesn’t pull any punches when he fights back against those who criticize his business or the food.
“Anyone that has an actual issue and doesn't want to just feel important, calls us and sorts it out like an adult with a functioning brain,” he says.
Hansen once called out a reviewer for leaving one-star reviews at every place he's ever reviewed, except the one where he worked. Hansen called him a “shiftless bum.”
Another time, he fired back at a reviewer who said the service was rude. "You have four contributions here on Google and all four are one-star calling people rude. Well out of 4 rude interactions, there's only one common denominator and that's you. If you can't handle public interactions maybe you shouldn’t be out in public. Have a nice life,” Hansen said.
He once responded to a reviewer he later learned had run his own restaurant that went out of business. “If you think Jersey Mike's makes a better cheesesteak than us maybe your palate is the reason you failed in the restaurant business and life. Clown,” Hansen wrote.
For Hansen, the reviews are personal. His parents opened Gaetano’s in 2006 when he was in college. His father died a few months later and he wound up taking over the business after graduating.
Most of the online reviews are positive, four or five stars. But Hansen says to see some keyboard warriors jeopardize his livelihood just that they can feel macho online, he’s not going to take it.
“Stand up to a bully. That was my approach," said Hansen, adding that he worked too hard to run a successful business to let "some peon" say whatever they want without standing up for himself.
Despite the advice not to engage, Hansen said his tactic is actually working. When he punches back, he says he's seen the authors of some one-star reviews go back and delete their review altogether.