Restaurateurs welcome steps to name and shame fake online reviewers
UK hotels and restaurants have welcomed steps to name and shame venues that try to boost their online reputation by buying fake reviews.
Yelp, which is more popular in the USA than here, will flash consumers a warning message over bogus reviews. Trip Advisor, more widely-used in the UK, is expected to follow suit with some kind of warning system in the near future.
Mark Hall, managing director of online reputation management consultancy GotJuice.co.uk, said: "Until recently it has been made very easy for opportunist business owners to enhance their company's online reputation by simply writing fake positive reviews and asking friends and family to do likewise without any repercussion.
"That ride, however, is now over and these businesses are to be named and shamed by the major review sites and have their profile marked for all to see."
Gerard Basset, director of 10 in 8 fine dining group and founder of Terra Vina hotel and restaurant, told Harpers he thought it was "the right thing to do", but cautioned that the sites should be careful not to shame someone wrongly.
He added: "I don't think there are as many fake reviews as people think."
It's easy to tell if reviews are fake, said Basset. "If a place gets one bad review on day, and by the next afternoon has five positive reviews it looks fake. You always get a few that don't like what you do but the majority for us are positive."
Neleen Strauss, co-owner of London's High Timber restaurant, said her core customers didn't really get involved in online reviews, as they're drawn mostly from the corporate world. "We've never been slighted that badly, but I think it's a good idea to stop a lot of unnecessary trolling. Fake reviewers don't realise they can jeopardise people's jobs," she said.
The London-based Hawksmoor restaurant chain tries to get around the problem of fake reviews by emailing diners directly for feedback after their meals, a system it has operated for the past two years.
Jane Dowler of Manchester restaurant Evuna believes review sites are great for business, especially Trip Advisor. “We are currently seventh out of 739 restaurants in Manchester which isn't bad for a small family run business. Most of our reviews are by genuine people. This has really helped us an independent without a massive marketing department behind us.”
Dowler said it was right to name and shame fake positive reviews, adding that “they stand out a mile”.
Her advice is to “embrace them all - if you are good you'll survive and the 'fake' reviews won't make a difference”.
How do you manage your online reputation? Email Gemma McKenna