My wife and I recently spent a nice, almost Spring-like Saturday afternoon in beautiful Asbury Park, NJ. We decided to see the movie “12 Years A Slave” which is one of the more powerful movies I have seen in some time. After the movie, we started walking down Cookman Ave. looking for a place to grab a light dinner.
We walked into Belmonte’s Ristorante – it looked like a reasonably new restaurant, it was BYOB (there was a liquor store next door) and we liked the ambience. Also, about half the tables were empty. We walked in and asked if there was room for 2 people with no reservation. Unfortunately, the Maitre D told us that all the tables were reserved, but if we wanted to come back in 15 minutes, any of the tables that had not been claimed would be freed up for walk-ins.
We didn’t feel like waiting, so we left. I started thinking about the experience – the restaurant did nothing wrong at all – their business card and the sign out front clearly states “Reservations are encouraged”. But I still could envision a review like the following showing up on Yelp or OpenTable:
“We walked into Belmonte’s and the place was half empty. They told us they had no room for us but we could try again later. I find it ridiculous that a restaurant that is half empty would turn away business, do they really think they would fill up the place in the next 10 minutes? Maybe their food is great, but we’ll never know because I doubt we’ll try them again.”
Fair? Of course not. This person will give the obligatory 1 star review to go along with the scathing write-up.
As the owner of this small business, what are they to do? Our strategy at Bizyhood is straight forward. First, the owner of Belmonte’s should tell all their customers to provide them feedback on their Bizyhood page. Certainly, not every customer will do so, but if every customer is given the opportunity, a percentage will certainly do so. And it’s highly likely that the majority of the feedback will be positive and/or provide constructive comments that will make their service the best it can be.
Secondly, we would suggest a “response” to the above review that sounds something like this:
“Thanks for providing us feedback. We are always disappointed when we turn people away, we’d love for everyone to enjoy our wonderful Italian cooking and the passion we put into all our dishes. We have been honored that most nights we do have a full slate of reservations which is why we strongly encourage customers to call ahead. With that said, we would love to accommodate you on a night of your choice – if you would like to call or email us for a reservation, we’ll give you our best table and have the chef come out to meet with you personally. We hope you will take us up on our offer and then be able to write about our magnificent food like the other feedback we received tonight!”
Many small businesses don’t use online reviews as a way to sell the best parts of their business – and savvy owners can turn seemingly negative comments into a sales pitch and show off their customer service skills. Of course, I also have to add that at Bizyhood – this type of interaction would lead to a better score for the business, not bring their score down. Because we realize that how you treat and respond to your customers is the true measure of a businesses value, not a one sided opinion.