No matter how good your restaurant is, you cannot avoid a bad customer review. Sooner or later it happens; even to the best of us. Nowadays it has become a common practice to do an online research of a restaurant (even of the neighborhood cafe) before dining out. Anyone who has an access to the Internet can go online and write reviews and comments about a restaurant. And, thousands can read them, in turn, hurting the business.
As a restaurant owner, although you have limited control over what is being said about your restaurant online, you can certainly take the measures to do some damage control.
How to deal with bad customer reviews of your restaurant
1. Stay Calm
As a restaurant owner, a bad review can be unsettling. Your instinct may make you jump the gun and tell them off. However, one bad review isn’t the end of the world. After all, why would people keep coming back if there weren’t any satisfied customers? Rather than being upset, take steps to restore your restaurant’s reputation. If you find that the person is merely someone trolling, just delete the post. But if it is a valid point, apologize, take ownership and explain what happened.
2. Respond Quickly
Whether negative feedback comes through email, social media, telephone or in person, it is extremely important to respond quickly. This gives an impression that you sincerely care and that they are being heard. A good rule to follow is to reply within 24-48 hours of receiving the feedback.
3. Encourage Positive Reviews
People are more likely to post bad reviews as compared to good ones. Urge your regular patrons and satisfied diners to share their positive feedback online. And thank them for taking the time out to write. Promote your social media handles prominently to encourage more fan following.
4. Get Instant Feedback Channels in Place
Customers generally publish negative reviews online when they have no other way to voice the problem. Get a feedback channel in place to curb the bad reviews online. Train your staff to ask customers about their experience and let you know what they like and dislike or have a feedback form given after a meal. Very rarely will people post an online review after they have already made their opinions known in person.
You can use a feedback management app to get detailed feedback on customer experience and also receive item wise reporting of each dish served. In this manner, you not only prevent the customer from posting a nasty review online, you also get the insight which dish is not performing well among the customers. Use this information when you're redesigning your menu.
5. Reply in the Public Domain
When you have a review or comment that could potentially harm your business, such as false or misleading information, reply in such a way that it is accessible to the public. For example, someone stating that your food has MSG can drive away health-conscious people, hence, set the record straight with a public reply to the review.
6. Offer an Incentive
A good strategy to follow to retarget customers who have had a bad experience is to offer an incentive. This should not be done to get them to change their review or revise their rating, but to change their perception and get them to revisit the restaurant. The incentive can be a discount or a free appetizer, or simply a code to identify them as a customer with a concern.
7. Moderate Comments
Web sites, blog sites, Facebook pages and certain review portals like Zomato, allow owners to moderate comments before publishing them. If you have the time to be proactive on social media and have a good strategy to handle negative feedback, there’s no need to disable comments. But if you can’t constantly monitor your pages, it may be wise to disable comments so you can avoid criticism from piling up and going unanswered.
8. Be Proactive with your Customers
Many times, people review a restaurant unfavorably when they feel the service was poor or that the food wasn’t as good as expected. Make sure you approach customers and ask them how their meal was and offer a new dish if they seem unsatisfied. Ensure that customers leave your restaurant happy to minimize bad reviews and encourage repeat business.
Good or bad, reviews are an opportunity to learn, grow and develop. A negative review can be seen as the much-needed sign to evaluate your business. While a good review highlights your strengths – you know your chef is doing a good job and your servers are extraordinary. People may have the tendency to blow things out of proportion, but that doesn’t mean you should dismiss it. Instead, carefully consider what was said. Maybe the restaurant floor was not impeccably clean, the service was not up to the mark or the food served indeed contained a foreign element. Accept the feedback and make genuine efforts to improve.
Keep a positive attitude and handle what comes your way with tact and poise. It will speak volumes about your restaurant – more than words ever could.