Get a Negative Review? All is Not Lost.

Has it happened to you? Everything’s going great with your restaurant, you have a daily steady stream of customers, and then, out of nowhere, you or a staff member discovers your business has received a negative review online.

It can feel like a punch to the gut, especially when you feel you’ve been doing everything right. You may think the best response is to ignore the “picky” patron, but reviews carry a lot of weight when people are deciding where to eat. Research shows that over two-thirds (67.7%) of buying decisions are influenced by online reviews. And the number of stars a business has on Yelp has been linked to an increase in revenue.  

However, negative reviews don’t have to impact your business if you take the right action.

Be Proactive About Bad Reviews

Showing the public that you’re aware of what people are saying about your business sends the message that you take customer feedback seriously. So if you haven’t already, it’s a good idea to claim your business on Yelp so people know there’s a real person monitoring the page. This will also allow you to publicly respond to reviewers’ comments. Yelp allows you to fill in information about your restaurant so think of this step as a free marketing tool to promote your restaurant. Once you’ve claimed your restaurant’s page, you’ll receive notifications about new reviews.

When you receive one that’s low rated, you’ll want to respond to it in a timely manner—within 48 hours if possible. The worst thing you can do it ignore the review. Responding the right way gives you a chance at winning the customer’s business back and demonstrates to anyone reading your comments that you care.

The Three-Step Response

When it comes to effectively responding to negative reviews, there are three steps that can win back the customer:

  1. Thank the person for taking the time to leave the review and share their experience with you.
  2. Express your sympathy that their experience was not what they expected (without pinning the blame directly on yourself or a member of your staff.)
  3. Invite the reviewer to reach out to you privately by providing your business email address or phone number to discuss their dining experience further. This will make the conversation private by taking it offline as well as show you’re willing to listen to their concerns and make things right.

You may also wish to offer the customer a gift card or free meal as an incentive to give your establishment another try.

And what about the customers that have left you positive reviews? You don’t want to ignore these people, either. You don’t have to respond to every single happy review, but taking the time once in a while to thank someone for their glowing comments and letting them know you look forward to serving them again shows that you appreciate their patronage.

Sometimes It’s Not Them, It’s You

It’s fairly normal that even with the most efficiently operating restaurant, a negative review may happen every now and then. But if your business has overwhelmingly bad reviews and you’re seeing a pattern of people complaining about the same details (wrong dishes, long wait times, etc.), then this likely means you need to make some improvements. Seeing online reviews as shining a light on where you can do things better will help take some of the sting out of them.

Use Technology to Improve Customer Reviews

Today’s restaurant management software allows you to build stronger relationships with your customers. For example, you can implement software that allows guests to provide real-time feedback on their dining experience, allowing you to correct issues in the moment rather than seeing a negative review pop up after the fact.

Not only does such technology help differentiate your restaurant, but it tells customers you appreciate their business and value their opinions.

Bad online reviewers aren’t necessarily the end of the world. You simply need to know how to address them properly and devote time to monitoring your online reputation. This bit of extra effort can keep happy and satisfied customers steadily streaming in.

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