Michael Muser is a partner and general manager at Grace Restaurant in Chicago.
Image credit: Grace Restaurant
Type of Business: Fine-dining restaurant
To justify charging $185 for a fixed-price meal, Grace restaurant in Chicago needs good publicity from customers, says general manager and partner Michael Muser. So, he carefully monitors reviews in both traditional media and online sites, such as Yelp, to see how the restaurant is doing and where it can improve. "Anybody with a [social media] account may as well be a journalist in our eyes," he says.
Paying careful attention to customer feedback has helped earn the restaurant mostly five-star reviews on Yelp, as well as accolades from local media, Muser says.
In the four months since opening Grace, Muser has gone out of his way to reach out to negative reviewers. When a diner wrote a short negative review on her personal blog, he tracked down her work address and delivered gin, along with a set of glasses, to apologize for her experience. "She was super blown away by that," he says.
After reading a batch of recent reviews, Muser has stopped asking executive chef Curtis Duffy to sign menus as a memento for diners. Some reviewers thought it was arrogant, he explains. "We weren't doing it for gloating purposes, but it wasn't how it was reading to the client." But the restaurant doesn't change its menu just because an offering draws some complaints, Muser says. "As a restaurant, we have to have a voice."
Muser never responds to negative reviews on public forums. "Normally, we'll reach out via telephone or email," he says. If a business "confronts a negative review online, there is only one way that's going to go -- your opinion of their experience is irrelevant."
Related: When Bad Online Reviews Cost Business