Think Twice Before Trading Free Food for a Good Review on Yelp

One of our members told about a customer who asked for a free dessert in return for a "nice review on Yelp."Figuring that a dessert that costs him $1.50 was a small price to pay for a good review, he said, "yes."

The customer got the free desert but the next day gave them three stars and a bad review.

On the RestaurantOwner.com Discussion Forum he asked, "what would YOU do if a guest asked one of your servers the same question?"

Here's an insightful response from one of our members who appears to be doing a very good job at managing their online reviews (edited slightly for brevity) -

"Our family restaurant is a casual Southern comfort food concept serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner with local songwriters playing live music nightly. We see a lot of locals and a lot more visitors, who tend to Yelp more. What I think has worked best for us has been the head on approach. I claimed our Yelp business page and get alerts the minute anyone reviews the restaurant.

I privately reply to 90% of all reviews we receive, good and bad. We get mostly positive reviews, but everyone gets bad ones now and then and Yelp provides solid guidelines on how to approach these replies and I abide by them - always thank them for their feedback no matter what, stay objective and unemotional.

Not all of them reply back, but I have had more than one reviewer change their bad review to a good one just because I cared enough to let them know I am listening and responding. I have only publicly responded once to a bad reviewbecause its claims were outright false and outrageous and I wanted to set the record straight, diplomatically of course.

Sometimes, things may not go your way, but the effort should be there every single night. 
-- Michael Jordan

I would not advise ever allowing yourself to be bribed for free food for Yelp reviews, though being put on the spot definitely catches you off guard. I suppose I would have approached the guest myself and asked "Your server said you had a question about our homemade desserts?" just to see if they had the gall to ask for it again. If so, I would have asked if the food and service they had already received did not warrant a positive review and if not, then why? Because we really care that all of our guests leave happy :-)

We have also been proactive about garnering good Yelp reviews. We had small business cards made that basically said "Please review us on Yelp or Urbanspoon" with a line for the server to put their name. No discount or special offer as this can come off as bribery.

I train my servers to ONLY hand these out to very satisfied customers. I have even done contests with the staff, like first to get a shout out gets a free shirt or most shout outs in a month gets such and such. You may hand out 100 before someone follows through but we have definitely seen good responses. And the more good reviews you have, the more ridiculous the bad ones seem to be."