There are dozens of online resources and social networking sites based on user-generated reviews. Yelp is one such site. It is an online urban city guide, assisting users in finding places to eat, drink, shop, play, and much more. Services such as Yelp grant users the ability to search by location or cuisine, providing detailed knowledge of a business before they venture into a store to shop the aisle, or before they reserve a seat at a local bistro.
There are intricate systems of rating to determine the quality of service, the noise level, decor, prices, coupons, accessibility, menu, taste, and many other categories. Many of these elements can be controlled within the walls of your restaurant, if the menu is lacking, you have the power to change the recipes, if the decor is poor, you could hang new wallpaper. But, you cannot as easily control or change the virtual appearance and reputation of your restaurant. You can review and approve each bottle of wine that enters the restaurants inventory room, but, how can you review and approve the hundreds of public reviews before they are posted online, spoken on the radio, or published in print?
It only takes one negative review to taint your online reputation. One over-cooked steak, a weak drink, a rainy day that closes your patio seating section. One unsatisfied customer or disgruntled employee. Even a well-meaning patron, attempting to give constructive criticism, could ruin your restaurants onlinereputation.
A hiccup in your online reputation, such as a negative review on social networking sites like Yelp, can decrease the number of patrons coming through your doors, determine the type and amount of food they order, these sales can affect the type of staff you have the ability to employ, and eventually corrupt your business so deeply that you may be forced to close your doors and lose your dream.
That may sound extreme; it may sound like a mountain being made from a mole hill, the enormous loss of a business from online reviews and ratings. Unfortunately, this scenario is not uncommon and does not unfold slowly.
You cannot ignore negative reviews; you cannot expect your customers to ignore negative reviews. You must confront them, and confronting negative reviews takes time and patience. It is important to respond to all reviews, negative and positive. Build an open and respectful online dialog between your business and the public.