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Is the Internet Good for the Restaurant Business?

February 2, 2010

by Monsieur Anton

The restaurant business was a little slow on the uptake in regards to the internet, but operators are making up for lost time.  Nary has an establishment from diner, to fine dining has not in some way taken advantage of the web to attract business.  Pretty much every eatery has a web page and Facebook presence.  Many take advantage of options like Open Table for online reservations.  The net is a great tool to stay connected to your customers and to expose yourself to new ones.

Recent studies have shown that online social network sites like Facebook and Twitter are much more efficient in connecting with potential diners than traditional print, radio or television media.  Best of all, they are free!  Some places have even gone so far as to text their customers the day’s specials.  Restaurateurs have never been so linked to their clientele, and this is a wonderful thing for the industry and its customers, but for every upside there is a downside.

It has never been so easy for diners to connect with people as well.  Everybody and their Aunt Martha now have a blog.  They even let Gusteau and I have one!  Those same diners have a Twitter and Facebook account as well, and armed with a perceived increase in knowledge of dining gained through the Food Network and the aforementioned internet blogs, they are all too happy to share their views on the Web 2.0.

This is a good thing.  Knowledge is power, and we now have a much more informed consumer than past generations.  Information is no farther than our keyboards.  The problem is that we have no way to verify the quality of the information we get.  At least when we read the newspaper or watch television, there is some implied trust and assumption of expertise.

In the good old days of restaurant reviews, a professional reviewer would wait a reasonable amount of time and multiple visits before publishing their views.  The amateur blogger may start giving their thoughts over a smart phone before they even finish dinner.  This immediacy, and lack of verifiable credentials cannot only give a restaurant a bad name, it forces the traditional media to possibly review a place earlier than they normally would so as not to be left behind any old Joe with an internet connection.

The wired in consumer need not even have gone to the effort to set up a blog.  A few taps on the keyboard and the erstwhile Ruth Reichl can post their impressions on message boards like and before the valet pulls up with the car.  The immediacy of such feedback can be devastating when negative.  There is an old saying in business, “one bad comment can have more impact than a hundred good ones.”   Couple that with the fact that once it hits the internet it may never come off.

Consider Yelp, a website set up for consumers to submit their own reviews.  By policy, Yelp will not remove bad reviews, but have been known to remove positive postings.  When contacted by several restaurants that challenged negative comments, Yelp tried to sell them their “Sponsorship Programs “ which moves favorable postings to the top of the page, post slide shows, give favorable placement and display ads on competitor’s results page . Many restaurateurs have been approached by Yelp’s sales associates shortly after poor reviews, leaving some to feel that Yelp themselves placed these comments as “sales leads.”   If you think that sound fishy, you’d be spot on, extortion may be an even better description, but in the wild west of the internet, there is no recourse.

This is to no way imply that all such sites are shady. has gotten rave reviews from foodies, and Urbanspoon has thus far escaped controversy.  Just like restaurants, there are good and bad social networking sites and positive feedback on such sites can be like gold to a proprietor.  There are some wonderful, intelligent bloggers as well.  I encourage you to check out our links page for some excellent reading.  The key is to find someone you trust; who’s views somewhat mirror yours and give more weight to their opinions while listening with a critical ear to others.

On At the Pass, we do an occasional review, but our main intent is to give you a view of food, drinks and the hospitality industry from the view of two guys who have been in the business for years.  It is also why we hide behind the names of Anton and Gusteau. Being in the business, without that anonymity we couldn’t be truly honest with our readers, and that is a principle we will not compromise.

As you read information on the internet you should ask yourself if the author is a) knowledgeable, b) has an unbiased viewpoint, and c) do they have anything to gain by espousing a particular view?  If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then take the comments as nothing more than entertainment.  Even if the writer has a degree of expertise, don’t feel compelled to take their word as gospel.  Restaurants are a subjective thing and what might be right for Gusteau and myself, or for even the most accomplished food writer, may not be right for you.

The internet is one the great innovations of our lifetime, but like all-powerful tools it must be used responsibly.  I would never discourage anybody from posting their thoughts on a blog or elsewhere.   As the printing press enabled the spread information to the masses, and radio and television would continue to do, the internet spreads the good and bad word quickly with one caveat.   The reader must sift through the garbage to find the jewels.  We’re glad you found the jewel we call At the Pass.

Chef Gusteau: Well put Anton.  We really did set out creating At the Pass with the mindset of hosting a forum in which educated and well founded advice, criticism and analysis would provide both an informative as well as entertaining viewpoint on many topics within the food and beverage industry.  That, and we have so much fun doing so!  We have been doing this for a long time, and as such, we are quick to call someone on any tricks or shortcuts.  Hope you enjoy our approach and postings!

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. February 2, 2010 1:54 pm

    An interesting and provocative post. People tend to forget that the Internet is simply a transmission medium. What gets transmitted can be good or bad and must be intelligently digested by the end consumer. As you stated in your post, finding an author who speaks in a voice that is similar to yours is very important. As a blog author myself, I know that my writing style isn’t for everyone, but I’m also not trying to position my blog as the “be all” destination for every reader. Writing with honesty and integrity is the goal and to some end, I hope I achieve it.

    One criteria you might also have pointed to in regards to credibility is the longevity/frequency of blog posts. Someone who posts restaurant reviews once a month or has only started a blog two weeks ago might not be taken as seriously as someone who has been doing it for a while.

    • February 2, 2010 2:08 pm

      Thanks for he comments Tom. I have read your blog and enjoyed it quite a bit. So much so that I’ve included it on our links page. You make a good point to judge the content and not the medium, but since we are a relatively new blog, I hope you and others will indeed judge us by our content and not our youth. We’re young, but growing!


  2. February 2, 2010 3:56 pm

    I usually agree with your article content, but in this case I am sorry to say that I do not share your views.

    • February 2, 2010 4:31 pm

      It’s perfectly fine to disagree. I totally respect your opinion, and I hope that even if you do not agree with it, you’d respect mine as well.


  3. February 3, 2010 1:35 am

    It never ceases to amaze me when a restaurant, or any business for that matter, does not have a website in today’s market. There are a lot more out there than you’d think.

    If you ever know anyone looking for a high quality, simple, affordable website, please send them my way.

  4. August 4, 2013 12:26 am

    What’s Happening i’m new to this, I stumbled upon this I have found It positively helpful and it has helped me out loads.
    I’m hoping to give a contribution & aid other customers like its helped me. Great job.

  5. October 4, 2013 1:24 pm

    I am actually thankful to the holder of this website who has shared this enormous paragraph at here.

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