If a restaurant owner is not paranoid about online reviews, the chances are he doesn’t know they exist. The world is getting bombarded by food shows and regular critic talk on the subject. Food language has changed.
When I was younger texture was a touch exercise you did at school “Sandpaper? Next one is fur, right?” Now it means something we need to check out when trying food. I like simple words like crunchy, soft, chewy, tender and things like that. “The mouth feel on this paltry poultry was not adequate nor did the citrus cut through the heavy dairy”. That is pretentious tosh for “the chicken Kiev sucked”.
There are different motivations for review writers, mostly good, but…
Did you know you can get someone to “manage” certain online review sites for you? For a nominal fee of over five hundred pound per month they will take the responsibility off your hands. They will guarantee you 6 positive reviews each month. They may also help you get rid of the low scoring reviews you could get too. So this service is based over the other side of the world and you will probably get those 6 five star reviews whether you are open or on a months holiday.
Suppose someone’s satnav gets them lost on the way. What if they didn’t read the website to get the simple directions nor to find out which days you are open? They also didn’t check that you had a new menu out. Is it fair to think that all of this is reasonable information to give a guest? Would you be surprised to get a bad review because of any of that?
A new restaurant opens in town. Instant flurry of really good reviews and the same people knocking the competition. The reviewers are the owners and they get busted online. Next a fresh batch of reviews to defend the place. This time it’s friends, family and employees. That’s a true story and the venue closed less than 6 months later.
How do restaurateurs feel about this? Some argue that you need to respond in a courteous manner. Fair advice, if the review is true. A simple apology means you have seen there is a problem and doing something about it. Now if the review is fake or malicious, then the writer has a responsibility for what abuse may come back their way. Some review sites won’t pull comments, whether they are made up. If you think personal injury claims and PPI cases are getting out of hand then wait for the libel suits to start piling up.
Ross Boardman is author of “101 Restaurant Secrets” and an award winning restaurateur.