How To Reply To Negative Restaurant Reviews

Restaurant Review

A recent survey has discovered that almost 70% of people who use the Internet are influenced by reviews on websites such as TripAdvisor. With a percentage that high it’s crucial that you take negative reviews seriously.

Firstly, not all negative reviews will have lasting consequences for your establishment. Negative reviews are an opportunity for growth. A bad review can help you improve, which in time with get you more positive reviews in the future.

Almost every restaurant has received a negative review at one time or another. It’s how you respond to the review and learn from it that sets you apart and defines your restaurant.

Here’s how to reply to negative restaurant reviews:

1. Take Your Time Reading The Review

This is an often overlooked step when it comes to responding to negative restaurant reviews. You want to read the review carefully several times. Move slowly so you really take in and understand the meaning.

As you read the review, take notes of the facts. Here are some to consider:

  • The date of the customer’s visit.
  • The tone – are they angry, upset or frustrated?
  • How can you resolve the matter?
  • The customer’s name and any staff that were part of the issue.

While you do want to respond in a timely manner, you don’t want to be too quick to defend your position. A great trick is to read the review out loud. This will really help you get a feel for the problem and frustration level.

2. Do Your Research

When reading a negative review about your restaurant, your initial reaction will most likely be to defend your position. It’s hard to do that, though, if you don’t have all the facts in the review.

If the customer didn’t complain to you in person, while in your restaurant, you may not even be aware of the situation. Unfortunately, that is more common than not. It is thought that 80% of complaints happen online and not in your restaurant.

This is why research is important. Talk to any staff involved on the day in question and anyone mentioned in the negative review. Ask for their “side” of the story.

If the issue is one you can resolve, you can proceed onward. If it is really serious, you might discuss it with your legal team before responding.

3. Find Out About The Customer

Do you know the customer who wrote the review? Is it a regular or someone who only came in once? If it’s anonymous, can you tell if it’s a legitimate review?

Take a look at whether or not this person is in the habit of posting negative reviews. Check out their social media pages. If the review is obviously made up then you will often have the option to “report” the review, which could lead to the review being deleted.

Learning more about your reviewer can help you gain insight into why they left the review. For example, some customers will complain about every experience they have at any restaurant, so you will learn to take their particular reviews with a pinch of salt.

4. Say Sorry & Be Empathetic

It is said that “the customer is always right”. But why? Well, one negative review can spread throughout your community and put people off dining at your restaurant.

Not only are you trying to keep hold of your reviewer’s business, you are also trying to convince everyone else who reads the review that your restaurant is okay to dine at.

It’s important to treat your guest with the utmost importance and make them feel special, even if they have had a negative experience.

You want to empathize with the customer and let them know you understand.

Sometimes the problem is caused by your restaurant, and sometimes it isn’t caused by you at all. You’ll probably know which if you’ve done your research. Consider the two responses you might give:

  • “I am so sorry we messed up.”
  • “I am so sorry you feel that way.”

Both answers are apologies, but they quickly move the conversation into other areas. You need to know which direction to take your response.

5. Solve The Issue

Next, you want to repeat the problem as you understand it. You can use all of your research here. You can use this part of your response to outline what you can do to make it better or to ensure the problem doesn’t happen again.

For example, let’s say the customer is upset about your restaurant being untidy during their visit. You could empathize and apologize, restate the issue and promise that next weekend you’ll have the restaurant looking spotless.

Your response might look something like this:

“I am very sorry that your visit to our establishment wasn’t as good as hoped. We were very understaffed on that particular day and very busy! We’re working with our FOH staff to ensure that this never happens again. We would love to see you again in the future.”

5. Don’t Get Too Personal

Be careful and don’t get too personal. Remember – it isn’t just the reviewer reading your comments, it’s anyone visiting your website or social media page. Don’t put potential customers off dining at your restaurant by representing your business in a negative manner online.