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How to respond to negative restaurant reviews the right way?

Thanks to the numerous discovery platforms and review sites, the role of a critic has essentially been democratized and every customer with a smartphone and an active internet connection is a potential critic. Customers can simply take a few pictures of the restaurant and your food and share their thoughts about their experience right from the table they’re dining at in a matter of seconds.

There are essentially two types of customers who are most vocal, first are those who’ve had a great experience and want to let their friends and families know, and second are those who’ve had a bad experience and are venting to let everyone know. While the positive reviews are a boon as they add to your restaurant’s credibility and help you attract new customers, the negative reviews can be a bane as they’ll repel these potential customers. In that case, your response to the negative feedback will be the key factor in winning the customer back and ensuring it doesn’t adversely affect the decision of others.

In this blog, we’ll cover why you shouldn’t ignore bad reviews and how to respond to them.

Reasons why you shouldn’t ignore bad reviews!

- Simple, because potential customers read reviews from past customers and will base their future dining decisions on this.
- If you don’t respond to a bad review, you are essentially conceding to the claims of the negative reviews.
- It is a reflection of your customer service, and potential customers will assume that you don’t care. 
- Instead, address the customer concerns and resolve their issues, hence sending a message that the negative experience was an anomaly and you’ve taken the steps to ensure it won’t happen again. 

How to respond to negative reviews, the dos and don’ts!
❌ Don’t: Wait too long to respond to a review 

Keep a regular check on discovery platforms and review sites for new reviews, thank customers for positive reviews and respond to negative reviews within a day or two to ensure you don’t lose them for good. Dedicate a time specifically to address reviews.

❌ Don’t: Respond to reviews when you’re angry

Reading a harshly worded review for your restaurant that you’ve built so passionately can anger you, but let it subside before responding to it. Carefully understand the reasoning of the customer, and address it with a cool mind.

❌ Don’t: Take bad restaurant reviews personally

Reviews are not a reflection of your restaurant as a whole but the experience and opinion of an individual. If you are one to get angry by them, assign a team member to address reviews instead of you. 

✅ Do: Take bad reviews in good stride

Think of bad reviews as positive criticisms to improve your restaurant and service. At the end of the day, your business is a result of these customers. Take reviews as opportunities to collect feedback from customers and implement them to help your business grow.

✅ Do: Respond to reviews in proper language and grammar

Don’t take a casual approach to online reviews, respond to them formally. Ensure you use proper language and grammar as they are reflections of what customers can expect at your restaurant. 

How to respond to a bad review, explained in easy steps!

There are six components to a good response, they are:

✅ Do: Thank the customer for visiting and reviewing your restaurant.

Firstly, thank the customer as they chose to dine with you from the numerous options available to them. Show your gratitude and be sure to personalize the response by addressing them by name.

✅ Do: If available, highlight a positive from the negative review.

While the review as a whole may be negative, in all probability it has a positive mention within it as well. Highlight that good bit and divert the attention to it, hence helping change the narrative and allowing potential customers to perceive the review in a different light.

✅ Do: Apologize for genuine mistakes.

Great, you’ve been thankful and highlighted the positive. It’s now time to apologize in case the customer has genuinely been subject to a bad experience. This shows your humility and welcomeness to feedback.

✅ Do: Explain customers the reason behind their bad experience.

Help customers understand what caused the mistake which led to their bad experience. While some may not care why what went wrong, it gives clarity to others and gives the potential customers an insight into it and shows it was an anomaly. Explain the steps you’ve taken to ensure such a problem won’t happen again. Hence reassuring potential customers who are deciding to visit.

✅ Do: Take the conversation offline.

An angry customer may not agree with your reasoning and will probably blow up the situation out of proportion with their replies to your responses. Hence avoid a debacle in public and speak to the customer directly, after resolving their problem acknowledge their review online with an explanation of the resolution.This also demonstrates that you are approachable and take feedback seriously.

✅ Do: Invite customers again to fix the wrongs they experienced.

Once you’ve done the above, ensure you win the customer back by inviting them to visit or order from your restaurant again. Incentivize them and show a good gesture by offering them a free item or discount on their visit.

These response tactics will increase the chances of potential customers choosing your restaurant despite poor reviews.

Anshul Jasani

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