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Continued: Crowdsourced reviews can put local restaurateurs on the defensive

  • Article by: BILL WARD , Star Tribune
  • Last update: July 6, 2013 - 2:11 PM

Stephanie Shimp, co-owner of Blue Plate Restaurant Co., said she and her managers monitor as many sites as they can, including Yelp, Urban Spoon, Instagram and their own eClub database. She added that at Blue Plate, which owns seven restaurants including Edina Grill and Three Squares, “we balance that with what’s most important … and that is who is sitting at our tables right now.”

Sorting through reviews

Woodman has had his share of run-ins online, including an anti-Semitic post on Yelp that he ultimately enlisted the Anti-Defamation League to have removed. And he admits that his wife and business partner, Heidi, has “had to stop me” from responding in kind to nasty comments on Yelp. But he’s devised a way to make the site work for him.

“We’re kind of gleaning it, to learn how to be better, and also to build some relationships,” he said.

Users, too, have to learn how best to use Yelp.

Because it’s so popular, sorting through all the reviews can be daunting. That’s why Annie D’Souza, the site’s Twin Cities community manager, said she and other experienced Yelpers study the reviewers.

“I look at how much they’ve written, do they have a photo. I definitely follow a few people, some personal and others that I just trust,” she said. “We’re building a community of users.”

D’Souza downplays the effect a negative review can have, in part because of that community.

“While business owners tend to fixate on a less-than-glowing review, consumers look at the overall rating and read a number of reviews before making a decision.”

In the end, though, a pre-Internet business platitude rules: The customer is always right.

“When it comes down to engaging the guest,” Clayton said, “it’s better to apologize rather than get in an online argument. You’re going to lose that one every time.”

Bill Ward • 612-673-764

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