A Study shows 67% of consumers are influenced by online reviews, and this means that you’ve have to take your restaurant reviews seriously if you want to attract new customers to your establishment. Here, we take a look at how to respond to negative restaurant reviews.
You’ve worked long and hard to make your restaurant a success. It’s your baby. Working in other restaurants you’ve learned a great many things that inspire you to create the opportunity to operate your way. And that means operating the right way.
All this is a tall order. You’re the boss so you have to oversee everything. You have to train, oversee and motivate your employees. As owner, you may choose to be the chef as well and head up the team in all food preparation.
In other cases, as owner, you may choose to have others do the cooking while you dress nicely and manage the dining room, acting something in the manner of maître’d. This can be a profitable as well as pleasant activity because if you’re an outgoing, likeable person, customers will love to come into your establishment and talk to you personally. Customers begin to feel like pare of the family and often share experiences with you.
As to complaints, that sort of customer is much more likely to post a positive review on sites such as Yelp or TripAdvisor, and if any little thing should occur, they would discuss it with you personally rather than write up negative reviews on the Internet.
Whether you work primarily in the dining room, or in the kitchen, it is vitally important that you make yourself open and receptive to customers, always willing to listen to their comments and always ready to learn from anything of value that a customer may propose.
Having said all that, it is an unfortunate fact that you cannot please everybody all the time. Despite all your efforts, all the instructions to staff and all the care you try to have everyone put into the job at hand, some customers will not be happy.
The unhappy customer may simply be unreasonable. You’ve done everything right and still, that customer whips out a tablet on the ride home and writes up a negative review on Yelp, TripAdvisor, Facebook or another site. It may only be a moment of disappointment which will quickly pass, but the damage will be there on the Internet for a long time for others to read.
On the other hand, you should read the negative review carefully and consider the writer’s comments rather than simply cast them aside. Perhaps the writer has a good point and this could be an opportunity for you to improve your operation. Having given the review a careful reading and some serious consideration, you decide the customer may have had a point worth your attention.
If you have any sort of “boutique” café, a unique venue that offers specialty food of any sort, you’re much more likely to find reviews popping up on the Internet.
For example, you’ve opened a small, but elegant location that evokes sounds and thoughts of Italy. Intimate, with soft lighting, a warm atmosphere, and personnel who treat each customer as if he/she were family.
You’ve worked long and hard to perfect your own sauces for the pasta dishes you serve, and you even have a wood-fired pizza oven that produces an assortment of delightful pizzas for your guests to enjoy with a carafe of Chianti or other wine.
Although the restaurant is fairly new, it appears to be much older and guests would feel as if it had been at that location for many years.
Still, you check some of the review sites (which you should never forget to do) and find a negative review.
The dish was cold by the time it got to the table. The meat sauce lacked the meat the guest expected. The bread seemed stale. The guest’s server spent so much time talking to another guest that the writer felt neglected.
Perhaps the guests complain that your prices are too high, service too slow, or any of a myriad of little complaints, some of which no one could ever address or resolve.
How can you respond to negative reviews and continue to prosper in your enterprise?
The worst possible approach is to become defiant. Any comments that appear to be belligerent, combative or any other comment that might appear to the complainants or other readers as merely rude or a negative only makes the matter worse.
You don’t want to drive customers away because they perceive you as a difficult person to approach. Rather, you want them to feel they’re welcome to come in and offer comments, even complaints without ruffling your feathers.
If a guest complains that the bread is stale, you can assure him/her that you only use freshly delivered bread from a small local bakery that delivers twice daily to make certain you always have a fresh supply of their delicious bread. You might offer to replace it with the excuse that perhaps someone inadvertently got bread from an earlier delivery mixed in with the latest delivery.
If you check into an Internet review site and see that someone complains that your salad portions are very small, you might write that while the initial salad dish is not large, this is because many guests consume only a small amount. In the future, you’ll make certain that servers assure guests that salad dishes are endless and they’re welcome to have all the salad they wish.
Perhaps you read a negative review in which the patron complains that the vegetables were overcooked and mushy. You might try to make some excuse for this lapse, but a better way is to apologize to the writer, and explain that on the particular night he/she dined at your restaurant, you were breaking in a new employee and obviously he still has a lot to learn.
I personally tried to supervise him, but as I recall, on that particular night we also had a large party in our banquet room and that took my attention from my employee. Be assured that he now has a better grip on the situation, and if you choose to make a reservation for another dinner, just give your name to the receptionist and you’ll be regaled with menu items you and your guests choose at no cost at all to you.
Yes, giving out free dinners costs money, but that money may be well spent when the satisfied customer leaves with a contented smile. These guests will almost certainly return and hopefully, you’ll get a favorable review on Internet sites as well.
Here’s an actual case: A party of two went to a fashionable seafood house. The ambiance and overall décor was great with fish nets and floats and other items connected with fishing. The dishes and everything inside looked just right.
The pair was seated and shortly ordered two dinners. First, of course, came the salads. After a few bites, the man’s wife stopped short and stared into her salad. Her husband asked what the problem was and she pointed to an alive, still wriggling worm.
Of course, they called their server and she called the manager. His approach to the matter was to offer an insincere sort of apology and offer the woman another salad. Needless to say, she had lost her appetite and the restaurant lost two customers. This lovely restaurant closed down shortly after. The reason is unclear, but soon the building was in the process of being completely remodeled into a Hooters.
It’s unlikely the matter of the worm in the salad caused the restaurant to close, but what the manager should have done rather than offer another salad, was to waive the cost of both dinners, and/or offer a return visit at no cost.
In another attractive restaurant and brewery, a couple ordered lunch. The wife ordered fish and chips but when the dish arrived, the fish was obviously been way too overcooked. They were such a dark brown that they no longer resembled breaded fish.
No server should ever serve a dish that doesn’t look right. If some very demanding chef (these exist), insists the server deliver the dish to the customer, then the server is perhaps not at fault, but in any case, after calling her back to the booth, she called the manager. Without any apology of preamble, he grabbed the dish and said he’d bring another.
The guest tried to tell him it was too late. Her companion was halfway through with his order. But the manager rushed off and just as the couple was ready to leave, the server brought out another order of fish and chips.
This incident should never have happened. In the first place, the server should never serve a dish that looks all wrong. When the manager is called to handle a complaint, he/she should first apologize for the inconvenience, and then offer some sort of restitution.
An offer for a return complimentary visit combined with no charge for whatever was consumed at the time. That might make the guest(s) feel better and if the manager went on to explain that sometimes when the cooks get so many orders at once, they slip up and there’s no real excuse for that. He would promised to talk to the cook and ask him if he’d want to see that order placed in front of him, etc.
People do check on businesses via the review sites on the Internet. Many rely heavily on these when they consider dining out. This applies to all sorts of business such as dentists, attorneys, shoe repair and so on.
There are, unfortunately, people who simply like to post sarcastic negative reviews. Like many other things, doing this can become a habit and no matter where they dine, they’ll post a review with some negative comments, perhaps to appear to be a gourmet diner ro something. This can’t be helped and if you begin to suspect someone of such behavior, all you can do realistically is to ignore the review or perhaps comment that while your restaurant can’t always p]ease everyone all the time, you do try to do your very best.
You might also point out that you use only fresh, not frozen, vegetable and other ingredients with the goal of offering only the very best and freshest dining in the city. Of course, you shouldn’t do this if it’s not quite true. But you can always point out your best features whatever they may be.
Responding to any review, on the Internet, or elsewhere in a negative way only makes matters worse.
It’s extremely important for every restaurant employee, for the bus personnel to the cooks, the servers and the manager to have a bright positive attitude and make it show. Often a dissatisfied customer can be turned completely around by the server’s approach to a complaint and that guest is unlikely to post any negative reviews, thanks to the server’s positive attitude.
There are many little things a server can do to enhance the diner’s experience. Making sure there is plenty of bread and butter on the table, water glasses are kept full, checking now and then to see if everything is all right and showing a friendly attitude, but it’s also important not to get too chummy. Many guests feel uncomfortable when a server or other employee tries to be too friendly. If the server is a woman, the guest’s wife may take umbrage at this over-friendly approach.
Hopefully, this will offer some different approaches to negative reviews and guests who are difficult. Staying calm and open to suggestion will always beat a confrontational attitude.