How to Respond To Negative Restaurant Reviews

How to Respond To Negative Restaurant Reviewsv

Respond promptly to turn negative reviewers into lifelong customers.

Nearly 70% of people using the Internet are influenced by reviews. This means that you’ve got to take your restaurant reviews seriously – whether they are positive or negative.

It’s important to be proactive when it comes to reviews, especially the unfavorable ones. In this article, we take a look at how to respond to negative restaurant reviews.

First, we want to tell you that not all negative reviews have lasting consequences. Oftentimes, a negative review is an opportunity for growth. A bad review can help you improve customer service. It also gives you the opportunity to turn a negative into a positive.

And, let’s face it, nearly all restaurants have received a negative review at one time or another. It’s what you do with the review that sets you apart and defines your restaurant. (tweet this)

Here’s how to respond to negative restaurant reviews:

Read the Review Carefully

This is an often overlooked step when it comes to responding to negative restaurant reviews. You want to read the review carefully several times. Move slowly so you really take in and understand the meaning.

While most of us skim the Internet, this isn’t a time for a quick read. You might miss the subtle nuances hidden within. As you read the review, take notes of the facts. Here are some to consider:

  • The date of the problem.
  • The tone – is the writer angry, upset, frustrated or something else?
  • Do you think you can make it right?
  • The person’s name and any staff that were part of the issue.

While you do want to respond in a timely manner, you don’t want to be too quick to defend your position. A great trick is to read the review out loud. This will really help you get a feel for the problem and frustration level.

Do Some Research on the Issue

When reading a negative review about your restaurant, your first instinct is to defend your position. It’s hard to do that, though, if you don’t have all the facts.

If the customer didn’t complain to you in person, while in your restaurant, you may not even be aware of the situation. Unfortunately, that is more common than not. According to the Washington Post, nearly 80% of complaints happen online and not in your restaurant.

This is why research is important. Talk to any staff involved on the day in question and anyone mentioned in the negative review. Ask for their “side” of the story.

If the issue is one you can resolve, you can proceed onward. If it is really serious, you might discuss it with your legal team before responding.

Do Some Research on the Customer

Do you know the customer who wrote the review? Is it a regular or someone who only came in once? If it’s anonymous, can you tell if it’s a legitimate review?

Take a look at whether or not this person is in the habit of posting negative reviews. Check out their social media pages. Try and find out if they are local or an out-of-towner.

Learning more about your reviewer can help you gain insight into why they left the review. For example, if they write a lot of negative reviews, you’ll probably glean that they’re picky and perhaps even inconsolable.

Negative Reviews

Put yourself in their position. How would you feel?

Apologize and Empathize

The customer is always right. Yes, that’s true. But why? Because one bad review can multiply like wildfire throughout your community and spell disaster for your restaurant.

Not only are you fighting for the reviewer’s business, but you’re fighting for everyone else who reads the review. (tweet this)

It’s important to treat your guest with the utmost importance and make them feel special.

You want to empathize with them and let them know you understand.

Sometimes the problem is caused by your restaurant, and sometimes it isn’t caused by you at all. You’ll probably know which if you’ve done your research. Consider the two responses you might give:

  • “I am so sorry we messed up.”
  • “I am so sorry you feel that way.”

Both answers are apologies, but they quickly move the conversation into other areas. You need to know which direction to take your response.

Reiterate and Solve the Problem

Next, you want to repeat the problem as you understand it. You can use all of your research here. You can use this part of your response to outline what you can do to make it better or to ensure the problem doesn’t happen again.

For example, let’s say the customer is mad about missing out on the daily special. You could empathize and apologize, restate the issue and promise that next weekend you’ll be better prepared. Your comment might look something like this:

“I am very sorry that we ran out the cordon bleu on Friday evening. The response was larger than we expected, and we ran out before we could serve you. We understand it’s frustrating to miss out on something you looked forward to, and we’re working with our chef to ensure that it never happens again. We’d love to see you again this weekend for our next special.”

On the flip side, let’s say you had the same review, but you absolutely did not run out of the daily special. You can respond to this negative review kindly with something like this:

“On Friday, we had plenty of daily specials and didn’t run out. Could it be that this is a mistake? We hope so! And, we look forward to seeing you soon.”

You look great in both reviews. You come off as kind, caring and empathetic. It was the research you did earlier that helped you respond to the negative restaurant review.

Don’t Get Personal

Be careful and don’t get too personal. Remember – it isn’t just the reviewer reading your comments, it’s anyone visiting your website or social media page.

Final Thoughts

Remember we said that not all negative reviews are detrimental. Sometimes they open the door to something good.

People really aren’t looking for perfection. They want to be acknowledged with an honest response from you. When you offer a great response, you might find you get a complimentary comment in return. This essentially turns the negative comment into a positive.

Restaurants depend on word of mouth. It’s often your best form of advertising. It can turn a small, unknown restaurant into the most popular place in town. Yet, just as quickly, you can watch crowds dwindle when you have bad customer reviews.

Lastly, be vigilant. It’s vital that you respond to negative reviews as soon as you see them.

Do periodic Google searches for negative reviews. Pay attention to the reviews on your social media channels. Respond immediately so you can turn that negative into a positive.

Take control of your online marketing today. Take a tour of Restaurant Engine and launch your restaurant website this weekend!

We build responsive, mobile-friendly restaurant websites with dynamite online menus. Contact us today for your free website consultation. We are here to help you update your website and stand out in the crowd so you can stay ahead of your competition and grow your positive online presence with your restaurant website.

Images: Michael Browning and Jay Wennington


2 responses to “How to Respond To Negative Restaurant Reviews”

  1. Elaine Gregerman says:

    On January 29, 2020 my friend and I went to a restaurant that we had never tried called Le Cafe Francais in Davie, Fl. for lunch. There were only 4 people in when we arrived. There was a woman and a young man working. It took forever for them to approach us just to get water. We ordered eggs, mine with spinach, cheese and onions, my friend all vegetables. Came with salad a a piece of french bread in a bag for each of us. I called the waiter over to ask why I had no onions, he took my fork and lifted my eggs on my plate to show me that it was chives instead of regular onions, how insulting. We ordered coffee which came in a coffee mug half filled with coffee. We asked why it wasn’t a full cup and he said they don’t serve regular only espresso and that was a shot for $3.50. Espresso is usually served in a demitasse cup and I think we should have been told first. We asked for a refill of coffee because we only had a small cup full. We were charged $3.00 for the refill. Espresso is usually served after your meal with dessert. We tried to get waiters attention to ask for more bread which he finally brought and charged us $1.00. When we first were seated we felt warm so we asked to move to table under fan, which seemed to annoy them. Next thing we hear a loud noise and they are now vacuuming so I can’t hear my friend talking since I wear hearing aids. Never did they smile or introduce themselves to us or ask if we ever needed anything. They were both rude and abrupt with us like we were annoying them. As we left there were some local flyers and some magazines on a shelf. I went to get the flyer and I thought the magazine was also to take. The woman came over to inform me to not take a magazine in a rude manor. I apologized and we left. First and last visit. We tipped our waiter $5.00 each in spite of the poor service. That was foolish on our part for rewarding bad behavior. After I posted my review I get a sarcastic remark. It says E I hope you are feeling better. I explained to her what sarcastic means to use irony in order to mock or convey contempt. Instead of writing this rude remark she could have apologized and said let’s try to make this better. Blamed us for the whole incident like we were wrong. What a foolish mistake on her part. This is the kind of publicity you don’t want!!! I will share this with my friends.

  2. Keedy's says:

    It’s a good thing we’re not getting much in the way of negative reviews these days.

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