In the past, negative restaurant reviews were passed on by word of mouth in casual conversation, sending group chats through AOL Instant Messenger or posting to your myspace hoping your top 8 would respond.
Nowadays, negative restaurant reviews are posted to websites such as Yelp and Google which are used by millions of people every day and can be seen by anyone – not just your immediate connections. Anyone anywhere can see feedback about a business – whether good, bad, or ugly. Restauranteurs don’t usually favor sites like Yelp or other user- generated review sites because they tend to be platforms for customers with the strongest opinions to post their experiences.
But these reviews can be a valuable business tool for your restaurant and your online reputation. Here are some tips to navigate negative restaurant reviews and ensure guest feedback is acknowledged and addressed.
Respond Right Away
Negative reviews are opportunities to get feedback about your restaurant. 78% of online users trust reviews as much as a personal recommendation so responding right away to a negative review is key. The longer you leave a negative review with no response, the more potential guests see you have not acknowledged the situation and can influence their decision to eat at your restaurant in the future.
Be Genuine in Your Response
Avoid being defensive and be genuine in your response. Customers can see that your restaurant may not be perfect, but you’re willing to take responsibility for mistakes and work through them to improve the customer experience. Leaving a fake reply or canned response can come off as not caring about their feedback. Respond with a personalized message. A proper reply can restore that one star review they gave you.
Negative reviews are going to happen no matter how great your restaurant is. Thank them for their feedback and offer them a credit, a free meal, or a discount on their next visit. Potential future customers will see you are taking responsibility and fixing the mistake or issue at hand. The goal is to save the relationship, be appreciative of their feedback and show them you’re committed to keeping customers happy.
Learn from Your Mistakes
If you notice a pattern of bad restaurant reviews regarding your service, it may be time to investigate those complaints. Communicate negative reviews to your team and discuss how things can be improved. Use this as an opportunity to give a refresher on training and improve service. It’s not just about giving a free meal to the guest complaining. You need to look internally and go to the source of the issue. Whether it’s customer service or the quality of the food, getting to the root of the cause will only improve future guest experiences.
Negative reviews can severely impact your restaurant. Managing your online reputation should be a top priority these days as restaurants continue to make changes to their operation and create new safety standards. But not all negative reviews have to be detrimental. They can open the door to needed improvements which opens the door to more positive reviews.
Want to know more about ways to tackle negative restaurant reviews? Our VP of marketing and Josh Kopel dive into best practices during the Restaurant Marketing School podcast! Click HERE to learn more!