How Your Restaurant Can Respond to Negative Reviews

One thing all restaurant owners fear is receiving a bad review. Especially for newly opened restaurants, reviews can make or break your success as a small business owner. Perhaps more important than the review itself is how you handle it. Your response to a customer’s complaint shows other potential and existing customers how you handle yourself and your business. A positive response might even bring back an unsatisfied customer. Here are eight tips on how to respond to and resolve a bad review.

  1. Don’t take it personally.

If you get a negative review, try to remember that it’s nothing personal; it’s just business. No one is trying to be mean, although it can be difficult to separate business from personal, especially when you’ve taken the risk to start a new business. This restaurant is your baby, after all, and you want to see it succeed. Part of being successful is being able to remain levelheaded and calm. This helps you to separate the business from the personal.

  1. Don’t panic.

Panicking and writing a hasty reply will usually end poorly for you and your restaurant. Take some deep breaths, and try to figure out exactly what happened that could have caused the review. An aggressive response made while in an emotional state makes you look unstable and can turn potential customers away from dining at your establishment. A perfect example of how not to respond with panic and haste is Amy Baking Company Boutique & Bistro (which has since closed).

  1. Respond in a polite and timely manner.

While you shouldn’t respond immediately, it’s still wise to respond as soon as you can. Your responses should be apologetic and address the issue. Start with an introduction and apologize for any inconvenience they may have received. Ask them if they’d like to discuss their issues further and leave a contact number you’re comfortable giving them or ask them to send a direct message to your restaurant.

  1. Know the type of response needed…

Some issues can be resolved with a general response. Let’s say a customer simply didn’t like the food or was upset at something beyond your control (e.g. the temperature of the restaurant, a loud table nearby, etc.). An easy response can be, “We’re sorry you didn’t enjoy your (meal/time at our establishment)! At (your restaurant name), we aim to provide the best quality meals with the best quality service. We hope you will come again to give us another chance! Thank you, (your restaurant name) management”.

  1. …especially if you are the one at fault.

Sometimes staff members make mistakes. If a customer had an issue that should never have happened in the first place (e.g. being charged for something they didn’t order, waiting an hour or more for their food, etc.), own up to it. Apologize first and foremost. Let them know that you are looking into the mistake in order to ensure it will never happen again. If you can, offer them a discounted item for the next time they come in so you can re-establish their trust – but only if you really were to blame.

  1. Tell your side of the story.

Let’s be honest: Some people are just unhappy, and they just want to complain about something. If they were at fault and refuse to admit it, don’t be afraid to tell your side of the story. But remember to tell it in a cool and collected manner. Don’t let your emotions get the better of you. 

  1. If you think a review is defamation, report it.

It is possible to run into an instance in which you get a false negative review. Fortunately, most review sites allow you to report this. However, you will need significant documentation or evidence that this review isn’t legitimate, so don’t go reporting every bad review as fraud.

  1. If you made a mistake, learn from it.

The most important takeaway from any review, positive or negative, is to learn from it. Positive reviews tell you what you’re doing right while negative reviews tell you what you need to improve on. Mistakes are inevitable – people make them all of the time. It’s how we learn from them that really matters.

  1. Ask for positive reviews.

There’s no shame in asking for a positive review. Ask customers to complete a short survey, although usually, these should be in exchange for a discounted item the next time they come into your establishment. You can also ask them to like your social media pages. On your social media pages, ask people for their opinions via polls or asking questions through statuses. People like being heard and having their opinions valued.

A negative review is never easy. It hurts and can make you feel like you’re not running your business well. However, the best way to approach this is with a good plan of action. Keeping your cool, responding quickly and politely, and ensuring you don’t make similar mistakes will give you a higher chance of succeeding in your restaurant. Your response and resolution show who you are as a person and who the restaurant is as a company. You also may have a negative reviewer dine again at your restaurant based on your response!

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