With a recent poll showing that 58% of people were likely to avoid a restaurant with a bad review on the internet, it's time for restaurateurs to take notice, says David Norris, chief operating officer of Livebookings.
In the internet age it's very easy for any customer to write and disseminate an opinion. In fact, we're all critics now - especially when it comes to food.
We've been empowered to vent our opinions about all manner of services - whether it's the hotel we just stayed in on a business trip or the restaurant meal we choose to treat ourselves to on a Friday night.
Livebookings has just completed a survey looking at the importance diners place on internet reviews and the results make for interesting reading. A third of those polled said that online reviews have an influence on their choice of restaurant, which was noticeably higher than restaurant critics, who only received 13% - showing that we're all critics now.
The internet's influence can no longer be underestimated by restaurateurs, as 58% of diners said that seeing a bad review of a restaurant online would mean they were likely to avoid it and more than one in 10 (12%) said they'd definitely look for somewhere else.
If you're researching a hotel and amongst 50 positive reviews are two or three negative ones, most of us will recognise that the majority of customers have had a great experience. If I only see good reviews, I am less likely to trust the source. I am looking for authenticity. Authenticity requires varied opinion. The majority of diners seeking out customer reviews online think this way - they are looking for authenticity, not perfection.
The big challenge for restaurant owners and staff is to decide what they do with the feedback that they receive - whether from direct customer comments and complaints, online customer reviews, or even face-to-face interactions with diners. Many would argue that it's up to them to review, respond and then, perhaps, improve.
The best way to improve your business is to listen to your customers. Where hotels for years have been actively requesting feedback from guests almost immediately after their stay, restaurants have not had a simple system that furnishes them with the same vital customer opinions and views - from customers that have actually dined in their restaurant.
Ultimately, nobody can control what's written on the internet, so restaurateurs need to look to what they can control - the quality of the food they serve, the service they provide and the atmosphere they create.
A bad review? Bad reviews don't exist. All reviews are good, they give you a opportunity to become the best that you can be. Listen.