5 Steps For Restaurants To Handle A Bad Review

Bad reviews can and will happen

A bad review can happen to any restaurant, sometimes even despite your hardest efforts at quality service. Yes, it is incredibly frustrating, but you should expect to receive at least one bad review at some point or another. This is because virtually anyone can go online and write a poor review, be it a competitor or even someone who is trying to amuse themselves by ruining your reputation.

Sadly, there are people like that amongst us. Luckily however, most bad reviews are generally over misunderstandings or slow service, both of which are often just due to circumstance. And the good news is, these can be corrected with the right approach. 

Once you get your first bad review, don’t panic: there are strategies to manage any bad publicity. You might even be able to flip that bad review into a positive one with a little patience and effort. 

1. Maintain a clear head

Don’t take the review personally. The review is not an indictment against your entire business and all your hard work. No, it’s just the opinion of one person – remember that and try not to panic. Separate the business from from your  personal feelings and try to maintain a level head despite any frustrations you may have.

2. Formulate an appropriate response 

When you finally situate yourself and have a clear head, you have to consider a response to the review. When dealing with Yelp or Google reviews, you can reach out to the customer directly. It is a good idea to reach out as soon as you can, to prevent the bad review from getting more traction and cutting into your customer expectations.  

However, don’t reach out too hastily – a bad review can be made worse by a poorly-worded response that could just escalate the issue or make the customer even more stubborn.  

Before you write a response, first consider: who is at fault? What was the issue? Assess the seriousness of the problem described. Was it convenience-related? Was it the quality of the food? Was the atmosphere poor? There are many reasons why a customer would write a bad review and each merit a different kind of response. For example, if a customer claims the food was poor-tasting or there was some issue with the meal, offer a full refund and maybe a complimentary dish. Treat each dissatisfied customer on a case-by-case basis to ensure that the problem is corrected, offering complimentary services if appropriate to make up for it.  

 3. Own up to your mistakes 

If the poor review is your fault own up to it. Learn from the mistake so the bad review doesn’t repeat itself. A simple apology, and an explanation of the problem and what went wrong, goes a long way towards repairing relations with a customer.  

Also keep in mind that if you are honest about the mistakes and apologize, you are more likely to have the bad review reversed or changed.  

4. Ask for a Positive Review

There’s nothing wrong with asking for a positive review when reaching out to someone who just wrote a negative one about your restaurant, but you need to request it tactfully. This can best be illustrated through an example. 

Let’s say you receive a poor review on your restaurant concerning the quality of the meat that night. The customer said it was undercooked and was waiting too long for his meal, prompting him to write a 1-star review on Google.  

The proper response here would be to (1) Apologize for the service, admit it is your restaurant’s mistake, and give a valid reason why this happened, (2) Offer to make up for it through complimentary services or a discount next time the customer comes, and (3) After an explanation hopefully the customer understands – then ask politely for them to either remove the review or repost a positive one.   

It’s really that simple – it’s all about knowing how to talk to your customers and ensuring that they feel respected.  

Don’t be that restaurant owner who takes the bad review personally and proceeds to call the customer out for being wrong. You may think you’re protecting your dignity, but you’re actually ruining any chance of reconciliation for your business. And worst of all, the bad review will then stay and continue to hurt your restaurant’s reputation.  

Therefore, be compliant, accommodating, and try to meet the customer half-way. Admit your restaurant’s mistake and move on: You have nothing to gain by being argumentative.  

5. Improve your feedback channels

After receiving a bad review and smartly responding to it, it’s time for a reassessment of your restaurant. You need to make sure this never happens again.  

However, consider why someone would post a negative review in the first place. It’s usually the case that customers who post negative reviews only do so because there exists no more-immediate way to voice their concerns. They likely did not feel comfortable bringing the problem up with your restaurant staff and instead opted for an online review as the next best course of action.  

Therefore, many bad reviews can be stopped before they’re written by simply having instant feedback channels in place where complaints can come to you before they’re publicly online. Consider employing a feedback management app for more detailed reports on customer satisfaction and as a preventive measure against poor reviews.  

The bottom line

Getting a bad customer review is not the end of your restaurant, regardless of whether or not it may feel that way. In fact, it can be an ample opportunity for improvement and may expose a blind spot in your restaurant that is not up to expected standards. Besides, converting a bad reviewer to a satisfied customer will often make them more loyal than regular customers who are already satisfied. This is because you went out of your way to accommodate them, and that goes a long way in repairing trust. In fact, great customer service has been proven to convert dissatisfied customers into more profitable ones who are far more likely to stay loyal.  

Therefore, it’s possible to make a disgruntled customer and their poor review into a brand-building opportunity, where you learn both about yourself and your customer base. In this way, a bad review just might be a blessing in disguise depending on how your business approaches it.  

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