Critics: Fallout and Fanfare

As consumers seem to live more and more of their lives online, it should come as no surprise to restaurateurs that their patrons may share information about their experience in online reviews. Likewise, they should not be surprised when many potential guests consult this information when it comes to making their dining decisions.

Unfortunately, although many of these reviews will be positive, some can be downright nasty. It is easy to be discouraged by some negative reviews, especially for owners who pour their heart and soul into their restaurant. The key is to understand the impact of both negative and positive reviews, and respond properly when it is called for.

Handling Critiques Professionally

One of the most important things for restaurant owners to remember is that a couple of negative reviews will not automatically drive business away. When consumers search for reviews, they usually find multiple entries for each restaurant. Also, many people look at a few different review sites before making a decision. Generally, positive reviews far outweigh the negative ones. Also, potential guests usually check the source before they rely on an unpleasant review.

In other words, consumers can often see whether or not a certain reviewer ever posts anything positive, or if all their reviews are negative. When a reviewer never seems to having anything nice to say, their credibility tends to suffer.

Thankfully, the presence of negative reviews can actually be helpful to restaurants that receive plenty of praise as well. For one thing, when just a couple of negative reviews are peppered in with multiple positive ones, potential guests have a tendency to read the reviews more closely. This can help readers get a better idea of what the restaurant serves, what the atmosphere is like, and what kind of service they can expect. That is the kind of information that will attract many new patrons and increase a restaurant’s popularity.

Responding Responsibly

Negative reviews can also be helpful in that they may point out a problem that the restaurant owner or manager was unaware of. Not all dissatisfied customers post scathing reviews, seeking to drive away any other potential customers. Some can simply be viewed as constructive criticism, which is usually quite useful. In these cases, owners usually have the opportunity to respond to the critique in order to correct misinformation or rectify a mistake on the part of the restaurant.

Whether to respond publicly or privately depends upon the individual situation, and is ultimately up to the owner. Most popular review sites give owners the chance to respond either way. Generally, for instances in which the reviewer may be complaining about something based on incorrect information, a private response would be best. Responses must never seem like a petty squabble, so the owner should avoid any verbiage that may sound argumentative or confrontational.

For situations in which the reviewer genuinely had a bad experience at the restaurant, owners may take that chance to publicly apologize and take responsibility for whatever went wrong and invite the reviewer back to the restaurant. In doing this, the owner will seize the opportunity to show that the restaurant is committed to serving all of its patrons well.

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