By: An anonymous local restaurant owner
I recently had a customer who left me a very negative review on Yelp.com. His review was one star. It basically said that one entree was good, but insultingly overpriced at $14, and that the other had no flavor at all. He also went on to mention that we "had a dog hanging out in the kitchen".
I responded by doing what small business owners all over the US have to do every day. I put my tail between my legs, I took a deep breath, apologized and let him be right. People are entitled to their opinion, and ultimately I want guests to be happy, but that doesn't make them right--or at least not completely right.
My initial response was to thank him for his business and for taking the time to review us. I assured him that such quality was not the norm and asked for the opportunity to make it up to him, and requested that we engage in some dialogue in order to help me improve. His response came promptly. He seemed impressed that I cared enough to respond and said he would definitely be back again to give us a second chance. He even politely declined my invitation to dine complimentary at his next visit, claiming that he believed reviews should be purely objective.
I took a few moments to decide whether to just let it be, or to continue the dialogue. Being me, I ultimately did what I do. For better or worse, I spoke the truth.
Trying not to be argumentative by claiming that $14 is fairly inexpensive for the entree he chose in our market, I asked him to consider that the dish was made with high-quality ingredients, such as mushrooms than can be more expensive than meat. I apologized that he was dissatisfied with his second dish, and then took a moment to explain the process I employ in order to ensure quality and flavor. And on the dog thing, I was in the kitchen when my nearly perfectly behaved Labrador momentarily broke the rules by following the scents of his daddy and food from the outdoor patio, where everyone including him knows he belongs, across the restaurant and into the kitchen. As soon as I noticed him, I scolded him and walked him back out. Everyone in the restaurant saw the whole thing, including, I assume, this guest.
So, why did he feel the need to Yelp it; to take it out of context and to exaggerate it, making it seem as though it were policy to have stray animals roaming through our kitchen with disregard for sanitation? And since the pasta was good, and he apparently had no issues with the service, and he actually mentioned that the patio was pretty cool, a 1-star review seems pretty low. And that hurts my business.
Yelp absolutely needs to be regulated, because right now they are making billions by letting anyone say anything about any one of America's struggling small businesses. The filtering system results in more of the high scoring reviews being filtered (deleted) than low scoring ones. Most importantly, only your initial review of a particular restaurant counts toward their average star rating. So even if you came back, loved it, and then revised your review, your initial review would still be a detriment to my business. And did you know there is an entire industry of people getting paid to write fake reviews that can hurt a local business?
So people always Yelp with care, and always remember that there's a person behind your comments; a person who may have spent his entire life savings, as well as countless stressful, frustrating hours slaving away in order to serve you what he hopes will make you happy.