How to Respond to Negative Reviews of Your Restaurant

Nov 18, 2019

No matter the industry, online reviews have become the be all and end all for how consumers judge a business. Get a bad review, and it can haunt you. Earn positive reviews, and it can sway consumers to select your restaurant over another, which has no reviews or a lower rating.

In 2017, it was reported that online reviews impact purchasing decisions for over 93 per cent of consumers. And in 2018, it was found that 91 per cent of 18-34-year-olds -- the ever hard to please millennial and post-millennial market -- trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.

Get a negative review, and it could cost you up to 22 per cent of your customer base. If there are more than three negative reviews, then the number of consumers avoiding your restaurant could reach more than 59 per cent.

Of course, not every customer is going to love your restaurant, and some bad reviews may say more about the person reviewing you than it does your restaurant. It's tough to keep an entirely perfect rating. However, when every review matters, how can you get back into favour when someone has submitted a review attacking your brand?

Responding to reviews is essential to keeping control of your restaurants brand perception online.

1. Thank Reviewers for Their Feedback

"Thank you" may not be exactly what you wish to say when someone has given you a negative review, but responding with humility and appreciation for your customers shows that you care about their experience.

Restaurants need to reply to every bad review and follow a communication formula that goes something like this:

  1. Thank you for your feedback
  2. We're sorry to hear that you had this experience
  3. If you would be willing to let us resolve this, may you please send us an email at...

This is powerful to the reviewer and those reading the review, as it shows that you have acknowledged the issue and you are doing something to rectify it.

2. Ask for Another Review

Most negative reviews are about something fixable. Maybe there wasn't enough sauce on the burger, or a waiter made a mistake with the order. These are annoying for the customer, but they don't have to be the end of your reputation.

When customers submit a bad review like this, take it as a chance to encourage them back in for another trial. Follow the formula above: thank them for their feedback, apologise that the experience didn't meet their standards, and then ask them directly if they would consider coming in and reviewing another option. You can even suggest a menu item that gets glowing reviews.

This action shows the reviewer and those reading these reviews that you're open to working with your guests to find them a solution that they will love. It's also an excellent opportunity to promote your highly reviewed menu items. With your online menu, you can quickly identify the dishes your guests love and link this to your response. You could suggest they try the halloumi burger which has 10/10 ratings, for example.

3. Offer a Freebie

It doesn't make sense to offer all bad reviewers a free meal. However, there are rare cases when the reviews are particularly negative, and a freebie may be the only option to turn them around.

If, for example, a reviewer has severely attacked the quality of the food, restaurants should follow the same steps as above: thank them for their feedback, apologise that the experience didn't meet their standards, and then let them know that you would love another chance to turn around their experience with a meal on the house. Ask them to send you their details, and then you can work with them offline to either send them a gift card or try and lock in a booking.

Putting your money where your mouth is, is a powerful statement to the audience reading your reviews. When you are so confident that you can turn a bad review around with another visit, it makes you stand out to your potential customers. It lets them know that you will do all you can to ensure the experience is positive, and if it's not, you will do all you can to rectify it.

It is no coincidence that the best-reviewed restaurants are those that work hard to monitor and manage their reviews. These restaurants look at every review, positive and negative, as an opportunity - whether it is an opportunity to learn or an opportunity to turn a bad experience into a positive one.

If you approach it politely, with humility and with a friendly and playful spirit, responding to reviews can turn out to be one of the more rewarding parts of your online marketing efforts.

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