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Consumer Reviews Are Out in the Wild — And Franchises Are Keeping a Tight Watch

Review services like Yelp are optimizing their services, while franchise brands are forced to monitor these third-party comments in order to stay ahead.

By Justin Wick1851 Franchise Contributor
Updated 7:07AM 11/11/21

On Tuesday morning, the technology publication TechCrunch published a column on how a new home feed for restaurant review service Yelp is making it easier for people to discover new restaurants. “Now for the first time, the company is introducing a vertical home feed featuring images of dishes and more, designed to help people discover local restaurants,” said Steve Dent, a contributor for TechCrunch.

It’s no surprise that established companies like Yelp are adapting to stay ahead in their markets. They need business too. As a result, restaurant franchise brands are having  to take note of how popular these review services become — and how to give them the public attention they call for.

Top brands may turn to having a team of employees that monitor these reviews. We live in a new age of customer service, and a brand equipped to handle third-party review sites might establish itself far better than a brand that isn’t.

Yelp is different from other companies in that the service is geared to help other businesses get noticed. A redesigned home page is therefore (theoretically) good for all restaurants involved, as improved exposure helps generate new business and new revenue. It also means that more consumers have the ability to air out their complaints; when a consumer leaves a review on Yelp, it is available for practically anybody to see.

Long gone are the days where someone would call upon an in-house manager for consumer feedback. On Yelp, this feedback is publicized rather than internalized — and top franchise brands are forced to stay on their toes if their reputation is to be preserved.

One could reason that Yelp is geared more toward local restaurant names instead of nationwide franchises, and it’s also safe to reason a consumer will visit a franchise in order to know what they are getting themselves into. Under this understanding, Yelp reviews aren’t as essential for franchises as they are for single-unit businesses — but it doesn’t mean a few adverse comments on a site like Yelp should be scoffed at.

Even if an established franchise unit is struggling on review forums, it could be enough for clients to distance themselves in favor of other lesser-criticized restaurants in the area. Brand affiliation does not magically sweep issues under a rug, and a single franchise unit could damage the reputation of a collective brand if public complaints go unaddressed.

Addressing client needs on third-party services could soon become an essential business practice while sites like Yelp evolve and improve to meet new audiences. Being mindful of these reviews is the next step toward handling a new era of franchise customer service.