We all do it – whether we are looking for somewhere to enjoy a special meal, a hotel or apartment for a holiday, or simply somewhere to enjoy breakfast, lunch or afternoon tea.
We all want to get the very best value we can for our money so we will obviously check out the opinions of others who’ve gone before, visited, tasted, experienced and reviewed the places we are looking at with interest.
With all this information and opinion to hand we’d be crazy not to read and take advantage of these reviews so what’s not to like about them?
Reviews can be left on Facebook, Google, or – perhaps the mother of them all – Trip Advisor. We avoided the latter for quite some time (almost four years in fact) as to be honest Facebook, Google and actually Groupon were giving us enough to be going on with for a while.
People are kind, and have been very kind in their comments about The Kitchen. Hand on heart we do all that we possibly can to make your experience as lovely as we can. We rearrange the seating, adjust the air conditioning, polish the cutlery, throw away bread with any hint of dryness, buy fresh cucumbers, use only the best mayonnaise, bake scones daily and make sure that your cakes are fresh and flavoursome. We’ve refurbished the tearoom as we took on board it wasn’t the prettiest, and obtained a licence as we know many like to enjoy a drink with us.
And then we randomly chanced upon a review on Trip Advisor. We hadn’t received a notification as we weren’t registered, but apparently anyone can leave a review of any business even if it isn’t registered. And that business then has no right to reply. Well they do – but only by registering. Which they can only do if they want to, and if they know that someone has left a review of them…
This particular review wasn’t as positive as others and consequently dragged down our rating. Pretty much the worst place to eat in the area with a satisfaction percentage of not very many. We responded honestly as most of the issues were easily addressed and we offered a complimentary tea to make amends.
Subsequently we have registered, we have picked up some positive reviews, and we’re no longer somewhere to avoid. But all of this has made us stop and think.
It’s just so easy to complain. Haven’t we all waited longer than we’d have liked for a meal to be served? Did we consider that a staff member in this small business may have had a family emergency and there’s no one to cover? Have we sat at a table that clearly isn’t the best in the building – but if that corner isn’t used then someone will be turned away? Perhaps we’ve disliked the music or the fact that there’s a TV on the wall – but the owners have found that this draws people in and without those people the footfall may be so low that they have to close?
There’s never any excuse for poorly prepared, badly cooked or stale food, But if the menu is limited perhaps the establishment has had an unusually busy day. Buying too much food can lead to waste which aside from the environmental issues is costly. Some people’s idea of unimaginative may be someone else’s dream of traditional.
Anyone is entitled to write a review and of course they are helpful. But I wonder what percentage of the population actually know what it is like to be on the receiving end?
That may seem like a strange question and of course by offering what we do to the wider community as a business proposition we set ourselves up for critique and criticism. However, bear with me just for a moment.
Imagine how it would feel if every time you served a meal (from a lunchtime sandwich through regular teatimes to a family celebration) someone analysed every element of what you did?
Think for a moment about how it would be if your decor were to be scrutinised on a daily basis – along with your choice of TV and Radio listening.
And – heaven forbid you had received some bad news, been up all night, or were simply not having a good day. How does it feel if someone comments that you didn’t smile enough?
These are all things I’ve seen on reviews. And yes, I too want to have a five star experience every time I go out – food, value, decor, service and ambience. But – in the edited words of Rag and Bone Man – aren’t we only human after all?
One of the things I have found about blogging is that it enables us to write about how things are with a sense of objectivity. It’s kind of like a diary but with the knowledge others may be reading we keep a sense of propriety and privacy. Not a place for a huge outpouring of sentiment and emotion, rather somewhere to post edited and thought through reflections.
When it comes to this issue however the blog title is perhaps a clue and a giveaway. It’s Not Personal.
How often are we told that when clearly someone is saying it to us because the opposite is true. For those of us with a small business a review can only be personal. It’s a comment on our work, our dream, our passion and ultimately ourselves. It may not be meant as such but in all honestly that is how it feels.
I’m in touch with many many people who have or have had businesses similar to The Kitchen. To my knowledge none of them have blogged as prolifically as myself and I am thankful for the voice this gives me and the understanding it fosters in those around us. But I have been privy to many tales of how tough it can be, to why people stopped, and to the tears, stress and exhaustion it has led to. I’m thankful for the support that means we are still here, and no matter how hard it can be we usually end each day with a smile, a laugh and a determination that this time next year we will be millionaires!
There’s little more to be said really, other than when leaving a review perhaps we all do well to consider there’s a real live person behind that business and perhaps our words have more power than we realise. To raise them up, make them smile, believe in their dream with a renewed passion. Or sadly to cause stress and anxiety such that they may feel closing the business – even if that means selling it or even bankruptcy – may be the better option.
But it’s not personal – is it?