I just read a story about online “reputation management” services for restaurants (link via CHOW). As an avid Yelper who is often bored enough to participate in the Talk boards, I can tell you there's lots of discussion among these Internet users/reviewers regarding the response of businesses to non-professional reviews. As you might imagine, most of them think business owners who fail to live and let live with the online crowd are... well, stupid.
The value of individual reviews can be debated for the next decade, but I don't understand why some restaurant owners seem to think that (1) you can control information on the Internet and (2) everyone believes everything some other asshole says online. So why bother getting het up because not everyone who posts an opinion that's not exactly your own marketing copy?
Most people can tell when the reviewer is being unreasonable. Most people are likely to analyze reviews in total in their own, individual ways. And most people are unlikely to respond well to obvious owner meddling. Most people want businesses to earn those rave reviews.
It's one thing if you want your restaurant's own website to show up first in a Google search, but to prevent Yelp, Chowhound, etc. from showing up at all is just kind of... dumb and limiting. People like me, for instance, might think no one cares about your restaurant enough to even review it, so why would I want to go there?
Hey, you three people who read this: how do you use sites like Yelp to determine whether or not to try a place? Do you write reviews?