5 Ways to Deal with Negative Restaurant Reviews

 In Reviews

Online reviews can be helpful, flattering, encouraging, generous, and kind. They can also be hasty, picky, cantankerous, dramatic, and ruthless. What do you do with negative restaurant reviews?

5 Ways to Deal with Negative Restaurant Reviews

Reviews are crucial. They give you exposure to Google searches and build your reputation. But you don’t have control over what anyone posts. That’s why you have to get creative and proactive in cultivating and curating your online reviews, leveraging every opportunity to create a positive customer experience.

Negative restaurant reviews happen. But you can learn to turn them to your advantage.

1: Gain perspective

Any review that comes your way is loaded with the potential for building your perspective. That’s right: any review.

With a fair, generous, or honest negative review, this means perspective on your service, food, atmosphere, and operations. If there’s a missing link in your marketing chain, negative restaurant reviews can help tell you. If there’s a dish you think is great but is actually a flop, reviews clear your perspective. If you have staff that need better training (or replacing), reviews help you spot that, too.

Can an exaggerated, unkind, or even fake negative review give you perspective as well? Absolutely!

First, if you have a lot of low-blow negative reviews rolling in, you may not be tapping into your desired audience, and thus not gaining reviews from experienced or competent reviewers.

Second, you may not be vigilant enough in watching for fake or inappropriate reviews. Or important positive reviews might be getting filtered out. The latter has become a real problem on Yelp, particularly for new restaurants. In this way, a bunch of funky reviews can give you a valuable perspective on your marketing tactics.

2: Recommit to the customer

When you receive a negative review, it’s tempting to react in anger, distress, or disappointment. This can show up as bad behavior, such as ignoring, lashing out, making frantic changes, or carrying negative emotions toward staff or customers.

However, your negative restaurant reviews, whether kindly meant or truly awful, are an opportunity to realize that this is not ultimately about you. It’s about service.

What would happen if you assumed the review was correct? What response would you share? What changes would you make?

Your business began with a strong personal vision. Still, as intertwined as it is with your life, it is not just an extension of your ego. Reviews are an opportunity to be humble, open and service-oriented, even when people act like jerks.

It has its limits of course! Ever seen As Good as It Gets? See tip #5 for advice here.

The point is, as a principle, graciousness toward negative reviews can grow character, and grow your business. Use negative reviews as a reminder to keep customer service, and not personal gratification, priority #1.

3: Play nice, and let it show

Don’t be afraid to keep negative restaurant reviews public. They show that you value all kinds of customer feedback, and are willing to respond. They also give you a chance to react generously to criticism, in a public forum.

Ways of reacting generously include:

Respond quickly. Don’t let a negative review sit unanswered for more than 48 hours. The freshest reviews are the ones that float to the top in searches. A quick, attentive response makes a great impression on those who read it and may even change the reviewer’s opinion.

Never argue in public. Use the public forum only to listen, share sympathy, apologize, and make effective reparation. If you do need to defend yourself or get more detail, offer to extend the conversation in person or by phone.

Give them more than what they ask for. If they don’t ask for a gesture of repayment, offer it. If they do ask for a gesture of repayment, offer more than what they ask (if possible). This doesn’t have to be in refunds or gift cards. It can also be in privileges, such as a personal follow-up phone call from a manager or owner.

4: Be a human

Standard, cookie-cutter responses can be technically correct but lack any of the warmth or life that really turn a negative review around. Nobody is won over by a robot. Negative restaurant reviews can really hurt your business, so work to make sure you’re connecting personally with those who leave them. A bit of humor or tactful charm can go a long way to diffuse a situation and win someone over to your side.

Think, too, about ways to personalize your responses. Sharing genuine, personal acknowledgment is one of the best ways to truly connect with someone with whom you have a difference. Use their name, if available, and address their concern specifically.

5: Chuck it out

Yes, there may come a day when you come across a review too nasty, unkind, or inappropriate to leave on your page. Foul language, sexual references, libel, or viciously attacking a particular staff person by name are unacceptable. If you sense trolling or verbal abuse, don’t be shy about:

Ignoring the review (if the offense is obvious and harmless enough).

Responding politely but tersely to shut down the conversation.

Contacting the site manager and asking them to remove the review.

A great customer service vision is one with boundaries and integrity. All reviews give you perspective, but not all deserve an audience. To guarantee that all your reviews are real and that you have a chance to deal with them, try a free demo of Original Review. OR’s real-time review app lets you jump on negative reviews before they get the jump on you. Customizable alerts let you know the moment a diner leaves a negative review, so you can fix the situation in person. Protect your reputation, learn more, and sign up for a demo today.

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