As a restaurant owner, you naturally want all your diners to have good a experience. Seeing a great review helps you see how you’re making a positive impact on your customers. Yet, discovering bad restaurant reviews can leave you feeling disappointed.
In the worst-case scenarios, consistent negative reviews can seriously disrupt your business. Therefore, it’s important to make concerted efforts to address them as soon as possible. This isn’t just a matter of good customer service. Your actions can also improve your reputation in the wider marketplace.
Here are four excellent strategies for effectively addressing bad restaurant reviews.
Don’t Ignore Bad Restaurant Reviews
There is a tendency for restaurants to ignore bad reviews. Alternatively, when restaurant owners notice the number of poor reviews climbing, they try to bury these with good reviews. This isn’t necessarily the best approach to take. Not only does it not address the poor reviews, but it’s also not particularly effective. Most consumers actively seek out negative reviews when making decisions.
Instead, it’s important to actively seek out bad reviews of your restaurant. When on Google Customer Reviews or Yelp, click on anything of three stars and below and take note of the key points. You should even look for the negative aspects of the largely positive comments. This can give you key insights into the areas of improvement your restaurant may need to make.
Perhaps most importantly, seek out these negative reviews and respond to them not just on review sites but also on social media. One of the most important elements of any successful social media marketing strategy is to engage meaningfully with your audience. Replying to them helps you to build stronger relationships and encourages more engagement. Discussing their individual concerns also sends a distinct message. You’re demonstrating that you have the willingness to engage even when the situation isn’t positive. This can boost your reputation.
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Focus on the Specifics
It can be very easy to get downhearted about the general tone of bad restaurant reviews. After all, when you’ve invested a lot of time and energy into a business, negativity can feel very personal. However, it’s important not to dwell on the vague sense of negativity and instead hone in on the specifics. Rather than being depressing, this approach can be empowering as these are issues you can take action on.
As you assess the negative posts, pull out the quantifiable sources of negativity. These may be issues with service, problems with the quality of food, or difficulties with staff behaviour. Create a database that you can enter these aspects into and create distinct categories so you can track them more effectively. You can then note the consistency with which certain types of problems arise, and address these as priorities.
However, in some instances, there may be no specifics in the reviews. This doesn’t mean they’re entirely useless. Take the opportunity to respond to these reviews and politely invite the reviewer to provide specific examples of elements that contributed to their experiences. This is another form of engagement and telegraphs your willingness to improve.
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Collaborate With Your Staff
Your staff will always be the most valuable part of your restaurant. It’s important to recognize that they can also be a key part of your approach to addressing negative reviews. By collaborating meaningfully with them, you can gain more diverse perspectives on solutions.
Have regular meetings to discuss the reviews the restaurant has received. Certainly include the details of positive reviews so these aren’t entirely downbeat sessions. However, you should go through the key points of negativity with a solutions-oriented mindset. Ask staff to provide their insights into how accurate they feel the reviews are and what can be done to make improvements.
In some instances, your staff’s performance may be the reason for negative reviews. Work with them to establish how these issues have arisen and create plans for moving forward. One of the tech solutions that can boost the efficacy of local businesses today is employee performance monitoring software. This can help you to see the amount of time some employees spend on specific tasks and the quality levels of their actions. In some cases, when combined with artificial intelligence (AI) management software, you can gain access to automated improvement suggestions that can address the root causes of bad restaurant reviews.
Take Care of Your Customers
One of the most important things to do when dealing with bad reviews is to take the customer’s account seriously, and then take steps to make amends. Taking care of your customers in the face of bad reviews might include strategies such as:
- Acknowledging the review: One of the worst ways you can respond to bad restaurant reviews is with attempts to disparage, ignore, or cover them up. Shying away from bad reviews can make a restaurant look like they have something to hide. Facing them head-on helps manifest the opposite effect.
- Being transparent: Actively and honestly responding to all of your reviews, positive and negative, will help define your organization as transparent. The more visible you can make the discussion and outcome, the better your business will fare.
- Responding politely: What you say is just as important as how you say it. Make sure that you adopt an empathetic tone, and avoid taking a defensive tone or stance. Apologize for any issues that may have contributed to a negative experience and state your commitment to ensuring these don’t occur again in the future.
- Repairing the relationship: Even if you are 100% convinced you are in the right, you should still take steps to repair the customer relationship. Whether you offer a discount, a gift card, or make amends in another way, the potential net gain from returning customers in the face of something as small as a gift card is too valuable to ignore.
Taking bad reviews seriously and then addressing them directly shows all customers — new and returning — that you are committed to taking them and their experience seriously. All things equal, if a customer has the choice between identical restaurants, but one of them is transparent and committed to taking care of its patrons while the other is not… well, it’s not hard to divine which restaurant they’d rather spend their time and money with.
How you treat bad restaurant reviews can have a direct impact on the success of your business. Don’t ignore the reviews. Instead, you should actively seek them out and learn from them. Identify the specific issues customers have and collaborate with your staff on finding effective solutions. Taking a transparent approach also ensures you maintain the trust of diners. It’s never pleasant to get negative reviews, but addressing them quickly and fully is your best response.
Blog contribution: Amanda Winstead