What Restaurant Owners Can Do About Their Online Reviews.
There’s been a ground swell of restaurant owners taking it to Yelp and other review sites on the web. It started late last year when a California restaurant, Botte Bistro, fed up with what it called unfair listing and review policies at Yelp, struck back, encouraging patrons to send their Yelp ratings into the tank and even provided incentives for customers to submit one star reviews. Customers responded with zeal, submitting thousands of one star reviews in just a few weeks. Reviews ranged from absurd to funny. Yelp has since removed most, if not all the fake reviews.
Yelp claimed there was no pay to play scheme and said there reviews where honest and fair and represented real world opinions and were not being manipulated.
There’s really nothing new here. Restaurant owners have been complaining about review sites since they started popping up on the internet and what they perceived as unfair, biased reviews. And they may have a point. Should a small handful of reviewers have the power to tank your business, all the work and money you have put into it?
Of course, word of mouth has always been part of being in the restaurant business. But what’s at issue here is the velocity and persistence of negative reviews and honestly, when given a public forum some people are just plainly nasty and vindictive. Trolling is nothing new on the internet but there are few forums that it can have such a huge impact.
So What to Do About Negative Reviews . . .
Certainly, you could try to take on Yelp and other review sites but you could in the end doing way more harm than good. While the Botte Bistro story is a great story that grabbed lot’s of media attention it’s yesterdays news. So here is some practical and real world solutions that can help you master your online reviews.
1. Keep Calm & Don’t Be Defensive. This is hard. When anyone reads a critical review it’s hard not to want to respond, you’ll feel that tightening in your stomach and your blood pressure rising. Just breath and try to keep things in perspective by looking at the bigger picture. Remember for perspective customers review sites are only part of the equation and rarely does anyone lose business over a few bad reviews with reviewers that have an ax to grind. On the other hand, if you feel the criticism has merit, respond but above all, be professional. Nobody ever wins in a flaming war on the internet.
2. Monitor Your Online Presence. One of the best things you can do to protect your online reputation is to make sure you monitor the web for mentions, stories, and reviews about your business. There are a number of services out there that can help you do this. A good place to start is Google Alerts. It’s easy to setup and free. You can check out our quick tutorial about Google Alerts to get you started. Additionally, there are many paid services (including our own) to help you monitor your online reputation on social media and review sites.
3. Take the Offensive. Rather than spending a huge amount of time trying to bring down the system, use it to further your goals. Reviews from review sites , especially, Google+ Local can have a significant effect on local search results. Provide links to your Google + Local listing, Yelp, and other review sites from your website, email marketing, and inside your shop in an effort to encourage patrons to review your business. *Note: Do not try to manipulate or game positive reviews. You could find yourself and your business banished forever from Google, Yelp, or other credible review sites, not to mention in legal trouble for what is called “astroturfing.” The New York Attorney General recently filed suit against a yogurt shop paying for fake reviews.