When you run a business you do have to continually re-asses everything you do. When you are chef, brewer, electrician, IT manager and head bottle washer it can often feel like you are too close to the coal face to see the bigger picture. It can also be dangerous to cast the net too wide and view opinion that exists outside the target audience.
The Internet is something of a jungle. It's a very powerful marketing tool for getting the message out there to a customer base. We seem to be reasonably good at it. Not perfect, I'll admit, but most of our new custom comes that way; that and word of mouth. The Internet is also the main mode for unhappy customers to vent their spleen when they find that what they expected is not borne out in reality.
I work hard to try and tell prospective customers what we do. I'm sure I don't get it right all the time, but I try. In return we get various compliments coming back to us directly. Some criticisms come back this way as well and I try and respond to them all personally whenever I can. It seems to me that many more criticisms work their way into WEB2.0. Sites such as beerintheevening and tripadvisor can sometimes be quite cruel. Not just to us but to other establishments where I know hard work is being put in by staff and owners. Perhaps it's our style, where we try and give a personal touch to our service. Satisfied customers seem to want to contact us directly to tell us how much they enjoyed their time here.
I have stopped looking at review sites. If I didn't I'd become terribly depressed. We know very well that we don't appeal to a broad audience. We are simply not trying to. We find that due to our location we have many more quiet times than busy times and feel our service is much better when trade is slower; we can provide a more friendly style that works better and makes us happier. Yes it's niche and yes it's a little select and maybe even got an element of snobbery about it, but it works for us.
When you are in a niche, be one.