The rise of blogs and user-generated content sites has turned every customer of a business into a potential critic with a big platform. Word of mouth still serves as a huge boon or burden to a company; but like so many other things, the internet has made its spread much more efficient. Many consumers check out all sorts of businesses and restaurants online before they visit them, and while professional reviews still matter, blogs and sites that aggregate user reviews are growing increasingly powerful. The question for businesses is how to respond to and capitalize on this trend. Some try to bury criticism or attack critics, but some are pointing out, the best way to keep potential customers from finding out you don't treat customers well is simply to treat them all well to begin with. Professional restaurant critics typically strive to maintain their anonymity, and restaurants strive to find out what they look like to they be sure to put their best foot forward when they visit. But as more people put stock in what fellow non-professional critics have to say about restaurants and other sorts of businesses, it means they'll have to raise their game for everybody. After all, you may figure out what the Times reviewer looks like, but you're going to have a hard time keeping track of all the "normal people" reviewers.
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