Online Reviews: Eating Your Restaurant’s Reputation?

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Where should we go for dinner tonight? We’ve all asked it – whether you’re out with friends or on a date or just plain hungry, you want food. Sometimes we choose a place at random, but that’s risky business, you don’t want to waste your money on a crappy dinner! Many folks looking to dine will rely on recommendations and opinions of their friends and acquaintances. Or if they have no friends (or at least none offering up valuable feedback), they rely on the infamous Internet. While sites like Yelp or FourSquare can open our eyes to places we’ve never heard of, and allow us to tailor our hunger’s interest in cuisine and price, it also imposes the opinions of complete strangers upon our taste buds and influences our own opinion about a place we’ve never been to.

While there are thousands of reviews to read out there, do they really give a realistic representation of all the restaurant’s customers? There’s usually some raving reviews and a few people who absolutely hated their experience. Often in life, negative experiences and opinions strike stronger than positive or neutral ones. If you went out to lunch and had a pretty good deli sandwich, are you going to run home and write a review? However, there’s always that one person with the mile long order during the lunch rush hour and someone forgot the extra pickles (or worse, put too much mustard!) and it really ticked them off, they’d probably be more likely to go back to their computer and warn the local public about the terrible food they experienced on their lunch break. The next few hundred people who visit the deli’s Yelp page are going to see this hysterical one-star review and decide to eat elsewhere, when, in reality, it is a fine and dandy sandwich joint that pleases 99% of its customers.

Just one or two truly terrible reviews online have the power to sting a restaurant’s reputation and reduce their flow of new customers. Unless “rubbery food, disappointing service, tiny bowls of salsa that are good for one chip. If you like food or have tastebuds, don’t eat here” sounds the least bit appetizing, anyone who reads this review of a local restaurant is going to take the snobby reviewer’s advice and stay away. This one review could cost the restaurant quite a few customers. The description is likely not true for every meal served there and promotes a very negative opinion of the place. While there are many positive and neutral reviews, sometimes it only takes one bad one to take away a reader’s appetite.

The lesson? Keep the analogy of the “restaurant reviewer visit” in your head. Ever notice that when a place realizes they’re being “reviewed” for a paper or news segment, they pull out all the stops to WOW that guest? Why doesn’t this happen all the time? Keep in mind that every single customer or guest that comes to your place is a reviewer in one way or another. Some may put their sentiments on online review sites, their Facebook page, or simply in the ear of a friend. While you cannot please every single person that comes through the door, your job is to do as good a job as possible to dazzle them and encourage a subsequent visit. Do this and any negative barbs left on those review sites will likely be outshined by the stunning ones your happy guests make online or off. Photo Credit: Imgur/MaEXF

2 thoughts on “Online Reviews: Eating Your Restaurant’s Reputation?

  • Michael

    You’re spot on. It’s tough to recover from terrible reviews of your restaurant – especially just after launch. I wouldn’t open your doors until you’re 110% able to deliver incredible service.

    • admin

      Totally agree, Michael. People can choose to dine anywhere they please, and when they read reviews about a place that has horrible service, why *would* they want to go there? They might try it, but there’s a good chance they’ll never be back – and theirs might be the next bad review!

      There’s a local place here that has consistently awful reviews about their service; the owner does pretty much everything himself: seating, bussing, cooking, refills, etc., and while they have great food, it’s tragic that he doesn’t hire more people to help there. His place is getting torn up on review sites, and “when he gets around to it”, it could be too late. I hate to see that happen, but worse is the stubbornness owners voice over review sites at all. Just because you don’t believe in the power doesn’t mean it’s not there 🙂


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