How Restaurants Should Handle Negative Online Reviews

Restaurant owners have a growing love-hate relationship with the various online reviewing forums currently available to today’s consumer. A good review can do wonders for your business; a bad one can do equally as much damage. Unfortunately, as a restaurant owner, you don’t have much control over what people are going to say about your business online. The best you can do is ensure that your customers have as little reason to complain as possible, and to respond appropriately if a negative review does arise.

Have Your Restaurant Make a Public Statement in Response to the Negative Review

In the event of a negative review, your restaurant’s response to the complaint can do much to quell—or fan—the flames. Ensure that your response is timely, professional, public and addresses the customer’s complaints directly. If it is a problem that can be fixed, fix it. Do what you can to smooth things over without too much fuss. Customers who take the time to post a negative review are, in most cases, good people who have had a genuinely bad experience with your restaurant. While offering them freebies in apology can be nice, what they often want, more than anything, is to simply be heard and empathized with for their frustrating experience. What’s more, negative reviews can often alert you to problems in your restaurant’s operations of which you may not be aware.It may actually be appropriate to thank the negative reviewer for bringing the issue to your attention.

Let the Negative Review Die; Focus on Building Positive Reviews for Your Restaurant

After you have responded appropriately to the negative review, the next step is to let it die and focus on building positive reviews for your restaurant on that online forum. Letting it die means not engaging in a back and forth about who’s right with the negative reviewer, or any others who chime in. Make your initial apology, if appropriate, but try to respond thereafter with only messages that demonstrate your awareness of the issue and your commitment to excellence.

Instead of battling the negative review, again, steer towardgetting positive reviews for your restaurant on the forum. Ask your customers when they check out if they enjoyed their experience, and if so, would they be willing to share it publicly. If you need to offer incentives to get people to put their reviews online for you, do so. One caution here—don’t make the mistake of soliciting fake positive reviews in an attempt to cover the bad one. Fake reviews can be spotted a mile away and telegraph a message of insecurity and a lack of authenticity that will do more damage to your reputation than the negative review alone ever could.

Do Not Allow Your Restaurant to Be Blackmailed by the Threat of a Negative Review

While most people who post negative reviews are genuinely disgruntled about a truly frustrating experience, there is a certain small percentage of online reviewers who have started attempting to blackmail restaurants for freebies and other perks with the threat of a negative online review. While this situation usually happens in the restaurant itself with a would-be paying customer, it’s also begun to happen with non-customers online who pose threats of negative reviews in hopes of getting similar deals. If you suspect that the person is a malicious reviewer simply trying to blackmail you for goods, document the situation to the best of your ability.Next, contact the online forum where the reviewer is threatening to post with the details of your case. Big organizations like TripAdvisor and Yelp are aware of this growing issue and are willing to work with businesses to remove blackmail reviews if proper proof can be provided.

Getting a negative review for your restaurant isn’t the end of the world, but should be handled with care and consideration in order to ameliorate the damaging effects as much as possible. Blackmail aside, the best you can do with a negative review is to acknowledge the complaint, do what you can to fix it and focus on your commitment to excellence moving forward.

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One Response to “How Restaurants Should Handle Negative Online Reviews”

  1. lyndaybaker Says:

    Reblogged this on lyndaybaker and commented:
    Jim Balis Blog-Responding to Negative On-Line Reviews

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