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How to Handle the Dreaded Negative Online Review

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If there’s one thing chefs can’t make, it’s customers leaving positive reviews about their food or the restaurant’s service. This would be a restaurant owner’s dream recipe.

But the harsh truth is that the abundance of restaurant reviews found on sites like Google, Zomato, Trip Advisor, Yelp, and even your own social pages. The question is, how can you best combat the negative reviews?

The Good, the Bad and the Hungry

Love it or hate it, today’s hospitality industry is faced with many customers who find thrill in a good meal, and others who find thrill in faulting a good meal. The unhappy customer always speaks louder than the happy customer.

Some reviewers will laud every element: the décor, the food presentation, the attentive wait staff, the thoughtful maitre’d. the toilet facilities, you name it, while other reviewers are not so complimentary and, justifiably or not, will nit-pick over every detail.

These are the ones who leave ferocious reviews after throwing a tantrum at the 15-year-old waitress for not refilling their water enough or because their steak was medium, not medium-rare (after they polished off the whole plate).

Of course, there are genuine negative reviews too, the ones health inspectors would have a field day at, like seeing rodents running amuck or shoddy service.

Whether restaurant reviews are a reliable source of a restaurant’s reputation or not is arguable, but what’s certain is that online restaurant reviews can leave hospitality owners feeling proud as punch, or ready to punch.

It’s a scary statistic but research shows that 81% of internet users report that they are likely to check Google Reviews before they visit a business.

5 Tips to Managing Negative Restaurant Reviews

      1. 1. Monitor your Online Reviews

    The first step is to find a way to stay on top of your incoming restaurant reviews. One effectively way to monitor your hospitality venue by setting up a Google Alert. This sends you a daily or weekly email whenever someone mentions your restaurant name on their website.

    You should also set aside some time to trawl through the reviews and read what people are saying. No matter how inaccurate you find them, these reviews can still provide valuable feedback – both negative and positive – that can help your business thrive.

      1. 2. Respond right

    For positive reviews, restaurant owners can praise the love by writing short and sweet replies. This can boost a restaurant’s reputation and customer retention and allow others to see your exceptional level of customer service.

    Responding to the hate mail in a mirror image tone is a recipe for disaster! Avoid such confrontational responses. Replying in an aggressive manner causes more damage to your name than anything else, especially as everyone can see it.

    Instead do your research. Work out if this customer has a point or if they’re a serial hater. If they’re prone to rants, it’s probably best not to respond. However, if the customer is sentient and valid in their criticism, use this opportunity to apologise and empathise and, importantly, to solve their issue.

    This method allows owners to turn their negative reviews into positives by explaining to other readers your version of events, before damage to their name is really caused. This also allows others to gauge how you handle situations, thus a reflection on how you manage your business.

      1. 3. Don’t let ‘troll’ reviews get to you

    Restaurant owners are regularly faced with negative reviews typed from the hands of haters, who do so out of spite or the hope of a free meal or simply because they’ve had a bad day. They’ll pick on crummy things, over exaggerate and smear hate on your public reviews…

    These reviews can leave restaurant owners frustrated because they’re uncontrollable, irrespective of whether they received the best possible service or not.
    But it’s important to accept that these will occur and to try to find positives. For example, restaurant owners could take pride in their timely, friendly responses to criticism, or by understanding that the odd negative review is not necessarily all that bad…

      1. 4. Create incentives for positive reviews

    There’s a theory that too many positive reviews can look dodgy. Think about it. No hospitality venue can say that they’ve met the same high standards for every single person who walks through the door. Mistakes happen.

With this in mind, an effective way to counter bad reviews is to get your good customers to write positive reviews to drown out the bad ones. You can do this by adding a feedback section to your website, even to your menu or the bill or the front door of your venue.

You can also incentivise customers to write reviews by offering discounts or deals to anyone who writes a review. Even the promise that you’ll listen to their candid, honest feedback should be enough to motivate some of your customers to write reviews.