Fake Reviews Are a Huge Problem, Not Just for Restaurant Owners

 In Restaurant Industry, Reviews

Fake reviews are a big problem for restaurants. They’re like mice in the insulation, chewing little holes in your marketing plan that can become a big deal over time.

The Problem with Fake Reviews

Their calling cards can include:

  • Commenters with obviously made-up names
  • Extremely poor ratings with no comments
  • Comments with no context
  • Bizarre grammar
  • Comments with irrelevant content
  • Mention of an item or service you don’t even offer

If “Sally Spamalot” had a bad experience with your non-existent fish tacos, you can be pretty sure you’ve been hit with a fake review.

“Annoying” is only the first of a fake review’s charming characteristics. Even if it’s obvious that reviews are fake, they still affect your overall average rating and can drive it down. For owners, they are insulting to the serious work you put into your business, and a pain to manage.

For your business, the diagnosis can be more serious. If word-of-mouth is still the most powerful form of advertising, it needs to stay positive and ring true if it’s going to work for you. It’s crucial that your online reviews are dependable and build your reputation. Fake reviews are created to do damage.

What’s the deal with fake reviews, and how can you stay on top of them?

Fake reviews run rampant across businesses.

In a user survey conducted by Google, fake reviews were the number one problem Google My Business users asked Google to fix, ASAP. They were irritated by the number of fake reviews hitting their overall ratings and expressed the desire for more control over what goes up on their page. Overwhelmingly, users saw review fraud as a serious problem which required a zero tolerance response. All kinds of businesses, and not just restaurants, are affected by fake reviews.

How has this become such a problem?

And why are platforms like Google not doing more to fix it?

Think about it. It makes platforms look slow on the uptake when their online reviews don’t get better vetting. When “googling” a restaurant or other business is where consumers go for first impressions, it’s critical to give owners control over their listings. On the other hand, if restaurant owners had the power to control reviews too much, the temptation to do so could outweigh transparency and honesty—even undermine the whole online review enterprise altogether.

What’s the answer?

At Original Review, we saw this problem, too. So we devised a solution, balancing 100% authenticity with optimum owner and manager control. OR review sites are populated only via the OR review platform. So while you may still get negative customer reviews from time to time, you can be sure they’re real, and leverage them for improvement and better customer service. Only Original Review creates a direct, secure, real-time channel from customer feedback to review site, ensuring only authentic reviews land on your page.

Review fraud is worse for new restaurants.

Don’t underestimate the power of fake reviews, especially if you’re just starting out. Your first few years in business are a crucial time to build your reputation and credibility, and you can’t get those years back. They’re foundational for getting a good start, as hundreds or thousands of prospects a year search you out to judge whether a meal or a drink will be worth their time and money.

Many people will only bother to leave a review if they are unhappy. So from the get-go, you’ve got to solicit reviews from happy customers and make it easy to do, stacking the odds in your favor. This is already hard work. So you roll up your sleeves to gain positive reviews, raise your rating, and attract business. This is just where review fraud can do the most damage, poking holes in the bucket, so to speak. They undermine these critical first stages of your marketing and branding efforts—efforts that are already tedious and hard-won—by stacking unfair weight on the other side of the balance.

Handle fake reviews like a boss.

Running a restaurant is an exciting yet vulnerable enterprise when you’re investing your money, your sweat equity, your heart, and soul. Just like you would take measures to protect yourself against other kinds of fraud, take control of review fraud. Here’s how:

  • Carefully monitor reviews from the time you open and stay hypervigilant your first year of business. Too many fake reviews and your reputation is damaged. You can even be fined by the hosting site.
  • Always keep a staff person assigned to watch online reviews. This can be yourself or someone you trust. Don’t ignore funny business, no matter how established you are, or potential patrons may start ignoring you.
  • Report right away. When you find reviews that seem fake (either too bad or too good to be true), report posting guideline violations to the hosting site (Google, Yelp, TripAdvisor, etc.).
  • If the hosting site won’t remove them, consider posting tastefully and humorously about your woes, and get advice from people who might be in your shoes. They may know a workaround that you don’t.
  • Encourage real, positive reviews. Real reviews add authenticity to your online reputation, and great reviews will boost your ratings. Encouraging customer transparency is also a great customer service strategy.
  • Populate your own secure review site. You may still need to monitor reviews showing up on other sites, but with OR you’ll be getting hundreds or thousands of 100% real reviews a year, reviews you can track in real time, stacked up against a few scattered ratings and comments elsewhere.

Fake reviews can damage trust, decrease search engine traffic, and hurt business. That’s why Original Review populates your own private review page, with 100% authentic customer reviews. We want you to succeed. Sign up for your free demo today.

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