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When is a review not really a review?

Updated: Mar 8, 2019

Five-star ratings are great horsepower for restaurants, but sometimes eateries don't always fire on all cylinders.


Our three families joined forces to open #Bistro49 Culinary Laboratory in early February of this year. For the last three weeks we've proudly received praise and compliments from many, if not most of our guests.

We're glad our guests are loving the food.

The delicious food, attentive service, and casual fun ambiance, paired with subtle touches like cloth napkins, tablecloths, and local wines and beers helped us achieve some pretty glowing reviews from guests.

Fun, creative food is definitely a Bistro49 thing.

We knew someday we'd probably have an off day and miss our goal of 100% customer satisfaction. It took nearly a month, but last Friday we took our first shot to the chin from two guests who dined together at lunch.

Friday evening one of the guests took time to reach out to us via direct message to describe in some detail their experience at the bistro. In short, both guests had been dissatisfied with their meals and the service they received. Hmm. That's not what we're used to hearing from our guests, especially those visiting Bistro49 for the first time.

We listened to our guest's concerns and noted we would make it right for both of them.

We offered to investigate the issues raised and respond back with our findings shortly. We assured the guest the comments provided would be used in our staff meeting on Monday to help better train our team.

Our ownership team spent a few hours on Saturday reviewing comments left by our Friday lunch and dinner guests, paying close attention to those that had concerns or provided suggestions on ways we could improve. One guest noted we should carry additional dessert options. Another noted the salmon seemed a little over-seasoned for their taste, and one thought a broader selection of local wines would be a good enhancement to our menu. All great suggestions we could work with.

Short? Yes. Constructive? No.

But early this morning a message popped up on my phone noting a customer had posted an unsatisfactory review of Bistro49 online. The review in its entirety is shown at left.

The review was posted by one of the two guests from Friday afternoon. The assurances we had made to research and review their complaint, report our findings and make it right was apparently insufficient.

Bistro49 visitors from Reno enjoyed their meal Friday.

At Bistro49 we constantly strive to provide excellent customer service and creative meals that are both delicious and affordable. Many of our guests, both near and far, have raved about the bistro and our talented chef/partners.

Did we miss the mark somehow?

Yes, we may have with these two guests.

After reviewing our security camera footage, the notes handwritten on their receipt and our courteous exchange of messages Friday evening, we thought we were well on our way to making things right to their satisfaction. So why the negative review?

I'm fortunate to have traveled extensively in my career and experienced dining venues from dive bars and bowling alleys to the finest restaurants. I also enjoy authoring online reviews now and then as well. Good reviews are easy. If I enjoy the food and service I'll be sure to say so. If a restaurant blows my mind with incredible twists of culinary delight I'll post photos and glowing praise. When a restaurant misses the mark, as sometimes they do, I'll politely ask to speak with a manager while in the restaurant and convey both the good and the not-so-good to the manager. I do this to make the management aware of the issues I experienced and offer suggestions or constructive criticism when needed. I don't ask for anything in return, but nine times out of 10 managers offer amicable solutions without hesitation. In essence, they turn what may have been a negative experience into a positive one. That's their job, and it's our job, too.

If you ever have an issue with the food or a server at a restaurant please take a moment to speak with a manager. Explain the issue or problem you experienced while you're still at the table. Managers can fix problems on-the-spot when they first arise and provide alternate meal options or other solutions. Every restaurant wants you to be happy and satisfied with your experience. If you fail to alert a manager to your concerns while you're in the restaurant they likely have no way of knowing about or handling the issues you experienced. The last thing any restaurant wants is an unhappy customer that feels the establishment cares little about them.

If you prefer to post a public review instead, be forthcoming and honest. Add a sentence or two in your review to indicate you did not ask for a manager or verbalize the issues you experienced to the restaurant while there. That helps readers of your review understand that although a positive remedy may have been available and offered at the time of your visit the management was unaware of the problems you experienced at the time. They may be learning about the issues you had while reading your online review days later.

So when is a review not really a review? We'll leave that to you the reader to decide.

Questions about tech or Bistro49? Hit me up at

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