After a long night of overseeing staff and speaking with guests, you close up your restaurant and head home. As you prepare for bed, you see you’ve been tagged in a social media post. The words “Awful food!” and “Bad service!” plaster your screen. You were about to fall asleep, but now you’re angry and confused. How do you respond to this bad restaurant review?
Acknowledge all reviews
No matter what, you cannot ignore bad restaurant reviews. Allowing a bad review to go unanswered only causes confusion from other potential customers. It might suggest that you don’t care about providing good customer service, or that you’re afraid to own your mistakes. These are red flags, and you need to avoid them if you want customers to walk through your doors. As soon as a negative review hits your social media account, you need to show the guest that you have received and listened to their feedback. This prompt response will 1) demonstrate to others that you are dedicated to your customers and 2) prevent the reviewer from leaving subsequent reviews on every other social network.
Don't be so ruff on yourself
It’s easy to take a review personally, especially if the guest lists you or another employee by name. However, now is not the time to write in all caps or use exclamation points. If you come across as angry and loud, anyone who reads your reply will immediately reconsider visiting your business. Take a deep breath, count to 10, and then craft a polite response. Do not avoid blame. Recognize that the customer’s experience was subpar and that your restaurant takes ownership of that. Even if they complain about something that was out of your control, such as the weather or other guests, show that you understand why those factors affected their experience.
Answer publicly and follow up privately
Even if you have the customer’s direct contact information, you want to craft a public response. You may be able to solve the problem by directly calling the guest, but this will not solve the problem of having the bad review. Anyone browsing your social channels will see that you did not reply and may interpret that as unresponsiveness and poor service. You do not have to write a full response online, but you should provide a brief message following the advice above. At the end of your message, leave a contact email so the customer can contact you directly. By taking the conversation offline, this prevents a long string of messages from clogging up your social media. Moreover, it lets you speak with the customer candidly without worrying about how others will interpret each sentence. Lastly, providing an email address may prevent others from leaving bad reviews. Since these guests will have your direct contact information, they will not need to blow up your social media pages to get attention and a response.
Let's try this again, shall we?
If possible, invite the guest to return and enjoy a free meal. They may not take you up on that offer immediately, but let them know it always stands. Yes, some people leave bad reviews with the hopes of getting a free lunch, but you should not assume that is the motivation for most reviewers. These people care enough about your business to leave their feedback, so inviting them back may encourage them to revise their previous remarks.
Learn from it and move on
During this entire process, you should be identifying failures that resulted in the bad review. If the same recurring ideas pop up in many reviews, then that issue is worth addressing internally. For smaller issues, such as a hair on a plate or a guest complaining about sitting by the kitchen, look for ways to address these needs before they leave your restaurant. Stopping by each table and speaking candidly with guests should be a habit, and offering diners a chance to vent in-person is much better than waiting for negative reviews that can harm your reputation.
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