8 Ways to Spot a Fake Restaurant Review
Fake reviews are a major headache for restaurateurs. You work hard to promote your restaurant’s reputation online, but a malicious actor can manipulate your brand image by submitting fake entries on review sites. These phony reviews may look just like reviews left by real guests, and it’s hard to spot them. In fact, research has found that people can only catch about 40 percent of fraudulent reviews.
One reason fake reviews are hard to detect is that there often isn’t one detail that gives them away definitively. Instead, there may be several things about the review that seem slightly off. If a review seems suspicious on multiple levels, you should flag it and ask the platform to investigate. Here are the warning signs to watch for:
- The information in the review doesn’t match your restaurant. Maybe the review misidentifies your fare as Asian fusion when you’re actually a French brasserie. It might refer to a different city, or the wrong location in your city. This could be an honest mistake, and the reviewer might have accidentally left a review meant for a different restaurant on your page. Or, it could be an indication that the review is computer-generated.
- The review contains non-sequiturs. Reviews written by AI don’t always follow the rules of logic, so a review that lacks common sense could be a tell that you’re dealing with a spammer. A nonsensical review might complain about something that’s actually a positive, like a shorter wait to be seated, or it might describe a combination of foods that would never be paired together in your restaurant, like mayonnaise with ice cream.
- The review is negative but vague. Usually when people leave a one-star review, they had a bad experience that they want to tell the world about. They typically share specific reasons that they hated their meal. If a review says, “The restaurant was terrible” and nothing else, it might be fake.
- The reviewer has posted lots of similar reviews recently. If you click on the reviewer’s profile and see hundreds of one-star reviews posted in the last week, all of the same length and using similar phrases, that’s a sign that you’ve probably been spammed. Usually a real person won’t post lots of variations on the same review within a short time.
- The review praises a competitor. Sometimes a legitimate reviewer may mention another restaurant that he or she preferred. But if multiple reviews are praising the same competitor, and particularly if they devote entire paragraphs to describing another restaurant’s delicious food, that’s suspicious. Including links or phone numbers for a competitor is also a sign that the review is probably a fake.
- The review is in garbled English. There are many possible explanations for a review that contains poor spelling or grammar. The review might have been written by a customer who isn’t fluent in English, or the review might have been dictated to a smartphone and poorly transcribed. But it could also be that the review was written by a computer program.
- You’ve received many one-star reviews for no apparent reason. You should see a similar mix of happy and disappointed guests in-person and online. If you aren’t noticing any change in guest satisfaction in your restaurant but you’ve received an influx of negative comments on a review site, that might mean you’re being targeted with fakes.
- The number of reviews you get jumps dramatically. Maybe you receive one review in a normal week, but yesterday you got 50 one-star reviews. Unless you were the subject of negative publicity or there was a controversial event at your venue, it’s unlikely that your guests all randomly chose that day to voice their complaints online. The sudden jump in reviews is probably the work of a spammer.