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Internet reviews can affect restaurants

22 | 11 | 12

The internet has long been part of the fabric of daily life, especially with smartphones and Wi-Fi making it easy for people to tweet, blog and review whatever they like when out and about.

In some ways this could be a development for restaurateurs to embrace - rather than relying on the opinions of pompous, over-fed, London-centric food critics, businesses can help spread the good word about their menu through word of mouth.

However, just as the medium presents leisure companies with opportunities to connect with their customers, it also brings new challenges to the business of running a restaurant.

While many people may wish to concentrate on their kitchen equipment at the expense of messing around on social media, there are some operators appear to spend too much time worrying about their reviews.

Online reputation management consultancy GotJuice recently warned that being caught out writing up your own establishment in glowing terms can put companies in a difficult position, potentially leading to a loss in revenue and a real dent in their reputation.

Reviews and referrals count for an average of 70 per cent of a company's new business, the firm told Caterer and Hotelkeeper.

With the stakes so high, there is a temptation for businesses to post fake reviews on sites like TripAdvisor and Yelp in a bid to boost their reputation and encourage people to come to their establishment.

Mark Hall, managing director at GotJuice, said that this has been easy to do in the past but warned that the practice is now being clamped down on by the websites in question.

"With advancements in technology, review platforms have started to launch new initiatives to rid their sites of fake reviews and name the guilty in the process," he revealed.

"Any business that publishes fake reviews or pays for reviews will have their profile[s] branded with a stamp that informs the consumer that they can't be trusted," added Mr Hall.

Given the importance of reputation in the restaurant trade, such an occurrence would be more than a mild embarrassment, potentially making it difficult for companies to attract new customers and having a serious impact on their profitability.

It can be difficult, however, for restaurant workers to hide their displeasure when they come across a negative review.

Recently, blogger James Isherwood found himself on the receiving end of a barrage of abuse from Claude Bosi of Hibiscus after daring to critique the starter dished up by the acclaimed chef.

This represents the other problem facing businesses on social media - while engaging with customers is a positive move that can help build up a brand and form lasting connections, it is important to remain professional while doing so.

Platforms such as TripAdvisor have helped to democratise the world of food critics and remove some of the snobbery from high-end dining, and this is to be welcomed.

However, restaurants should be aware of the prospective risks of utilising the internet to spread the word, and treat their customers as well online as they do in the flesh, if they want to avoid web embarrassment.ADNFCR-16001031-ID-801492959-ADNFCR

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