How to make restaurant's online reputation a secret sauce in enhancing your hotel brand?
A couple of years ago I came across an article published by an Italian blog titled “Pizzeria sues TripAdvisor for psychological abuse”. I was intrigued and honestly curious to understand how a review site could possibly psychologically damage an inanimate thing like a restaurant, as I was sure that psychological traumas were a prerogative of mankind and, to a certain extent, animals.
Digging through the blog I discovered that the owner of the pizzeria (I quote literally) “reserved the right to refuse to serve TripAdvisor users, because” he continued, “We are here to work and not to be the target of the frustration of reviewers”.
As the name of the pizzeria was published in the article, I went online and checked his reputation and, not surprisingly, not only it was very bad (actually it was terrible), but the manager responses to the client comments were full of insults and threats.
Now, as a former hotel General Manager, I know how frustrating it can be when you do your best and guests slash you on review sites anyway, but that is part of the game. At the end of the day, you will not be able to make everybody love you. That is true for anything in life. Therefore, the only thing you can do (unless the reviews are completely misleading, and in that case, you can always report them to the review site for further investigation and possible removal) is to swallow your ego, calm down and apologize.
I was feeling bad for the owner of the pizzeria and I imagined him as a 70-something old school Naple guy that never get out of the pre-web era, so I tried to contact him privately to give him some advises because, with this approach, he was actually damaging his business (giving the F-word to a client is never a good idea). To my big surprise, when I finally reached him, I discovered that he was around my age and pretty familiar with social networks too.
We had a long chat and I explained to him some best practices in order to deal with the (unavoidable) occasional bad reviews (all for free, of course). I didn’t really expect gratitude, and I did it just because I felt bad for the guy, but what he said to me at the end of the conversation shocked me: he accused me to work secretly for TripAdvisor and he told me that I wanted him to buy something from the famous review site. At that point, I stopped any kind of contact with him, as the whole situation was turning into an Illuminati-like conspiracy and I honestly did not want to waste more time on it.
Nevertheless, this incident made me think about how restaurants and hotels managers underestimate the power of reviews when it comes to food & beverage.
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