Long before the internet and social media, restaurant reviews have always played a major role in the business. Between food critics and journalists expressing their experience at a restaurant could make or break an establishment. Restaurant owners fought long and hard battles to appease these people to entice customers to their establishment, not send them packing.
Nowadays, anyone who has access to the internet and belongs to a social media can review a restaurant for all to read. Consumers are visiting restaurants and then leaving their opinions for friends and followers to see. Word is spread in a matter of seconds, allowing their audience to decide if this particular restaurant is a good choice for dining at tonight or not.
In this day and age, customers have greater opportunities to express their likes or dislikes in a heartbeat. The bottom line, no one in the restaurant industry wants to suffer through negative reviews. Negative reviews can affect your star rating and have a major impact on your revenue. As mentioned above, no one has to be a journalist anymore to have an impact on revenues from negative reviews. Prospective customers read a negative review and will change their minds, based on the reviews. Because anyone can post complaints on a whim many are actually built on poor information or someone is just not happy that day! So how can a restaurant owner respond to online reviews that are anything but complimentary?
Here are so great suggestions for dealing with online reviews, how to respond, and how to establish a solid base for interpreting and dealing with criticism about your restaurant.
Having An Active Online Presence
There are many different kinds of reviews including those that are positive regarding your restaurant, offer constructive criticism and even general advice. When you respond to these reviews, thank your customer for their comments, address their questions or criticism, and promote any specials that are being released soon that are relative to these comments. “We are getting ready to release new entrees very shortly.” Above and beyond all else, when responding to comments, show your willingness to stay engaged.
Many restaurant owners have chosen to set up Google Alerts so they will be notified when new reviews have been posted. Focus on favorite review sites such as Trip Advisor, Yelp, and Angie’s List and never overlook social media sites as well.
While you will never appease everyone all the time, if you have a review policy you might be able to curb some negatives for positives. In many cases, customers really do not dislike your food or service but just had a bad experience and are taking it out on you. Encourage customers to leave positive feedback by offering coupons or special offers.
The Waiting Game From Hell!
There are very things that are worse than the really angry customer who was promised a table in 15 minutes and an hour later is still waiting! You will probably see comments like this one: “One hour later, still no table! The staff could have cared less and walked past us like we weren’t even there.!” “If I thought I could, I’d give you Zero Stars!”
No one really wants to get reviews like this, but be prepared for them. A negative experience will usually prompt unfavorable reviews and will range from slightly upset to full rage! You might even get some blue language or profanity sprinkled in. Take a deep breath and get ready to address these rather angry people.
Keep in mind, when dealing with really angry customers, you must make sure your temper is in check. If you feel it is a situation that must be addressed, don’t be in a hurry, wait a day or two then approach the situation in a rational, calm sense. The problem with the internet, reviews can blindside you and you are not even sure where it came from. Many times people will not complain while in your establishment but prefer to wait and criticize you online. That said, do not ignore these negative reviews, you still should address them all.
Understand that if a customer had a negative experience, you must empathize with them. When you confront them, do not make excuses or attempt to defend your staff’s reaction to get getting a table for this customer in a timely manner. Instead, offer a sincere apology for what they went through and then try to move from a conversation to getting an email address to offer a solution.
The Rambling Review
Sometimes, customers will leave reviews that are really complicated and confusing. They might go over the history of the establishment that had many different owners and names to a one time experience where they became ill or was it because they had the flu?
These can be well-meaning but difficult to follow their train of thought. You really need to sit down and try to interpret what they are trying to say. Sometimes you might be able to but before responding get as much information as you can ahead of time.
Gathering Pertinent Information
Try and determine the date of their visit.
Try and determine the tone of the review. Is it really angry or just a little upset.
If applicable, write down the specific incident.
The name or names of any staff members involved during the incident.
Research The Customer
Is this customer a regular patron or first-time visitor?
Do they review and leave comments with every single business that opens up in your town?
Do they continually post negative or positive reviews?
Research The Incident
Gather information from staff members who were there at the time and get their side of the story.
Then decide how serious the claim is from a legal point of view.
Know The Facts First
Keep in mind, a customer could post a review claiming they had an experience that just never happened. In some cases, they have never been inside your restaurant but just like writing reviews! That’s why research is critical before jumping to conclusions.
Once you have all your research, only respond to those reviews that are legitimate. Once you have spoken with your staff and believe there was a situation, you should respond to the customer directly. If you have discovered their claim is totally false, for instance, you served horrible burgers but you don’t serve burgers because you’re a vegan restaurant! In that situation, you might want to gently remind them they are confusing you with somewhere else. As with all reviews, handle it with respect and discretion and try to move from a conversation to an email address to offer a solution.
There are some reviews that across the board the customer was fine, except for one situation. If it had not been for one situation, they never would have left a negative comment. Everything is not over, you can potentially win this customer back.
When responding to this kind of negative review, you need to lessen the damaging effect. After doing your research, you want the customer to know that you will take full responsibility for the situation and offer a resolution.
Keep in mind, you are responding to the upset customer as well as to anyone who has read this review. Always remain sincere when apologizing and use “We” instead of the name of your restaurant. Keep it brief, the idea is to get them thinking about a resolution for the problem, not dwelling on it.
Do what you honestly believe is right, offer a discount or coupon and thank them for bringing the situation to your attention.
The Review From A Snob
These could be the most difficult reviews to try and work around because you just cannot please customers like this. They hate your décor, they hate your music, the cannot stand the mechanical bull in the corner, even though your restaurant is TexMex!, and the list goes on and on. The snob reviewer will find fault in absolutely every aspect of your restaurant including your staff, your food, and overall customer service.
They will break their reviews down into molecules if necessary and preach to you what true restaurant professionalism is all about.
You really cannot take the reviews terribly seriously because their opinions are based on so many possible angles from your décor to choice in foods. It is important to keep yourself wide open to sincere reviews and actual experiences without going quite this far. That said, do not dismiss these reviews as ludicrous even if you think they are. You should still address the review that is commenting on the ambiance of your establishment but just don’t get too carried away.
Here Are Some Final Thoughts
There is no doubt, negative reviews can be painful but they could be the answer to moving toward much-needed improvements and positive development. Many restaurant owners will actually take negative reviews and build a new marketing research strategy. Possibly you will discover new trends that will give you an added boost.
There are tools you can use for serving customers better (and reducing the possibilities for negative reviews!) You should use automated solutions such as kitchen display system to improve your kitchen delivery time and keep your customers happy. Not only that, you should also use Restaurant waitlist app to help you in improving guest management.
Rule of thumb, customers want perfection! They want someone to address their particular problem and provide a solution. When you respond to an online review, whether positive or negative, you are showing your patrons that your door is open to their needs.
There is no magic or always a quick fix but if you stick with your principles and realize the value of customer service, you will come out ahead. Again, always stay calm, understand the customer’s concerns and offer solutions to bring them back into the fold.