Help! My Business Just Got a Really Stupid Yelp Review


Red Hook Winery

Holly Howard is our go-to business consultant. She’s helped countless small businesses in Brooklyn and beyond (including us here at Brooklyn Based) with her expertise and know-how. This summer, in an unprecedented program, 10 small businesses in Red Hook, Brooklyn have come together to work as a community to grow their businesses through Holly’s From Artisan to Entrepreneur® Business Growth Program.  This program was made possible through the generous support from ReStore Red HookNew York Business Development Corporation, and Southwest Brooklyn Industrial Development Corporation. Over the next 10 weeks, Holly will dedicate her weekly advice column to a specific business in Red Hook that is participating in her in hopes that their journeys will bring enlightenment and inspiration to your business as well. This week she fields a question from Red Hook Winery. 

Hi Holly,

This hasn’t happened recently, but it has happened in the past, and I think it is a growing problem/concern with businesses…the dreaded Yelp review!

As a small business owner, the reviews often feel out of balance or focused on things that can’t always be controlled.  I hear lately how small businesses struggle with this topic.  It seems like consumers tend to write reviews when things are negative, and often they focus on bizarre parts of the experience. There are frequent tangents that may be off base or even just one side of the story.  

Any ideas on how to better address how to deal with Yelp reviews?


Sandra Nicholas, Red Hook Winery

Dear Sandra,

I feel for you.  I know how maddening it can be to receive an anonymous or semi-anonymous online review.  We could talk about the deeper societal issues we face when we as human beings can’t even give feedback about our experiences face to face.  Instead, we have to take it online in order to cultivate the courage needed to express ourselves.

But I digress!

First, let’s set aside the online review and talk about the value of feedback.  As business owners, one of the most important things we can do is listen to our customers’ needs and adjust when appropriate.  When we stop listening, we start failing.

However, as a good leader, you need to be able to sift through valuable feedback and noise.  What I mean by this is valuable feedback includes things like: the employee was distracted by their phone and couldn’t help us properly. Noise includes things like: their silverware was mismatched so I’m lowering my review.  One matters and should be immediately addressed, the other is just noise and should be ignored.

The problem I see with business owners is that they read these reviews and give them too much weight.  The reality is that though some folks may use Yelp reviews as a guide to deciding whether or not to visit your establishment, the majority of consumers do not.

My best advice to you is to be aware of what is being said and certainly address any constructive feedback.  Let the rest go, and I strongly encourage anyone to not respond to negative reviews unless they are absolutely constructive. They’re just noise, and if you want to build a business that lasts, you need to learn to tune it out and stay focused on always delivering the best possible experience to your customers.

Good luck!


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