Café consultant: TripAdvisor: the good, the bad and the ugly

Café consultant: TripAdvisor: the good, the bad and the ugly

Gleaming reviews on TripAdvisor can, of course, be a great tool for your restaurant business. The benefits of the free marketing that the reviews website can provide from its huge following can be hugely rewarding, but as positive as it may be it also harbours a sinister side… poor reviews can have a hugely adverse impact on a restaurant. Gone are the days when most diners will blindly visit a restaurant without doing their research first and risk wasting their hard-earned money on an unsatisfactory meal.

So what can a restaurant do to avoid receiving any negative reviews? Unfortunately the answer is ‘not a great deal’. Now, let’s understand that many negative reviews on TripAdvisor can be rightly justified; anyone can go to a greatly revered restaurant and have a bad experience. Maybe the restaurant was unavoidably short staffed on that particular occasion, so the diner received service that was not on a par with its usual standard. These incidences are a huge shame for the restaurant because the problem may have been out of their hands – but nonetheless, the diner genuinely had a poor experience. How the restaurant then deals with this complaint is paramount and key to resolving the issue to limit the damage to its reputation as much as possible.

Replying to poor reviews received on TripAdvisor is of utmost importance; you should never leave a bad review there to fester. As in the case above, explain the circumstances of that particular incident, which will allow other readers to understand that it was an unforeseen circumstance. Offer the diner some form of compensatory gesture, as this will go a long way to install confidence back in to future readers of the review. And the same goes for not so warranted reviews, the ones that are completely unjustified, the ones that TripAdvisor need be a lot more proactive in working with restaurants to allow them to be unpublished.

Some of the greatest restaurants, revered by Michelin and highly recommended by the likes of Jay Rayner, will still receive poor reviews, because John from Essex was unhappy they didn’t have chips on the menu, or because Doreen from Poole was put out when they were fully booked. These are unfair reviews, sometimes in the case of Doreen from people that have never actually dined at the restaurant.

So, where do some of these problems lay? Problems can stem from the fact that the industry knowledge a contributor must possess before they can review your outlet is zero. Now, I’m not implying that a diner should have a vast knowledge of the restaurant industry to be able to review a restaurant, it’s great that the average diner is now able to share their personal experience, but TripAdvisor does need to exercise a certain degree of discretion to prevent the likes of a great vegan restaurant receiving a poor review because a diner wanted chicken wings.

So, overall, it’s important to note that a restaurant’s response will ultimately help readers understand that the review may be unjust, and right now that may be as much as you can do. TripAdvisor needs to provide restaurants with better flexibility over screening reviews to prevent the outlet’s overall rating from being unnecessarily lower than it truly deserves.