Yelp!, the online retail and service review site, is on the floor at the NRA Show in Chicago for the first time to help restaurateurs learn how to deal with negative reviews.

Luther Lowe, business outreach manager at Yelp, told QSR at the show that many restaurant operators are not comfortable “with the idea that people can share their opinions online in a very public way.”

But Lowe says restaurants should get involved with Yelp and ensure they are using the popular review site to their benefit.  

 “There’s a lot of value in participating in these conversations, rather than burying your head in the sand and pretending they’re not happening,” he says.

Lowe says he’s actively trying to dispel a myth that Yelp does not help business operators deal with negative reviews. He says the site provides many tools for operators to take control of their Yelp profile—via—and that the company actively advises restaurateurs on steps they should take in the event of a bad review.

When bad reviews show up on Yelp—“The fact is you can’t please 100 percent of your customers 100 percent of a time,” Lowe says—businesses should first send a private message to the user trying to diplomatically smooth things over, he says.

If a review is factually inaccurate, Lowe says, the operator should make a public response to the review to correct the reviewer.

Lowe says Yelp also actively scans the site to make sure bogus reviews are removed. Users can flag reviews that they find unfair, which a team at Yelp scans to ensure their legitimacy, and a complex algorithm scans each of the site’s nearly 18 million reviews daily to flesh out any fishy reviewers.

Ultimately, though, operators must engage with their Yelp reviewers to provide whatever transparency and engagement they can for their customers, Lowe says.

“By creating an enticing presence on Yelp—by uploading photos, telling their story—and then getting engaged, responding to reviews, both privately and publicly, this thing, it actually turns out, is an incredible driver of new customers into the door,” he says.  

Moving into the future, Lowe says, Yelp will be getting involved with the group deals business to compete with the likes of Groupon and Facebook Deals.

“We’re uniquely positioned to provide some great offerings because all of the other deal sites use Yelp—they vet their clients on Yelp,” he says.

The National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show is the restaurant industry's largest trade show. It takes place in Chicago's McCormick Place until Tuesday, May 24.

For more information, visit QSR at booth #4861.

By Sam Oches

Consumer Trends, News