SASKATOON -- A Facebook page that was started as an avenue for the public to share their experiences at Saskatchewan restaurants is being attributed with saving at least one local eatery from closing down because of COVID-19.

The page is called Saskatchewan Restaurants the Good the Bad and the Ugly and it started four years ago with a couple hundred followers but since COVID-19 it has grown to 12,000 followers.

The owner of Wendel Clark’s Classic Grill and Bar, Gary Baba, says he’s turned some negative reviews into positive customer service and says the page allowed them to get word out to the public during the shutdown about their take-out service during a time when they couldn’t afford advertising.

David Weigel started the page and says there are five moderators who help to ensure the page rules are being followed because this is a powerful social media tool that could make or break a business.

“We always try to make sure that we do our due diligence to make sure that the reviews are honest, first person, because we don’t want to hear, my brother’s cousin said this. We need people to be honest themselves,” Weigel told CTV News.

Wendel Clark’s opened two years ago, but has been hit hard like many during the pandemic. Baba says the free advertising on this Facebook page saved his business.

“Without this page, we wouldn’t be here.”

He says with little revenue coming in there was no money for advertising and the page’s many followers got the word out.

Weigel says he never thought the page would get this big and is proud of the fact that it helps customers learn about new and existing restaurants while giving businesses a platform to reach out to customers.

This real-time review opportunity is a sign of the times, according to David Williams, an associate marketing professor at the University of Saskatchewan.

“If something goes bad it spreads like wildfire and if something goes good it also spreads like wildfire. It can have a big effect on you and you have to respond to customers appropriately.”

Responding to customer concerns is key in this case, according to Williams, because it improves the optics of the business in the eyes of all followers of the page.