How should your restaurant deal with negative reviews?

We are sure that you will have had to deal with negative reviews at some point and, for that reason, we want to discuss them and resolve any possible problems or questions you may have on the subject. We’re talking about negative reviews of restaurants and bars and how to manage them.

These days, it’s very unlikely that someone will plan to visit a restaurant without having consulted any online reviews it may have. Whether on TripAdvisor, El Tenedor, Facebook or Google, it is estimated that 93% of consumers refer to these sources when deciding between one premises or another. This is proof that we cannot ignore the impact of reviews on the proper functioning of an establishment.

Before responding to any comments, positive or otherwise, it is important to learn how to manage them, particularly when it is negative criticism. In this way, when one customer leaves a review, it will not impact on the decision of other customers.

Firstly and most importantly – and this applies to all situations, not just negative reviews – you should respond quickly. The most convenient way to do this is to have a pre-prepared template of responses, not so that you can simply copy and paste them, but so that you can use them as a mini manual for quick and error-free responses. To do this, you should consider all possible situations, or draw from previous experiences, and create templates that will help you to know how to act and what to say in all possible scenarios.

Remember that negative criticism, which can sometimes be untrue or simple a misinterpretation by the client, often causes feelings of anger in the restaurant owner and that is not the ideal time to write an immediate response. If this happens, the best course of action is to use the template answers as a guide and to respond to the message after having calmed down. That being said, another important point to bear in mind is that it is advisable to personalise the response, as this will make the client feel important and help them to understand the situation better.

Ignoring this type of comment and waiting for positive ones to move it to the second page is what you should not do. If you deal with the criticism, it’s possible to reverse the situation and the client may change the rating or even delete the negative review. Knowing how to manage these situations could result in a change in a restaurant’s rating from a 3 to a 4.5, for example. There are many ways to manage these situations off the internet, such as inviting the client to give you a second opportunity in order to improve the ‘bad taste in their mouth’. This will always come after evaluating the situation, of course.

Logically, the best course of action is to try to avoid negative criticism. Locating the problem in time and trying not to let customers leave the premises unhappy is key. The ideal situation is when you have generated sufficient trust with a customer that they are able to explain their possible bad experience to you before leaving and you are able to resolve it in situ.

A good option for achieving this is to train workers to ask clients if there is anything that can be improved in the service, to have a plan of action in place for every possible situation (problems with the food, slow service, etc.) and to offer something in return to resolve the issue. From the point of view of a customer who has had a negative experience, it is not the same to leave a restaurant thinking that something went wrong and no solution was offered, as to leave thinking that something went wrong but “at least they offered me an explanation and tried to put it right”. Their appraisal immediately becomes positive.

As we mentioned, a (genuine) negative review is, in itself, an opportunity to resolve a problem or a shortfall in our businesses. Do the dishes come out cold? Is the service slow? Is the music too loud? If we face the problem first, we’ll avoid negative reviews later.

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