While many restaurateurs seem to brush off – or even fear – their online reviews, Sean Smith of program restaurant Baja Joe’s in Mesa, AZ, embraces them.
“It’s understandable why,” explains Smith, “With the most popular review site, there seems to be so many unqualified reviews, you aren’t even sure if they ate at your restaurant. And then there are those good reviews that don’t ‘stick’ to the front page due to filtering or users that are considered first time reviewers. It can be very frustrating.”
Smith doesn’t let that get in his way; he uses all of Baja Joe’s reviews and restaurant feedback to the best advantage. First, he showcases links to all of his online reviews front and center on the Baja Joe’s official website. “If you have nothing to hide, show your rating,” he says. “Don’t be afraid to show it, get yourself out there, get them in and then work hard to bring them back.”
In addition, he responds to negative reviews to invite the reviewer back to try them again. This can be challenging, especially when negative online reviews are inaccurate or feel personal, but he is confident in his restaurant, his food and his service. “We just want to get better,” says Smith, “and I think it shows in our response, the way we showcase all reviews, and in our food and service every day.”
Finally, he depends on reviews from qualified diners – customers who actually ate at his restaurant. With the Rewards Network program, members are encouraged to leave feedback after every dine at a program restaurant. Besides adding to the credibility (because the reviewer is a known diner), Smith also believes it leads to much more constructive restaurant feedback. “I know people on those other sites are more likely to get on to write a bad review than a good one,” he explains. “Normally, when your expectation is met, most people don’t think about it, it’s what they expected. iDine [Rewards Network] reviews are much more unbiased – they are qualified diners and incented to give feedback every time.”
Baja Joe’s works hard for their great reviews, online and offline, and they are a great example of how to embrace those reviews and to use them for success and growth.