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Ethical Restaurant Review Practices for Genuine Feedback | Superorder

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March 28, 2024

Review Practices: Encouraging Genuine Feedback Without Manipulation

Customer reviews are crucial to the success of any restaurant business. In this industry, word travels fast. Hungry diners often read online reviews before trying out a new establishment, and those unfortunate enough to have negative experiences will usually share them with others. Getting positive reviews is important when building a great reputation and boosting your bottom line.

But are you following a code of ethics in how you obtain reviews?

There are many ways to encourage customers to provide feedback and leave reviews. Unfortunately, efforts by some restaurant owners often create potential conflicts of interest and teeter into unethical acts of manipulation.

Fake reviews run rampant, and they can do more harm to your reputation than standard bad reviews! In this blog, we'll discuss some techniques for encouraging patrons to provide genuine feedback while adhering to a strict code of ethics.

Why is it Important?

We can't stress enough how important getting reviews is to your restaurant's success. Research studies show that more than half of all diners look at reviews before making a dining decision. It's a reasonable step in the decision-making process, and what people read has substantial influence.

Therein lies the problem with fake reviews and review manipulation. Because online reviews are so influential, there's ample room to manipulate what people see. Whether it's counterfeit reviews or gatekeeping bad comments to keep them from public view, you're not accurately representing what it's like to dine at your restaurant.

That's the entire goal of online reviews. They're there to give potential customers more insight, providing them with social proof before making a purchase decision. When you manipulate reviews in any way, you're not following ethical practices. In fact, you may tiptoe into the line of deceptive marketing!

It's not just unethical; it can also hurt your reputation and cause customers to lose trust in your business.

There is no official code of ethics for restaurant reviews. You won't find institutional review boards, ethics committees or research ethics review processes, either. As a result, restaurants must create and maintain their own ethical practices for encouraging reviews.

The Impact on Your Restaurant’s Credibility

The biggest risk with unethical review practices isn't a fine from a governing board. It's a hit to your overall credibility.

When questionable practices are exposed, they can seriously harm your business. People will lose trust and hesitate to support your business at all. Trust deteriorates, and your business will pay big time!

Don't believe us? There are countless case studies and real-world examples of situations like that. The loss of credibility ruins businesses. Therefore, the risk far outweighs the potential gain from review manipulation.

How to Differentiate Between Ethical and Manipulative Practices

Many restaurateurs' biggest struggle when encouraging reviews is differentiating between ethical best practices and manipulation. There's a fine line between the two, and it's easier to cross than you might think.

While it's natural to want to incentivize reviews, it's important to be mindful of when these strategies might cross the line into manipulation, potentially harming your reputation.

Generally, the best way to look at your practices is to see whether or not they influence the type of review people leave. Of course, you want positive reviews. But if you discourage negative reviews in any way, you create ethical problems.

For example, providing incentives only for positive reviews influences what people might write. They want the incentive so they don't say anything bad about your restaurant. Another manipulative tactic that some restaurants use is gatekeeping bad reviews.

In these cases, restaurants will ask customers to provide a star rating. They'll ask the customer to write a full review if that rating is good. But if it's bad, they won't. That practice gatekeeps bad reviews.

When developing feedback strategies, consider how they influence what type of review a customer might write. To keep things ethical, you should have no pull in whether a customer leaves positive or negative comments.

Creating a Transparent Feedback Environment

Always lean on transparency when asking for reviews. You want reviewers to know they're free to leave any feedback they want, positive or negative. More importantly, you want anyone who reads reviews to understand that you didn't manipulate the review process in any way.

The best way to create transparency is to make the review process available to anyone. For example, you could provide review QR codes or links on every receipt, plaster placards throughout your restaurant, send links to all email subscribers, etc. If offering rewards, make them available to all.

Educate Customers on Review Processes

You should also educate customers on what to expect. Let people know what the review process entails. How do you collect reviews? Where do they go, and how long does it take for them to get published? Do your reviews go through any filters or interventions before they become readable to the masses?

Those details count. Not only do they provide more peace of mind, but they also create more transparency.

That education can help prevent accidental manipulation while letting the public know how your restaurant stays neutral when collecting reviews.

Avoid Incentives that Compromise Integrity

We've already touched on the importance of impartiality when offering incentives, but it's so important it bears repeating. Avoid incentives that compromise the integrity of your review process in any way. Rewards and incentives should never influence what a customer says or the type of feedback you write.

Make incentives available to everyone, be transparent and don't lock rewards under quality parameters. Impartiality is crucial.

Handle Negative Reviews Ethically

Negative reviews happen. Even the most adored and respected restaurants can't please everyone. What's important is how you respond to negative reviews as they come.

The worst thing you can do is block or report legitimate bad reviews. No matter how badly those comments hurt, keep them intact! Instead of trying to scrub those reviews, address them directly.

Respond to customers who had bad experiences, empathize with their situation and extend gestures to make things right.

Utilize Platforms that Prioritize Genuine Feedback

There are many different review sites on the Internet. Unfortunately, some have a better grip on fake reviews and ethical practices than others. To avoid accidental manipulation or perceptions of such, point your customers to review sites that collect genuine reviews better.

Good examples include Yelp and TripAdvisor. Those platforms have robust terms for reviews and businesses. People have to create accounts to leave reviews, and systems are in place to report fake reviews. Yelp even has a “wall of shame” to name businesses that pay for fake reviews!

These platforms are well-trusted, lending credence to your ethical review practices and credibility.

Instill a Commitment to Honesty Among Staff

Committing to an internal code of ethics should be a company-wide effort. Instill the importance of genuine reviews with zero manipulation to your staff. It's easier for staff members to adopt unethical habits than you think.

For example, say that your team reminds every customer to visit the review link on a receipt. Your staff may “forget” to remind an upset customer who complained due to a bad experience. While it seems like a minor offense, it's still a form of gatekeeping and manipulation.

Make honesty a part of your restaurant culture through training and employee development.

Building Long-Term Trust with Customers

Getting customer feedback and reviews should be a continuous effort. The insights you gain from reviews can shape your restaurant, helping you develop strategies for improvement, growth and success.

Keep up your ethical review practices. Remain impartial when offering incentives for reviews, and address negative online reviews directly. Show your customers that you care and never give in to the allure of review manipulation.

Your goal should be to build trust in the long term. Committing to a code of ethics surrounding genuine reviews will help you achieve this.

Get Started With Superorder Today

Customer review strategies are often a point of contention in the restaurant industry. While other businesses might sink to new lows to build their reputation, those unethical strategies usually come back to bite them! Avoid that urge and develop ethical practices to maintain trust and credibility.

Check out Superorder to do things the right way! Superorder is a restaurant management platform with powerful customer feedback and review tools. Send surveys and encourage your patrons to provide feedback without questionable practices. With Superorder, you can automatically respond to reviews, analyze feedback to discover new insights and more.

Let Superorder help your restaurant grow honestly and ethically!

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