With the rise of the Internet, restaurant reviews and word-of-mouth marketing have undergone a massive shift. Regular, unpaid patrons can now review a family restaurant online or provide immediate, public ratings of an establishment. This has enormous potential to benefit or harm a restaurant’s reputation.
Internet Restaurant Reviews: Their Effect on Customers
Customers rely on restaurant reviews for accurate and legitimate guidance. An evening at a restaurant represents an investment of both time and money, and the experience is usually accompanied by a clear set of expectations.
Internet restaurant reviews lose their meaning and impact when they are affected by:
- Inexperienced reviewers
- Reviewers who are compensated with free drinks or meals
- Reviewers who entered the restaurant with vague or unrealistic expectations.
Nevertheless, some diners welcome restaurant reviews from non-experts, since these may better reflect their own level of experience, and better coincide with their own set of expectations and personal restaurant grading system. A professional food critic and a regular patron may have different ideas about what constitutes a quality dining experience.
Internet Restaurant Reviews: Their Effect on Restaurant Owners
Chefs often use professional restaurant reviews to guide the development of their culinary skills, and restaurant owners use them to make decisions about which direction to steer the business. The proliferation of unprofessional reviewers may lessen or even remove this source of guidance.
Some would say a dining experience should exceed customer expectations and lead diners into new and previously unknown culinary experiences. Only culinary experts, not diners whose expectations are limited to what they already know, can lead this endeavor. Therefore, Internet restaurant reviews are not necessarily poised to improve food quality or advance the culinary arts.
The Role of Internet Restaurant Reviews
Internet restaurant reviews can help a business expand in other ways. By nature, public reviews are typically democratic and fair. Collectively, the reviews of a single restaurant–both positive and negative–represent a fair picture of the dining experience offered by that establishment. This helps to give credit where credit is due and forces a business to acknowledge and correct consistent problems.
Internet restaurant reviews also benefit business owners since, unlike professional critics, ordinary diners and family restaurant online reviewers make up the bulk of a restaurant’s clientele, allowing the restaurant to cater directly to the expectations of its clients.