Managing Restaurant Reviews Positively

Business Insider tells its readers, “As the digital era continues to grow and expand, review sites will, more and more, become the gatekeepers to customer acquisition. The best way to maintain a positive reputation is to ensure flawless customer service and experience.”

Did you know:

  • 60% of restaurants don’t make it past the first year.
  • 80% of restaurants go under in five years.

Why do we bring this up? To have a successful restaurant and beat out the competition, you want to do your best to offer exceptional customer service at all times to avoid bad reviews.

Yet, sometimes people are just grumpy and leave bad reviews anyway. In this article, we look at how to positively manage those negative reviews so your restaurant doesn’t end up as part of the above statistic.

First, let’s look at the importance of good reviews.


Your business depends on your ability to be found by customers online. The top mobile search is for restaurants. Your potential customers are looing for your address, your phone, your menu, and yes, your reviews.

Most potential diners will check your online reviews before walking in your door. This is why your online reputation is paramount. Diners are more likely to visit your restaurant if you have multiple positive reviews.

On the flip side, if you get several bad reviews, your potential customers are going to take notice. Let’s look at how to manage them if they do come in.

1.Breathe In and Reflect

When the negative review comes in, your first reaction is probably part anger and part frustration.

This is not the time to respond to the review. You don’t want to be hasty with your response.

Read the review several times and then step back. Return a bit later and begin to formulate your response once you’ve calmed down and left your emotions at the door.

Always respond to all of your reviews – positive and negative – in a timely fashion.

2. Analyse Carefully

It may be that your staff knows the whole story and can fill you in. If the customer complained in your restaurant, you might have knowledge of the situation, but this is often not the case.

If you don’t know anything about what the customer is talking about, visit with your employees to learn more.

Do your research so you have a clear idea. Carefully listen to your staff as well to find out where the problem started and if it actually is a real issue.

Sometimes bad reviews are in reaction to something that did go wrong, and sometimes they are a wrong perceived only by your customer.

Bottom line – knowing each and every detail behind the negative review helps you respond in the most thorough, empathetic way possible.

3. Apologise Rationally and Wisely

It doesn’t much matter whether you or your staff actually was at fault. The issue is that your customer thinks you were.

So, this means an apology is warranted regardless of what really happened.

Online negativity trickles down to everyone who reads the review, so you want to craft a response that offers sympathy and an apology.

In this instance, your customer is always right, so make a vow to diffuse the situation.

Your customers have the ability to make or break your restaurant. One unhappy customer can post bad reviews on Facebook, Google or TripAdvisor in 10 minutes.

It’s your utmost responsibility to make each person who writes a bad review feel like you care about them. You want them to walk away knowing you did all you could to remedy the situation.

First you apologize, and then you tell them what you’re going to do to make them feel better. You can always offer an explanation of what happened.

If your restaurant really was at fault, say so. Apologize and thank them for bringing the matter to your attention. Also, when the review is factual, be sure and tell the guest what steps you’re taking to resolve the issue and make sure it doesn’t happen again.

If you weren’t at fault, still apologize and offer a brief explanation.

Finally, sometimes the reviewer is someone from the competition. If you know this and can compare your guest records with the person’s name, feel free to call them out and explain that you don’t know them.

4. Readdress the Complaint

When crafting your reply, it always helps to restate the complaint. For example, “Hello Mr. Smith, thank you for reaching out to us to let us know that you had to wait 30 minutes for your meal. We are incredibly sorry for this unfortunate incident…”

This shows your diner that you are really listening and understand their complaint.

On the flip side, if they say anything at all positive in the review, be sure to highlight that, too. Thank them for any compliment they give, no matter how small.

This serves to remind not only them but those reading your review that there are positive aspects to your restaurant.

Your ultimate goal is to make your customer feel like you understand them, feel sorry for what happened and want to make amends.

When you respond to negative reviews, you increase the possibility that your customer will take down their bad review or write a retraction.

While this is a nice goal, it isn’t your only goal. You are also writing your response to all of the other web surfers who will read it. It pays to signal to them that you are a top-notch, kind, caring and empathetic restaurant.

In addition, when responding to reviews, either positive or negative, you want to do so quickly. The best response is given within 24 hours.

Finally, if you have a lot of positive reviews and a handful of negative ones, take heart.

Actionable Takeaway.

Having a negative review or two isn’t always a bad thing. It makes you look real, it gives you a chance to connect with readers, it can show you where you need to change, and it makes your positive reviews look even better.



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