The power of online reviews demonstrates how user generated content is a force to be reckoned with. Restaurants and other hospitality establishments, in an increasingly competitive climate, are finding their business challenged by negative online opinion. Published reviews from other diners carry enough influence to sway potential clientele against an establishment. Moreover, competitors and trolls can hide behind the anonymity and accessibility offered by online review sites.
Urbanspoon, Yelp! and Tripadvisor are some popular online and mobile review sites which rank restaurants based on popular opinion. The presence of negative reviews on these sites can create lasting damage to a targeted business. Diners no longer solely inform close friends about where they eat and what they thought. Due to these online platforms, the whole world can find out.
A review of popular Melbourne Vietnamese Restaurant Hanoi Hannah. Photo from the Hanoi Hannah Facebook page.
There is avid readership for consumer-generated content, defined by Edelman as information as produced by consumers, without the brand’s involvement. The PRIA admits that word of mouth is now considered a legitimate source of information. What brands release is shafted behind what other consumers have to say.
Dissatisfied online reviewers are a challenging group. Anonymity provides trolls and competitors as much opportunity as legitimate patrons to vent their spleens. Contact or dialogue between the business and their online slanderers is often out of the question. Published opinion can be as vague, unfounded or false as the imagination allows. A thumbs down or bad review is almost always believable and legitimate, in the eyes of a hungry customer perusing the Internet for recommendations or red flags.
Many argue that more needs to be done by these online opinion sites to monitor how competitors are using negative reviews to anonymously damage their opponents. Several Melbourne restaurateurs have taken steps to engage with, respond to or mock criticism with some success. Many agree that the best way to combat a negative online presence is to provide the means for unhappy clientele to have their issues handled at the time and on site. It may only take a minute to spoil your dinner or dining experience. It’s just as fast for anyone to post a damaging review online for the world to see.