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How to Detect and Address Fake Restaurant Reviews | Superorder

Written by
March 26, 2024

Spotlight on Fake Reviews: How Restaurants Can Identify and Prevent Them

Online reviews play a big part in helping build a business's online reputation. In the restaurant industry, they can greatly impact your success. As a business owner, you should always strive to collect positive reviews and maximize your star rating on Google and other review sites.

But what happens when you receive fake reviews? Whether positive or negative, fake reviews can hurt your restaurant business in many ways. It harms your credibility and makes potential customers question whether or not you provide the great experience you promise.

In this blog, we'll discuss some of the negative ramifications that false reviews can cause, how to spot them and what you can do to address them.

The Pervasiveness of False Reviews

Unfortunately, fake reviews are becoming a huge problem online. There's no way to measure how many fake reviews exist, but recent surveys show that nearly eight out of ten consumers believe they've come across fake reviews at some point. That's a huge deal and shows just how much of a headache they're becoming.

There are many reasons why someone would publish a fake review. Thanks to the Internet's anonymity, it's easy to hide your identity while publishing reviews on Yelp, Google, TripAdvisor and other platforms.

Some business owners purchase reviews or encourage friends and family to pump up their star ratings with glowing feedback. Not only is that unethical, but it creates an inaccurate representation of a business. Some competitive business owners may even leave fake reviews with rivals in hopes of harming their reputation and pulling customers.

It's a shady practice that's becoming prevalent in the restaurant industry and beyond.

Impact on Reputation and Customer Trust

Fake reviews might not seem like a major deal in the grand scheme. But they can hurt your business more than you realize. Whether they're positive or negative, the false representation of your business misleads customers.

It's unethical and can create confusion in the market. Fake negative reviews are particularly damaging because they have the potential to hurt your brand reputation.

Restaurants need a solid online and offline reputation to acquire new customers and continue growing. But a rise in fake reviews threatens your success, ultimately impacting your bottom line in more ways than you could imagine.

Those reviews can harm your public image and create a nightmare scenario that takes years to overcome. It doesn't matter how great your business is, how much you invest in great marketing or how hard your team works to deliver amazing customer experiences. All it takes is a few fake negative reviews to ruin all your progress in building your reputation.

False reviews also impact overall customer trust and business credibility. People use online reviews to check out what restaurants offer before eating there. They play a huge role in purchase decisions and consumer choices.

So imagine how a potential customer might feel seeing fake reviews that contradict real ones. They won't know what to think. Instead, they lose all trust and may decide that supporting your business isn't worth the risk!

Signs of Fake Reviews

Fake review detection can be challenging. People can leave counterfeit reviews in many ways. Some will do it on their own. However, there's also a seedy industry with service providers who offer buyers the opportunity to pay for fake reviews to competitors.

You can never know which reviews are legitimate or which aren't. But the good news is that several telltale signs point toward fraud.

One is to look at the language and writing style. Unfortunately, service providers who offer fake reviews usually operate in foreign countries. They may have staff with a poor grasp of English, leaving local businesses in the United States with fake reviews full of spelling, grammatical and language errors.

You can also look at the reviewer. While not always the case, photoless profiles with a single review are a huge red flag. The same goes for generic-sounding names like John Smith.

Another indicator that a review is fake is questionable details. People who leave behind fake reviews may not know much about your business. Therefore, they can slip up and mention something that's not factually possible. For example, they might say they visited your business when it was closed, mention a dish you don't serve, talk about an employee who's never worked at your restaurant, etc.

You may also notice brief mentions of a competitor. Some genuine reviews will compare your restaurant to local businesses in the area. But if the review is suspicious and includes information about some of your biggest rivals, it could indicate that the review is an attempt to harm your reputation while boosting a competitor.

Finally, please pay attention to when you receive reviews and the volume in which they come. When an individual pays a service provider to bombard a business with fake reviews, they often come in waves. You might receive several at one time over several days.

Check the time stamps! That suspicious activity is a clear indicator that those reviews are illegitimate.

Tools and Techniques for Detection

A big part of fake review detection is using your better judgment. By now, you likely know how difficult it is to encourage diners to leave feedback. Reviews are difficult to get, so receiving tons of them at once in a style unfamiliar to your local clientele should raise some concerns.

Read reviews and pay close attention to the details. Note the language style, check the reviewer's post history and look for clear conflicts of interest.

You can also employ technology in your fight against fake reviews. Software is helping businesses identify fraudulent reviews using technology like AI. Advanced language models can differentiate between content produced by real people, pieces crafted by AI and more. It can also recognize patterns to alert you of languages and review styles that don't align with what you normally get.

Google Reviews and other popular platforms employ advanced algorithms to minimize fake reviews. However, they still slip through the cracks. As a business owner, it's up to you to spot these reviews and take action to mitigate the damage they can cause.

How to Address Them

There are a few ways to address fake reviews. One of the best things you can do is report the comment. Most platforms have a feature allowing users and business owners to report inappropriate or fake reviews. There are easy-to-find buttons on Google Reviews, Yelp and more.

Keep in mind that reporting a fake review only initiates a review process. All review platforms have different rules and guidelines governing what types of reviews people can leave. There is no guarantee that the platform will remove a review, even if you think it's fake.

Most sites allow you to explain why you've flagged a review. Use that opportunity to provide evidence and make your claims. Include clues that point to the review being fake, and make it as easy as possible for the platform to delete the review.

Even still, that might not happen. In those cases, the best way to address a fake review is to respond to it.

Keep cool, and don't let your anger get in the way of your online reputation. Instead, provide context and proof of discrepancies within the review.

This approach allows you to get ahead of fake reviews. It's a way to reassure potential customers reading those reviews that what they see isn't the truth. It also shows that you're reviewing the situation and taking action, a step that customers appreciate when things don't go as planned.

People love to see when businesses are proactive about customer complaints and concerns. While a review might be fake, taking time to maturely comment on the matter shows that you're taking action.

Building a Strong Online Reputation

Preserving your online reputation should be a top priority, and dealing with fake reviews is part of the territory. While you can't stop fake reviews from coming, you can reduce their effect by having a great online presence.

Respond to all feedback, legitimate or not. Take time out of your day to acknowledge positive and negative feedback. Engage with your customer base and show people you care about the customer experience.

Then, take things further by being active on social media. Monitor discussions about your brand, participate in conversations and take advantage of user-generated content to connect with customers on a more personal level.

Improving your online reputation is all about the long game. Having a good online presence can trump any fake review that comes your way.

Legal Implications and Actions to Consider

Fraudulent reviews aren't just bad for business. They may also be illegal.

Whether a business pays for positive reviews or hires a service to bombard competitors with bad ones, this practice is a form of deceptive advertising, and it's illegal in many jurisdictions.

Online reviews should help customers make purchasing decisions and accurately represent what a business offers potential customers. Fake reviews go against that goal and can skew public perception. They go against the terms of most review sites, and reporting them can lead to account closure and possible fines.

But that's not all.

If an individual or business writes bad, fake reviews about your restaurant, it might teeter into the line of defamation. False and defamatory statements intended to harm a business and mislead customers are illegal, and you have grounds to sue.

Generally, platforms will remove fake reviews and end the frustration. But if someone continually lies to harm your business, you shouldn't be afraid to seek legal intervention. You can take legal action, and proving that the reviews harmed your business can strengthen your case.

Educating Staff and Customers

There's a lot you can do to curb fake reviews, but one way to reduce their impact on your business is to educate customers and employees.

Teach your employees how to spot fake reviews and develop protocols on how to address them professionally. You can also train your team to deliver a better customer experience across the board, decreasing the chances of bad reviews and giving fraudsters no room to lie.

Customers need education, too. Use fake reviews as an opportunity to highlight what your restaurant truly offers. Improve your marketing materials and display what your business does best. When you do that, you can develop great brand awareness and visibility that contradicts anything a fake reviewer might say.

Get Started With Superorder Today

Fake reviews can be a nightmare for businesses like yours, but you don't have to settle for the harm they do. Use our tips to identify false claims and take action! Do what you can to bolster your online reputation and take steps to be proactive about customer feedback.

When you go the extra mile in building your online presence, you can minimize any potential impact fake reviews have on your business.

Check out Superorder to get started. The all-in-one restaurant management platform has great tools to help you get ahead of fake and negative reviews. Respond to comments, get alerts and use AI to acknowledge all comments that come your way. With Superorder, you have everything you need to take your restaurant to new heights of success and efficiency.

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