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October 19, 2007

Comments

meloukhia

Well said. I think that the Internet is a dangerous place because of the anonymity issue, and I was in fact speaking with a restaurant owning friend only the other day about how frustrating anonymous slams are because they cannot be addressed or corrected. Seems like everybody can be a food reviewer these days, but they missed the cardinal lesson about making repeat visits and speaking directly with the staff about concerns.

I'd say that with one notable exception, every time I have gone to the owners of any business with any issue, it has been quickly and fairly resolved with happiness on all sides. It's amazing how effective open communication is.

I'm sorry that someone gave you a mean review. I've often wished that these foodie sites had a better way for people to contact each other, and a rating system for reviewers, to weed out the spiteful whiners from the people who do solid, useful, productive reviews. Hopefully the quality of your establishment will show from the great press and great word of mouth and people will ignore the occasional crankypants.

Jay

Amen, brother. "Don't do something, just complain!"

sam

I am going to a Commonwealth Club interview to listen to the founders of Yelp defend themselves tomorrow. Should be interesting - I'll try and report back.

Btw - i am not sure it is always clear how to contact the owner of a restaurant. The manager - yes - but the owner - how do you go about doing that? In general? I guess just ask the manager for details of who the owner is?

haddock

Sam- That's a good question. I was thinking from a small-town and/or chef-owned point of view.

Two ways I can think of- Every restaurant is required to post their licenses in public view (liquor, sales tax, health dept, etc). The owners name, and address will be found there.

Another way is to call and ask for the owner, explaining you've had a disappointing experience and would like to speak to him/her before telling friends or an on-line community about it.

anon

What makes you think you can tell people who they can talk to and what they can say? Anyone who reads (or writes) a YELP review knows that each reviewer is reporting on a personal experience which may not be typical. If one person feels badly treated, why shouldn't that be taken as evidence in evaluating the establishment -- it's exactly one data point. Just because you don't want to hear about it, you can't dictate whether people should have the right to describe their experiences. Deal with it.

haddock

How odd you should post an anonymous comment! I don't feel that I can or can't tell people what to do or say. I DO feel I should be able to respond to a complaint in a public forum in a public way, particularly if a person posts an experience I've never heard about.

The post is about taking responsibility for your words, something you would seem to know little about, since you've posted anonymously. I HAVE dealt with it, and dealt with it every day that I try to make customers happy.

BTW, what makes you think I'm talking about YELP?

haddock

Also, anon, the point is I DO WANT TO HEAR ABOUT IT. I want to hear about it when I can do something about it. I don't want to hear it for the first time on the internet.

I'm not suggesting that people shouldn't share experiences. They should. Responsibly and appropriately. A comment like, "My food could have been warmer." doesn't need the owner's attention before posting. A comment like, "The barely edible, lukewarm plate of slop that was presented to me, didn't match the description of any of the dishes on the menu." does.

BTW, these are both made up quotes.

meloukhia

Darn, because I am a fan of lukewarm slop.

The convenient thing about people who post anonymously on your website is that you can grab their IP addresses, which can be useful with noxious anonymous commenters. (Like the one who recently physically threatened me, for example.)

I always find it interesting that people who get all riled up about stuff like this always post anonymously...

Dr. Biggles

My mother was kind enough to instill in me, "Complain to someone who can do something about it." Complaining to a forum where there is no dialog between anyone in power is like pissing in to the wind. Well, okay not exactly but both are attempted by the weak minded.

This is why I walked away from CH.

Biggles

Amanda

I think having a forum for people to express their experience at a restaurant is a great thing. Most of the people reading those reviews know that it was a personal experience. Also if there is one bad review thrown up with 20 good ones. Then the bad review gets pushed to the bottom.
I like review sites. It gives me an idea of an area. It would not deter me from going to a cafe with a bad review. But it would get me excited about one with a good review.
Also having an outlet for diners to talk is good, because you obviously know to listen. Things that you might not be seeing are being shown through others eyes.
And it's cowardly to type mean things and not allow a rebutle.

Katherine

Amanda, I don't think the point is that online reviews are bad. The point is, the owner of said restaurant had never even heard of a complaint like this. Obviously, the distressed customer hadn't even taken the time to talk to anyone about their negative experience before going online to rant about it.

I personally post online reviews, even on Yelp, but I've never posted anything negative that I haven't talked to the waitstaff about. My experience has been that I'm a rarity in that case, and many people are altogether too quick to go online where there's no potential confrontation to deal with. The most cynical view is that they have a bone to pick with the owner/manager and the experience didn't happen at all.. but that's more of a rare occurrence.

Please, read and post reviews, but talk about negative (and positive!) comments with the restaurant first. Usually they're more than happy to fix the problem, or accept your praise :)

Marie

I'll agree with you that blogs/review sites should NOT be used as a way of getting a message across to restaurant management. If someone is posting a rant simply in order to get your attention, or a freebie, or whatever from you, then they're cowards, and wankers, and if they are posting on a public review site, they ought to be reported to site management. Same thing goes for irate ex-employees, jilted girlfriends or anyone else who is posting with an intent that's not to share their opinion with others, but to advance some other agenda.

However, I'll disagree strongly that people don't have a right to post their opinions for other people to see. These sites are simply a larger version of the water cooler of yesteryear. Just like I didn't believe everything that big blowhard from Accounting said, I don't believe everything some random wacko on Yelp or Chowhound or any of those sites says. But there are lots of people who aren't random wackos, and I want to hear what they have to say about their experience at your restaurant. If I see a trend with many people on many sites chiming in with similar experiences, well, it's a red flag to me. And if you follow any of those sites regularly, you get to see who is a regular and whose opinion you trust, and who is a driveby nutjob.

But more importantly (with the rational, normal customers), it's not THEIR job to be sure you have a chance to address their discontent with their experience at your restaurant, it's YOURS. If you want to be sure every customer who leaves your place is either happy or you know why they aren't happy, then YOU need to find a way to get their feedback. It's obnoxious of you to make them feel they don't have the right to share it with their friends/fellow site posters just because they haven't run it by you first. And it's lazy of you to expect everyone to come to you. I'm in marketing/PR and I know how it goes- if I want honest feedback, I have to go out and get it. The only people who will come to me are the people who are deliriously happy or the ones who are rabidly upset. The other 80% of the people aren't going to go out of their way, but they will tell their friends about my product when asked. Many people are shy, or uncomfortable, or don't know you care enough to take them seriously. But I'd imagine even those people would have a hard time not saying something if you personally stopped by their table before they left to sincerely ask how everything was. Or if you gave them a survey card (with some sort of incentive to fill it out). Take a bit more responsibility here before you bitch these people out. And if you DO already do all of that and people still don't give you honest feedback but then bitch about your place online, then, fine, they're wankers :-)

It seems that all restaurant owners wants the negative opinions to be stifled, but nobody ever seems to have a problem with the positive opinions that drive business to them. Sorry, but the internet doesn't work that way. If you're doing your job right, for every one whiner, there'll be 5 others who are saying how great you are. In the long run, these sites do the small restaurant owner a lot more good than harm.

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