Some Yelp Advice

Discussion in 'Professional Chefs' started by thenextlevel, Feb 21, 2015.

  1. thenextlevel

    thenextlevel

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    Hi All.

    So I am new here, and even a bit new to the online world, but not new to this industry. (twenty years)

    I am blessed to say I am going into my 9th year of owning a very busy cafe, and actually didn't even know their were forums for people like us. Lol Really I am pretty new to this....it was one of my servers who told me to search out forums for "new business ideas" to keep the cafe fresh.

    That said, I am grateful that so many people are so willing to take the time to help others....so I thought I would offer my most valuable piece of information which changed the course of my business.

    Negative reviews online, I don't know about any of you, but for me (and others I know up here) they were so hard to deal with. One of my "internet savvy" servers was always trying to get me to respond, but I never knew what to say. Finally one posted on Yelp that was so awful I just asked her to do it all for me and I would pay her every month, that was almost two years ago and the best investment I ever made. EVER!

    She logged into all these sites I am reviewed on and started responding to all of them, even the good ones! She thought it would show our customers that "we care", and "they matter." She could not have been more correct, and the last year of my business has been record breaking as far as sales go. She continually shows me how much my website dominates online, that almost everyone is looking for a place to eat by simply using these review sites or Google. 

    I don't know how it all works, I just know that it does! When a bad review posts online now she is right there to say whatever needs to be said, and when there is a good one, my customers think it is me taking the time to say "thank you." If I had the time I would thank them, I am just to busy with my family and running the store.

    Not sure of any companies who really offer this service, I only know my lady has promised to never leave me or help my competition up here. Lol If you are like me and don't have the time to manage your business online, I will be happy to pass your information on, I really hate to see her get so busy with her internet that she leaves us, but I do know she has taken a few other accounts up here, so it seems inevitable. :(

    Anyway, just wanted to share my experience with online reviews and whether to respond or not respond....it seems to be a question which plagues every restaurateur I know.

    Hope this helps, and I will quietly go back to reading all this wonderful information now. Thanks to everyone for sharing so freely.

    Darbi
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 28, 2015
  2. jim berman

    jim berman

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    Great approach! To have somebody handle that possible headache is a smooth move. When I read the reviews, I usually want to jump through my computer screen and strangle the snot out of the author. Usually, when a dining experience is pleasant, there isn't much said. But, allow a water glass to fall under half-full and... let loose the dogs of restaurant warfare!

    The usual argument for/against social media: the veil of anonymity combined with the empowerment meshes with having an audience makes for a very formidable and lethal combination. When a customer is, say, less than informed, the results can be disastrous. And if you try to comment back, you come off as defensive and unable to take critical input. It's a tough gig! Conversely, if the praise if glowing, somebody will, inevitably, remark that it must be a plant or owner's friend. Gah!

    Way to go with having somebody filtering the sites for you!
     
  3. kuan

    kuan Moderator Staff Member

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    And then there are useless put downs which do not merit a response.

    Whenever I read online reviews I go to the worst ones first and see if any of them are credible.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 28, 2015
  4. brianshaw

    brianshaw

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    So that's not really Darby posting the YELP replies, but someone using Darby's name and posing as Darby the owner? Hmmmm.
     
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2015
  5. jim berman

    jim berman

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    Exactly!
     
  6. capecodchef

    capecodchef

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    That's quite common actually. The plethora of online review sites, as well as their very real impact on our businesses, has spawned an entire new industry classified as 'Reputation Management".

    The OP's advice is spot on. In today's digital world. we MUST manage these reviews and take an active stance by responding to both the bad and also the good. Although we're blessed with generally favorable 4-5 star reviews, we have had an occasional 2 star that I've been able to covert to a higher rating, simply by responding to the poster. Sometimes it's better to do so privately. Never disagree with the person'  opinion. I find it best to offer to make things up on a future visit and impress on them that you didn't get a chance to make things right for them as they kept their disatisfaction to themselves.
     
  7. brianshaw

    brianshaw

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    There's good reason to embrace reputation management. But if word gets out that the responses are "less than honest" the reputation management efforts may be in vain. Having a representative who uses their own name is both reaponsive and honest. Many merchants do that rather than risk being perceived as a liar.
     
  8. capecodchef

    capecodchef

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    Fair point for sure, but I think the chance of the word getting out is slim at best, and a response from the "owner" carries far more weight than from some unknown representative.
     
  9. brianshaw

    brianshaw

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    In response to a very odd-reading 3-star review that cropped up amongst a rich history of 4- and 5-star reviews:

    "Comment from Darbi. of ********
    Business Owner 6/29/2014 Brock I am truly sorry for experience and even more sorry I didn't come out and speak with you… Brock I am truly sorry for experience and even more sorry I didn't come out and speak with you personally when this happened, I remember it well as your server updated me while I was cooking. Unfortunately she was under the impression that it was taken care of at the time of incident, and when I repeatedly asked if she was sure??? She was more than comfortable in believing it was handled while you were here, this will be a lesson for me to take into the future for sure. ..."

    Was this Darbi or the "she" mentioned above.  As a customer or a Yelper I'd feel betrayed to find out that Darbi is not who she portrays herself to be.  If one is dishonest about who they say they are online one can always wonder what else they are dishonest about.  This kind of situation puts reputation management at risk.

    Honesty isn't something one should do only when there is a chance of being caught in a lie.

    Yelpers read this forum too.  :)

    Makes me wonder if "TheNextLevel" is really Darbi or the reputation manager who is looking for another client.

     
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 28, 2015
  10. capecodchef

    capecodchef

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    I must confess to having a similar thought.
     
  11. blueicus

    blueicus

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    If you read the OP the poster mentions that they paid the server to reply to the comments, not pay some sort of independent company, so presumably this server knows the restaurant well enough to know how to reply to the negative post and its details.

    As for nipping these posts in the bud by responding to the positive and negative I agree it's a fantastic tactic.  I used to be the CDC of Fable in Vancouver and if you check out their yelp page one of the owners personally replies to the comments, positive and negative with a nicely worded reply.  If the post is BS vitriol she will defend the establishment, but not in a hostile manner.  Usually manages to get a star bump due to that.
     
  12. kuan

    kuan Moderator Staff Member

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    I don't think anything's wrong with having someone post on behalf of the owner right?
     
  13. cheflayne

    cheflayne

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    Not in my opinion. Does the President write his own speeches? If it were my establishment though I probably wouldn't have them respond as me but we.
     
  14. thenextlevel

    thenextlevel

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    Wow, I really didn't expect to see so many responses, or that it would become controversial in anyway. By having someone I trust implicitly manage my reviews (on my behalf) was really for time-management reasons and she is better with words. Certainly not intended to deceive my customers at all, I read every single review and internalize it....and I have seen and read every response. My customers absolutely mean the world to me, but I am all over that store working any and all areas. Plus I have two young children and a husband at home that I don't see nearly as much as I would like to.

    We probably are not the most traditional setup, my employees and I are close, I work with them daily and I can trust each one of them. This is a small town which receives a lot of visitors (and we get many locals as well), the pace we have to maintain is often ridiculous, so we really act more life a family helping each other through the day. We have many gatherings and functions outside the home, I am honestly so grateful for all of it.

    So no, this isn't my "employee" writing this, but we laughed about it all day yesterday when I told her what I did. Her thought was the same as some of you, that it may cross their minds it is her writing this instead of me. (guess that's what I get for giving it all to her to manage, lol)

    The truth is I wanted to help other restaurant owners know something that has helped my business tremendously, and if it also helped my good friend (and employee) get more work, that is a bonus. She deserves all her dreams to come true, and business people deserve to know how to handle these reviews which can and have determined a restaurants fate. That's all this was, and I hope that it is received that way.
     
  15. cheflayne

    cheflayne

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    From Darbi's website (disclaimer from cheflayne: not Yelp as is being bandied about)
    Goodatcha!
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 28, 2015
  16. brianshaw

    brianshaw

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    Exactly.  People act on behalf of other all the time; it is nothing new.  As Darbi said, few have the time to do everything for themselves.

    "We" clearly denotes a clear corporate relationship and can never be misleading, whereas someone else saying "I'm (insert name here) and I ..." is misleading.  The disclaimer is fine, and probably one step beyond what most people who use this technique do.

    BTW, there are two companies in NYC that tends to get very bipolar reviews that have employed reputation managers (who use their own name and the corporate affiliation) that not only monitor Yelp but monitor various forums and act on behalf of their company.  They have individual identities and are very effective in addressing both compliments and criticisms.  What seems to make them most effective is that they are good writers, have  level heads, know how to interact with their company to resolve issues, and have spotless reputations for honesty.

    But the intent of the OP is clear... reputation management is important and posting merchant replies to Yelp can be a relationship-building activity.  Good luck, folks.
     
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2015
  17. jim berman

    jim berman

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    Absolutely agree! Reputation management is but one more hat for operators to wear. Social media lends a very public voice to the otherwise unheard. Managing that voice and interacting with it is a role that must be taken seriously. A lot of people turn to the feedback on OpenTable, Yelp!, Trip Advisor, etc.
     
  18. westbigballin

    westbigballin

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    I hate Yelp, even though I use it a lot to give me a general idea of a restaurant.

    Ever since I've started working at my current restaurant, I've seen us rise to #3 on Yelp's top 5 in the city (not anymore though =( ) and I check our yelp page every few days for new reviews. I read a review for Valentine's Day that really pissed me off because it could not be further from the truth (because I worked those days). Another low star review popped up this weekend too and knowing the guys who worked that day, I also think it's BS. Throw in the fact that the authors of both of those two reviewers only have one review, and you have a major reason why Yelp sucks.

    I'm constantly restraining myself from private messaging the reviewers to call them out on their BS experiences, like saying her menu item X was terrible when it wasn't offered at the time that she ate at because we were on a limited menu that did not include menu item X due to a sporting event across the street.

    /end rant
     
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2015
  19. chefbuba

    chefbuba

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    I have a problem with yelp also, I had made some reviews of restaurants where I now live two years Before I moved here, I also made a review of one place after I moved here, all under an alias but with my correct city. All the reviews were worthy of what I posted, none very good. I did however point out what was good.

    The owner of the last place I reviewed figured out who I was, pissed and moaned to yelp that I was one of his direct competitors and that I was badmouthing all the local competition, which was untrue. Yelp wiped clean all of my reviews, and changed the name on my account to my first name and first initial of my last name, and with a nearby city that I had a mailing address in before I moved here.

    As far as my business reviews, they are all four star except for the one star some idiot gave me because I was closed when he came by.
     
  20. foodpump

    foodpump

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    I dunno about all of this...

    Like the OP I'm in my 8th year of my current biz (chocolates & pastries) and I've had my experiences with Yelp

    First and foremost, the one question I always ask myself when anyone approaches me at work is:"How do they make their money?"

    Yelp is a business, and all businesses need to make money.  Yelp makes theirs with advertising.

    Now, I don't know if every city has it's own "Yelp", if they are franchises, or if they are managed by one head office.

    I do know that in my case--and this was back in 2009--that Yelp Vancouver would:

    a)Delete any positive review submitted within 12 hrs that was not written by a "known Yelp reviewer". Logic for this was that this could be written by an employee, or shill.  Negative reviews stayed, however. I had several enthusiastic customers write good reviews abut my place only to have them taken down within 12 hrs.

    b)Submissions were never reviewed by any editor or moderator.  Yelp bragged about some kind of a "logorythm" or program, but that fact is no human read the reviews before they were posted.

    In my case, Yelp seemed to take an active interest in my business, constantly "love bombing" me with offers and suggestions on how to um..."better run my business".  And during this time a yelp-er had posted a whopping 4 page review on my place with the most negative views on everything about my business.  Except the food and the service.  The yelp-er never ate there, never bought anything, and only spent 10 minutes in my place.

    After this Yelp kept on approaching me to advertise with them, and they still do to this very day.

    I haven't looked at their site, or any other public review sites for well over 5 years now.  What I have done in the last 5 years is to steadily increase my wholesale accounts to the point now where I'm doing well over 80% of my gross income with wholesale.

    So I dunno, maybe Yelp has changed it's polices, or maybe it's only Yelp Vancouver that has the policies I described.  I certainly hope they have changed.

    But to the original poster I have a caveat for you:

    If you feel Yelp has helped you grow your business, they will be in touch with you, and they will be wanting some kind of compensation for your success.  Are you prepared for this?