Tyler’s Two Cents: Thoughts from Behind the Bar is a weekly lifestyle column, written by Tyler Bernadyn, that will appear every Tuesday on What’sUpNewp this summer.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last decade, you probably have heard of Yelp and TripAdvisor. These two crowd-sourced review based companies are extremely prevalent in Newport, as the city is a host to thousands of new guests each year who turn to these sites or applications as a resource for where to eat, what to do, etc. Both of these sites can serve as a valuable tool to anyone who is new to the area and work favorably for small businesses that are off the beaten path.
I have wanted to write about the rise, validity and popularity of review based sites for quite some time and examine the reviews and reviewers to determine how efficient Yelp and TripAdvisor truly are. As a bartender at Midtown Oyster Bar and previously as a manager at The Mooring, I understand how important it is to make sure each guest enjoys their experience and how important it is to have a strong review rating online. It’s simple math that a person who uses Yelp is more likely to check out a venue with 4.5 stars over a restaurant with only 3 stars. The relationship between restaurant and reviewer is extremely important but has become overwhelmingly complicated because of social media and instant online feedback.
If you ask anyone who works as a server, a bartender or a manager around town, they’ll gladly explain their disdain for online review sites. Although a majority of Yelp and TripAdvisor reviewers provide accurate feedback on their dining experiences, there are plenty of people who use the websites as a place to vent, rant and complain. These review sites have instilled a sense of entitlement in some diners, where the mantra “the customer is always right” gets taken to a whole new level. Remember, a poor experience at a restaurant does not always warrant a scolding review. Maybe the server was having a bad night, maybe the food was just not to your liking, maybe some other underlying issue caused the restaurant to miss the bar on your expectation. Ranting and raving impulsively over a dining experience is petty and is certainly not the intention of what these companies are trying to market.
I find it important to take time to look at the online reviews of the restaurants that I work at whether for feasible feedback or comedic relief. It’s a nice feeling when a guest acknowledges your service and mentions that they had an amazing time at your establishment. It’s a terrible feeling when a guest rips you apart on a website and you’re unable to share your side of the story. Some reviews can be dismissed immediately, as a strong notion of ignorance is evident when reading some of the 1-star reviews floating around on Yelp. A few weeks ago, I watched a grown man throw a temper tantrum at a restaurant, demand to be compensated by having items taken off of his check and then he proceeded to post a scolding Yelp review on the perplexed waitress while he was still sitting at the table. Not only did this man get his way, he also made sure to hide behind a keyboard to get his point across, like any adult would do… Another notion that I can’t quite understand is people who leave poor reviews on Yelp that have never dined at the establishment. If you weren’t allowed to get into a restaurant because you are not dressed in accordance with that specific restaurant’s dress code, why would you go on Yelp and leave a 1-star review? Yelp is a review site, not a spite site.
This article is not completely intended to rag on reviewers or review sites, there’s an episode of South Park for that (if you haven’t seen it by now, I highly recommend it for a few laughs). I have used TripAdvisor in the past to help find places to visit when I’m in a new city as well as to post reviews that benefit businesses that I truly enjoyed. Many of my friends who own small business in town make sure that they keep up with user reviews and some even provide incentives to servers or bartenders who are mentioned in a positive review. The larger downtown restaurants that are located along the water will always be busy, as much of the city’s tourism foot traffic congregates in that area. However, smaller restaurants can gain new clientele through these review sites if they have a positive following and generate a high level of reviews. It is imprudent to ignore or dismiss these review sites and applications because they hold so much importance with today’s diners and tourists.
At the end of the day, it’s important to remember a few key points. One, you’re not going to make everyone happy. There is always going to be a guest who finds a reason to complain about something. Unfortunately, there are just some people like that in this world. Two, the more welcoming you are to your guests, the better off you’re going to be. Sure it’s frustrating dealing with people, especially those who are not the most restaurant savvy, but it’s how we pay the bills. Three, the people who are going on Yelp to complain and rant because they didn’t get their way are taking time out of their day to vent their frustrations online while you are sitting at the beach enjoying a cold Corona. Life could be worse! Have a great week and remember to always Yelp responsibly.
Tyler Bernadyn is a local hospitality professional, bartending at Midtown Oyster Bar Wednesday through Sunday nights on the Burgee Bar and at Caleb&Broad on Monday nights for their award winning $10 entree dinner special.
Tyler is a graduate of Providence College and a true Rhode Islander, born and bred.
Email him at TylerBernadyn@gmail.com and follow him on Instagram at @tylerbernadyn.