Earlier this month both the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the Riverfront Times reviewed a recently opened suburban restaurant/bar. Each review, posted within a couple of days of each other, was generally negative. But there are upsides to these reviews!
- Readers are now aware that a new restaurant/bar is open in a space where another restaurant had been located for many years. The descriptions of what’s happening now in the space may attract new diners.
- Photos accompanying reviews often present a more positive example of the restaurant that the words do.
- The simple fact that the professional reviewers felt they should share their opinions with readers indicates that the restaurant is worth a full review.
- Each reviewer found a few things to like about the food, the drinks, the décor and the staff.
- Constructive criticism can be useful to a restaurant owner/manager. He/she can evaluate what was written, determine if it is valid and, if appropriate, remedy the shortcomings.
- Negative online postings on media websites can elicit comments from friends and partisans of the restaurant who may share their own positive thoughts about the place.
- If the restaurant had been a complete and total mess, the publications would likely have not run reviews. In such a case, the presumption is the place will not survive long, so why bother? (Remember: these media outlets exist to sell advertising. If they trash a restaurant mercilessly, the industry may avoid placing ads with the outlet.)
- Not all who read these reviews accept them at face value. Some folks put more stock in user reviews on Yelp, OpenTable, etc.
- A relationship has been established with the media outlet. When the restaurant has a new menu, special event, major new hire, etc., the outlet may be more likely to give notice to the news.
- If handled correctly, these reviews can be used to motivate staff to deliver better performance and to create a better team spirit.
I’m not always a “silver linings” guy, but I encourage everyone in the local food and beverage scene to work to make the “less than positive” feedback you receive into something useful.