What you Need to Know about Dealing with Negative Reviews

Aug 25, 2017

Before setting foot in a restaurant, 60 per cent of people will consult online reviews first. This means your first impression starts online. A majority of your customers will have read good and bad reviews about your restaurant before even trying it out. So what can you do about it?

A real financial impact

Not only do online reviews help customers decide where to eat, they also impact your restaurant’s profitability.

According to a study published in the Harvard Business Review, “A one-star increase leads to a 5 to 9 per cent increase in revenue for independent restaurants.” In other words, the better your rating, the higher your revenue. Online reviews can seem so permanent and it’s always easy to feel overwhelmed by the notion that what happens on the web, stays on the web. But that’s not always the case. If handled correctly, a negative review can be turned into a positive one, allowing your overall rating to trend upwards.

What you can do about negative reviews

When you receive a negative review, you need to decide which course of action you’ll take: you can ignore it, you can reply to the reviewer, or you can report it.

If the negative review you’re concerned about is not in the first 10 to appear, you may choose to let it go. Business Queensland found that 90 per cent of people who consult reviews will make up their mind after reading less than 10 reviews. So if it’s beyond that, it may not make a big difference.

Your second option is to reply. When people read reviews on sites like Google and Yelp, they can also see your answers. In the case of a negative review, your reply provides both sides of the story. This way, the reader can make up his own mind with all facts laid out before him. Remember to keep things professional and calm—acknowledge their concerns and offer a resolution.

Finally, if a review seems fake or untrue, you can choose to report it. Each review site has its own guidelines about what constitutes a valid review. When you see that a review does not fit that mold, you can report it and ask for that review to be removed. For example, someone attacking your business because they heard a rumour although they’ve never actually visited your business or paid for your services is not considered a valid opinion on most review sites.

How to respond

The first thing you should always preface your response with an authentic apology. This doesn’t mean that the person might not have overreacted or misunderstood what your food business is about. However, the fact is they are unhappy with a service they received, so it’s worth acknowledging it by saying “We’re sorry you had a bad experience”. Then, it’s a bit of a case-by-case scenario, but your next words should address the exact problem and tell the reviewer what you plan to do about it.

For example, for someone who complains about waiting too long to get served, you can say: “Sorry you had to wait so long for your meal. We are currently understaffed and will be hiring new servers in the coming months. Thanks for pointing this out to us.” To close your reply, thank the person for sharing their thoughts. You are more likely to get a return customer, curious about the changes you’re promising, when you thank them for their feedback.

Sending a private note

Some sites will allow you to leave a private reply to a customer. If you’d like to rectify a specific situation in your own special way, a private message can be appropriate. That’s when you can offer a refund or a free meal with their next visit. Most sites frown upon restaurant owners who ask for a better review in return for a discount or a free meal. However, you are allowed to offer it as an incentive for a dissatisfied customer come back and give you a second chance. After that, you’ll simply need to have faith that they’ll update their review for the better.

To learn more about common food business issues like dealing with negative online reviews, check out Fine Food Australia. It all kicks off from September 11 to 14, 2017, at the ICC Exhibition Building in Sydney.

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