World-wide support rolls in for Thursford TV couple

Messages of support have been flooding in from across the world for the owners of a restaurant near Fakenham after they hit out at a controversial travel guide website on national television this week.

Colin and Sarah Bowett were watched by millions when they appeared on Channel 4's flagship documentary series Cutting Edge on Monday night.

The programme explored the effect the website Trip Advisor is having on small business owners. It attracts more than 40 million viewers a month and enables members of the public to submit reviews on hotels, restaurants and attractions.

In the programme Mr and Mrs Bowett, who have run The Old Forge Seafood Restaurant in Thursford for 16 years, are joined by hoteliers from elsewhere calling for a change in the law to make websites like Trip Advisor liable for what reviewers say.

They say the majority of reviews they receive are positive, and they have no problem with constructive criticism, but are angered by what they see as a few nasty and personal attacks on them.

They believe the website is open to manipulation from people with personal grudges and rival restaurant owners and say it is difficult to get posts removed.

Mrs Bowett said: 'Since the show we've received more than 1,000 phone calls, e mails and Facebook messages.

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'There has been one from Australia, and messages from Spain, France, Germany, Scotland, Ireland, Wales and all over this country. Many came from people who run hotels and restaurants. They congratulated us for giving the hospitality industry a voice. Four people left bad comments.

'We had one anonymous phone call from a man in Norfolk who was almost in tears. He said he has been to our restaurant several times and pleaded with us to keep on going. We're absolutely gob smacked by the feedback.'

In the show Mr Bowett, 61, who has worked in the restaurant industry for 45 years, said: 'Little Hitlers all the way around the country think they can just walk over anybody. Well they aren't walking all over me and they aren't walking all over my wife.'

Mr Bowett underwent heart surgery last year and his wife said during the documentary there were times when stress caused by Trip Advisor has made them think about selling up.

But she confirmed this week that business is good and they have no intention to close their restaurant.

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