Restaurant Review Site Manipulates Ratings

Restaurant review site accused of accelerating negative reviews if restaurants don’t pay up

With many customers taking to the web to talk about their dining experience, restaurants are finding it hard to escape an online reputation these days.

Diners often use restaurant review sites to share pictures and stories or to complain about a bad experience. But these sites often allow anonymous commenters, which makes it almost impossible to verify a false review. This allows for a larger base of ratings, but those high numbers aren’t always a reflection of quality.

One Manhattan steak restaurant is suing popular restaurant review site Yelp to force them into revealing the identity of an anonymous commenter. The commenter posed as an employee of the restaurant and stated that the staff is encouraged to spit in customers’ food.

This isn’t the only issue eatery owners are having with the restaurant review site.

Yelp is also under fire for questionable advertising practices. San Francisco bistro owner Davide Cerretini claims that after he stopped advertising with Yelp, more and more negative results showed up on his page. It’s not illegal to manipulate ratings, though Yelp denies ever doing so. But if owners find out their good reviews are held hostage if restaurants don’t advertise through Yelp, they may move on to other restaurant review sites.

Some web companies are making the most of customer feedback. Industry leader Amazon is one such site. They employ reputation management tools to help businesses tap into user-generated content.

Yelp would do well to redesign its own strategies so owners and operators can improve business-to-customer relations. With how many restaurant owners are becoming frustrated over anonymous scams and the way negative reviews seem to be accelerated without an advertising package, maybe the site should think about its own reputation as well.

From Urbanspoon to TripAdvisor, there’s no scarcity of restaurant review sites. If those like Yelp refuse to address consumer and restaurant owner concerns, alternatives are just a click away.

Information courtesy of Restaurant Hospitality

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