Restaurant.com show the way in fight against fake reviews

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restaurant reviewsReviews are a big deal for restaurants.  I wrote last month about some research from the University of California, Berkeley that showed just how valuable good reviews are.  The study found that an increase of just half a point on a five point scale can increase the chances of a restaurant selling all of their tables by around 20%.

Add to this additional research showing that 64% of people that search for a restaurant via their phone, end up booking a restaurant within an hour of their search and it’s a big deal.

With the stakes so high however you can see the temptation to try and cheat the system and post up fake reviews.  A Gartner study earlier this year suggested that 10 to 15% of all online reviews would be fake by 2014.

How can you prove that your reviews are authentic?  Restaurant.com believe they might have an answer.  They’ve launched a Verified Review system that they hope will result purely in reviews from actual diners.  Here’s how the system works.

A bit of background first though.  Restaurant.com are a deals site for restaurants.  Their review system now requires people to buy their meal through their site, at which point they’ll get a voucher code.  Once that code has been verified, they are then sent a link to leave a review.

To assure the best possible quality, reviewers must also complete a short survey and assign star ratings. They’re also required to comment only on the restaurant experience; the food, the service, the ambiance.

Which seems fair enough.  Of course it is unique to the Restaurant.com system because they can control who buys and then reviews each deal. For sites like Google Local or Yelp it’s not quite as easy because they allow anyone to leave a review.

All of which may point to a future direction for Google.  They are slowly building up the Google Wallet payment system, so it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to see an enclosed system whereby users search for a restaurant, pay for their meal, and then leave their review, all within the Google world.

For the time being however the system is still open to a degree of astroturfing, and with that industry already worth millions each year it is certainly an issue that needs to be improved.

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