Do restaurants really want feedback? Or do Yelpers do more harm then good?

There was a recent article on SF Inside Scoop: Do restaurants want feedback?

Please read the article first before you read this.

To address that, yes restaurants do want feedback, but positive feedback online is preferable for them, not for a restaurant to find out that a guest had cold soup and a snooty waiter a week later. It doesn’t help them then and it doesn’t help them address issues or problems.

If you have a problem at a restaurant, while you may want to get something off your chest and it makes you feel better to post a nasty review on Yelp, it’s not helping the restaurant improve. It’s after the fact and it’s generally anonymous, so even if the restaurant can fix the issue, they can’t make it right for YOU, the guest as your long gone, and they can’t generally let YOU, know they have fixed it, because you are just a voice in the internet cloud.

Customers should provide negative feedback back to restaurants directly first so they can make an effort to fix the problem. While according to the post, people have tried and they get various responses, the key here is you should try first before Yelping.  Let management know about the problem (email, phone, snail mail if you don’t want to address it in the here and now.)

You will generally get better satisfaction from this avenue as well as helping the restaurant fix/improve on a problem. If step one doesn’t do anything then feel free to Yelp away, but try addressing it first directly before you complain about it. Your not doing yourself or the restaurant any favors. Instant gratification doesn’t get anyone anything in the long run except for long term trickle down effects.

I see quite a bit of this from foodie bloggers, they write a scathing review about a restaurant, and the restaurant itself didn’t know there was a problem, because the guest didn’t bother to say anything while they were there. Waitstaff and management are NOT mind readers and they are NOT telepathic. If you have a problem, say so. Or say so soon after the fact and at least let the restaurant try to resolve it. If they don’t, fine, but pretty pretty please with smoked gouda and basil pesto on top, please try first before you Yelp.

As a guest you gain nothing directly (aside from momentary mental satisfaction) by publicly posting something negative online. When you post reviews/comments/complaints online you not only hurt the reputation of a restaurant but you also effect the potential employment of cooks, waitstaff and other restaurant employees.

Enough negative reviews and a restaurant can go under. Do you really want this on your conscience, think about that one before saying “not my problem“.

Instead of looking at it with the view that you are voicing your opinion to the world, think instead of the fact that every comment can have snow ball results on a restaurant. Do you feel better about yourself because you have done your small part in making 25 people lose their jobs if the restaurant closes?

This is valid for any business, not just restaurants, with the age of social media, everyone feels free to voice their gripes, opinions and issues with the world. If you have a problem with AT&T, their a big company and they can take it. A small independent business is reliant on customers, it’s hard to rebound from negative things, especially if someone is just having a bad hair day and wants to gripe and especially if its anonymous and after the fact.

Ponder this: in the past word of mouth standards, a nice thing said about a business reached 2-3 other people, a bad one 7 plus, in this day and age multiply by the hundreds and sometimes thousands. A bad comment or review by one person can have 50 times the effect of in the past.

That restaurant that you like so much, but you had one bad experience at, so you write a snarky blog post about it. 2 months later it folds. Are you proud of yourself that you have a small part in it?

“Hey John the waiter, my soup is cold, could I get a hot one please?” How hard was that?


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7 Responses to Do restaurants really want feedback? Or do Yelpers do more harm then good?

  1. What’s a real pity is that any guest can be made to feel either #1 or #2 or worse. Being open to receiving feedback is the basis for simply being hospitable. Too many operators don’t get this.

  2. Ken Burgin says:

    Very interesting summary of the issues. My reservations with raising problems at the time are #1 who I’m with – they know I’m picky and I may be getting ‘the glare’. We all know that one!

    #2 reservation is that I know from experience revenge on my food or drinks is possible – I’ll never know for sure but don’t welcome the likelihood of it happening.

    Very few restaurant websites have an obvious place to provide feedback, or an upfront request in the venue to send comments – even the manager’s mobile # can be given as that’s easiest of all. Yelp or similar services may feel like the only way to express a problem, and that’s a pity!

  3. I can’t agree more Heather. I also haven’t heard anyone else talking about this but the two of us. If guests don’t start challenging bad behaviors in the dining room, nothing will ever change, Failing to do so is nothing more than giving the operator tacit approval for the service they offer.

    Thanks for a great post.

    P.S. It’s not hard to get ginger ale right for those who try to get it right.

  4. Monica says:

    BTW, love your new blog background!

    Now, on to the topic…

    I will tell the server if my food is not cooked the way I ordered it, I no longer waste my calories on food I don’t want to eat. Ditto if I order a drink (usually just a soda) and it is not what I ordered. I understand from a SIL in the biz that ginger ale is really, really hard for restaurants to get right so if it tastes like it’s just seltzer, sending it back isn’t going to help, so I just ask for water at that point. And, yes, I have had servers tell me there is nothing wrong with the ginger ale, it is a fresh syrup pack.

    We were just at a local joint the other night where we were basically ignored even tho we generally pay at least their light bill with our visits in the off season. So, we won’t go back in peak season again, even tho the place was empty and they probably could have used our biz that night. But, no, I did not call the server on her inattentiveness, lack of dining utensils or napkins after she brought our food or ask why she charged me for bleu cheese dressing for my order. (If I don’t charge my guests for real maple syrup, don’t charge me for salad dressing.)

    I noticed a general decline in everything- no coasters for our drinks, dirty tables, wait staff milling around, no happy hour, our server mentioning to another patron that another server had just quit by texting to her that she wouldn’t be back.

    I don’t Yelp about these things, what’s the point? People won’t go back if they are not served correctly or not served what they ordered.

    I will comment on one other experience where my take on it was different from almost every other review and the owners knew they were not providing the correct service because they said, ‘The breakfast is burnt, we were busy doing other stuff, just eat around the burnt bits.’ This business will sink itself if that’s how they treat their patrons. And I have noticed that more people are now writing reviews that state similar things like that about them. They didn’t need my review and my commenting to them would have done nothing as they had already stated loudly and clearly their lack of interest in my experience.

    So, when my guests are looking for a place to go in that area? I’ve never heard of them, sorry, I know nothing about them, how about this place instead? But maybe I’m that passive aggressive diner the posters on the SF blog page were talking about. Then again, maybe I just didn’t want to get into a public argument with someone who plain old didn’t care.

    • Chef Forfeng says:

      Hi Monica, it sounds like the breakfast place and the local place will deserve what they get. I just wish people would try to make an effort before griping to the world about their experience. I am like you in the aspect if I don’t have a good experience I won’t go back, but if its something that bugs me enough to want to say something about it, I contact the owner/manager first in person. If the situations were reversed, would you rather someone told you they had a problem if they stayed at your B&B or have them post it on Tripadvisor?

    • Chef Forfeng says:

      Thank you Jennifer, much appreciated.

  5. Heather:

    Well written. My office will be sharing this article and your blog with my clients; a wealth of independents.



    Jennifer R. Bernard, Partner
    RSJ Associates, LLC
    (603) 654-6005 ext 131

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