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Kathryn Bors
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08.17.16

Handling Negative Online Restaurant Reviews

Online reviews have become a popular and trusted go-to source of information for customers when scouting out a new restaurant.  They are easily accessible and allow potential customers the ability to quickly form opinions.  However, this also means that business owners and operators need to stay on top of comments on their website and have a strategy in place to deal with negative online restaurant reviews.  If negative reviews are posted and not attended to, it can be detrimental to the success and growth of your restaurant.

The key tips to handling negative online restaurant reviews are:

  • Research the issue. It is important to have the whole back-story for the complaint your business received. Check with servers, kitchen staff and managers to make sure you have the full story before responding to the issue. You’ll be more prepared and able to respond in a knowledgeable way and if the problem was not an isolated issue, you can begin to make remedies of the situation so that further issues do not occur.
  • Respond promptly. The longer a review sits online without being answered, the more damage will be done. Potential customers may decide to dine elsewhere upon coming across an unanswered negative review.  When you respond in a quick manner, other customers will see that you are attentive to feedback and actively working to improve your business.
  • Stay calm. When negative online restaurant reviews are posted, it can come as a personal attack.  Take a step back and breathe deeply.  Although some reviews are unsubstantiated, it’s important to keep a calm demeanor and avoid a virtual screaming match.  This will only tarnish your restaurant’s reputation further.  Instead, respond in a polite and professional way.
  • Remain positive. Even if it seems that the costumer is completely off base, it is best to stay positive and not come off as defensive.  Simply say you are sorry for their negative experience and you value their feedback.  Do not blame the customer!  Doing so appears highly unprofessional, and would portray a poor brand image to other potential customers.
  • Offer solutions. If an issue is brought to your attention that needs to be fixed, tell the customer what you have done to solve the problem or what you plan on doing.  Not only will this appease the unhappy commenter, but it will also show other potential clients that you are willing to make changes and are listening to your customers.
  • If necessary, direct offline. There are some situations where the best option is to direct the person to a private space and out of the public eye.  Keep your response short and politely ask the commenter to call you directly or send an email to resolve the issue.

No business can escape negative reviews so it is important to plan a strategy ahead of time.  Following these tips will help you have a positive social presence and have an active role with your customers.  With a proper strategy in place, your business will be seen as a reactive member of the community and willing to adjust to the needs and feedback of your customers.  This will result in a stronger connection with your customers and growth for your business.

Resources:

Restaurant Hospitality: 9 Latest Strategies for Handling Negative Reviews

American Express: 5 Tips for Responding Positively to Negative Online Comments

 

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