The Lord Helps Those That Yelp Themselves

Let’s end the week with a Foodie Friday post about reviews.  There are lots of studies that will tell you just how important “social proof” is as consumers are checking out a prospective buy.  People want to take comfort in knowing that they are making a choice that others have made and felt good about.  Over 70% of Americans say they look at product reviews before making a purchase, and I suspect the number is no different for restaurants.  Because of that, it’s incumbent on every business to check out their reviews.  For restaurants, that means Yelp.

We went out for dinner the other night and I decided to post a review of the place.  We’ve been to this place a number of times over the years and love it, so I thought a positive review would be a nice thing for me to give in addition to my patronage.  Most of the reviews of the place are quite positive.  There were, however, a few one-star reviews (roughly 10% of the total) and they are what bring up the business point today.

You can’t let bad reviews hang around like an old plate of food.  They must be dealt with or eventually the smell will overpower everything else.  Bad reviews are also a great source of research.  In this case, there were complaints about undercooked rice on a few nights.  Who was cooking that night?  A couple mention slow service – was someone absent?  Sometimes the reviews are unfair – complementing the food and service and giving the place one star because you think the neighborhood is “sketchy” isn’t accurate.

So what do you do?  Read every review carefully – you can learn from the good ones and learn more from the bad.  If it’s bad, maybe you want to figure out if this is a legitimate complaint or just a troll (check out the reviewer’s other posts).  You’re going to respond either way.  Apologize, lay out the facts as best you can gather them, and promise to do better if given another chance.  Remember that most of the people reading reviews have no opinion of you (or the reviewer).

A recent Washington Post article mentions that most restaurants don’t hear directly from customers while they are having an issue.  Instead, 80% go home and write something.  Your reputation is one of any business’ most valuable assets.  You need to monitor it and, to the extent possible, control it.  Fair or unfair, that’s reality!

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