All hospitality businesses dread getting those 1 star reviews on Google, Facebook, Trip Adviser etc. and we are no exception. We hanker after the coveted five stars reviews.
After our first seven trading weeks generated no reviews on Google, the first two reviews posted were 1 star. Neither person made any comment about the food or service to us on the day or privately to us subsequently. The posts came within 12 hours of each other and both started with exactly the same sentence. More on that later.
The first was entirely generic and came from a customer who was clearly annoyed with us because we hadn’t been able to get her a retrospective VAT receipt within the one-day notice period she gave us. She just said everything was bad, not very helpful to us but potentially off-putting to a prospective customer.
The other review, from a vegetarian customer, focussed on the ‘lack of taste/flavour ’ in our China dishes; a surprising observation when several guests the same night had told us face to face how much they had enjoyed the authenticity and diverse flavours of our food.
The reviewer also complained that the vegetarian choice was more limited than that of the omnivore. This is valid but difficult to address. Since all of our dishes are shared by everyone, it is unfortunately inevitable when a guest chooses not to eat some of the food that is offered i.e. the meat dishes, in this case two out of seven main dishes served. Interestingly just 6% of our guests identify as vegetarians. Thinking the food bland and lacking vegetarian options while giving the venue 5 stars doesn't justify an overall 1 star review.
It is easy to say there will always be negative people leaving reviews, but they do effect sales and as a small start-up business that can be critical. So, what to do? Well, we have sent out a short questionnaire to all of our past guests to solicit their opinions and the answers are slowly coming back, as are some more positive Google reviews. We have also set up an automatic e mail that guests will get after they have been on board requesting feedback and soliciting positive reviews.
The results of this admittedly skewed process are positive responses so far, tempered with some very helpful constructive criticism. Both are welcome and we have already started to work on how we can improve our offer. We have started with;
new wording on the web site clarifying what the customer should expect,
additional information on our pre event reminder,
changes in our welcome and farewell procedures,
more customer interaction from the team,
revised seating management by putting small parties together , apart from larger more introspective groups,
solicit post event feedback.
If you have dined with us and received a questionnaire please do send it back. If you would like one please message us. Your comments will help us.
Which brings us back to the 1 star reviews. The ability for people to post unsolicited, anonymous reviews on social media has long been an issue. This is not the first time we have received disproportionate or malicious reviews, and they do sting. The pain is definitely offset by positive feedback, so a thank you for those who have posted in our defence. To others please do review us if that’s your thing, for good or bad. Just don’t use it as a way to seek petty revenge or as in one past case to try to blackmail us into an unjustified refund.
Whether there was collusion between our two 1 star reviewers we cannot know but the choice of the same opening sentence does raise our suspicions. We haven’t yet answered these or others as we are still awaiting Google re-ratifying our site. When that process is complete we will, though we doubt it does much good.
The truth is that many of us never post, leaving this to others but still read them when we search for a service, or at least note the average score. Indeed, last night Qiao and I went to a 4.8 restaurant, Goto, in Exeter and the score was fully justified. Other eateries we have visited recently (all in the name of research you understand ) have failed to live up to their ratings. So maybe if we use this free service we should also engage actively with it. To that end I have just given our fellow travellers, Goto, another five stars!