How to Respond to Negative Online Reviews

Dec 28 2016

Restaurant Management Customer Reviews

Social media is everywhere.  An increasing number of diners are using apps like Yelp and TripAdvisor to decide where to go for breakfast, lunch and dinner each day.  In fact, according to a 2016 BrightLocal Local Consumer Reviews Survey, 84% of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation.

But what happens when this powerful tool turns on you?  Every restaurant owner should have a plan in place for when a negative experience is posted on your Facebook page, or if a scathing review appears on Yelp.  Why?  Because customers who have a poor experience are far more likely to take it to social media than those who had a pleasant experience.  Even if 99% of your customers leave your establishment happy, it just takes one to convince others that your restaurant isn’t worth a chance.   

So when it happens to you, here are a few tips on how to handle it (and even turn it around to your favor…)

Customer Review.jpg

Example of a poor review:

“Terrible Food”

“My family and I wanted a special evening out to celebrate our grandmother’s birthday.  I could not eat my steak due to the sauce they drowned it in.  It was so salty that I literally gagged!  Needless to say, we won’t be eating there again.”

DO respond quickly.  The longer the comment lingers without being addressed, the more potential customers may be swayed by it.

DO apologize.  If a mistake was made, own up to it.  Even if no mistake was made and you feel the customer is wrong, do not go on the defensive.  Everyone’s opinion varies.  If a single diner found your best-selling steak sauce too salty, then it was wrong for that individual.  It is important to let them know that you are sorry that their experience was not what they expected. 

DO tell your side of the story.  It is acceptable to stand up for yourself if you do it in a respectful way.  Addressing the above situation with a professional tone will get your point across without being condescending, which can turn off others who may be reading the review/comments.

DO offer a solution.  Perhaps suggest other sauces that are milder. Reassure the diner that they can ask for tastes of a few sauces before they are poured over the entire steak, or even ask for 2-3 on the side so they can be tasted with the steak.

DO offer contact information. For more severe complaints like rude staff, it can be useful to offer the reviewer a direct line of communication via telephone or email. Even if they do not take this up, it demonstrates your care to other customers.

DO offer incentives for reviews. As mentioned above, customers who have had bad experiences are far more likely to leave reviews. As most reviewing apps utilize a rating system, just a few of these negative reviews can seriously affect your online presence by dragging your average score down. You can counter this by incentivizing more customers to leave reviews. Offer coupons or a discounted desert to customers displaying a review of decent length; of course, this will also encourage your staff to be on their best behavior.

Putting it all together.  Below is an example response to the situation mentioned above.

“I am sorry that you found our Bordelaise sauce too salty.  Although it is our top selling sauce, I understand that everyone’s palates differ and it may not be a favorite for you.  I do hope that you give us another try.  On your next visit, feel free to ask your server for samples of our delicious Au jus, ancho chile sauce, and raspberry cognac sauces on the side to find the best pairing for you.  Customer satisfaction is our top priority and I am confident that we have something on our menu that you will enjoy.”

Keep in mind that customers who were initially disappointed, but feel that you cared enough to make it right, can become your most loyal patrons.  Hopefully, they will be posting positive reviews in the future.  

Jennifer Day

Jennifer Day

Jennifer Day has over 16 years of experience in the marketing and communications field. Before joining the Ctuit marketing team, Jennifer previously worked at a major telecom company and was in marketing communications for a major point of sales (POS) manufacturer and software provider. She brings with her a wealth of knowledge on POS technologies, software and back office systems and the understanding of how they all work together to create a seamless customer experience while increasing profitability.