The Best Ways to Address Bad Restaurant Reviews

Written by Austin Chegini

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After a long night of overseeing staff and speaking with guests, you close up your restaurant and head home. As you prepare for bed, you see you’ve been tagged in a social media post. 

The words “Awful food!” and “Bad service!” plaster your screen. You were about to fall asleep, but now you’re angry and confused.

How do you respond to this bad restaurant review?

Why customer reviews are important

Diners have always liked to try new places, but the internet has complicated things. Now, guests do not want to risk going to an underwhelming restaurant, especially when they can go to Google or Yelp to see what others have to say. 

To stay competitive online, your restaurant needs the highest review score it can get. 

Here’s the value of reviews:

  • 94% of people visit restaurants based on reviews
  • Businesses gain 5-9% more revenue with each star they earn
  • Businesses with 3+ star ratings are clicked 87% of the time on Google search results

Why diners use reviews

Consumers look at restaurant reviews for some of these reasons:

  • Atmosphere: Does the restaurant have a nice view or unique setting?
  • Service: Are the servers friendly and helpful? How long does it take for food to reach the table?
  • Menu: Are they vegan or vegetarian meals? Are there enough options for everyone in the party?
  • Price or other factors: Are meals affordable? Is there a dress code?

If a would-be guest sees bad restaurant reviews, they will be hesitant to visit your business. However, negative reviews are not always detrimental to your restaurant. 

How you respond to these reviews will tell a customer everything they need to know about your business. 

How to handle bad reviews

Bad online reviews come with the territory of owning any business, and you should not think that you are the worst restaurant just because of one review. While they can be upsetting to see, you need to develop a system to respond to reviews and treat them like any other aspect of your restaurant.

Acknowledge all reviews

No matter what, you cannot ignore bad restaurant reviews. Allowing a bad review to go unanswered only causes confusion from other potential customers. It might suggest that you don’t care about providing good customer service, or that you’re afraid to own your mistakes. These are red flags, and you need to avoid them if you want customers to walk through your doors. 

As soon as a negative review hits your social media account, you need to show the guest that you have received and listened to their feedback. This prompt response will 1) demonstrate to others that you are dedicated to your customers and 2) prevent the reviewer from leaving subsequent reviews on every other social network.

Be professional, not personal

It’s easy to take a review personally, especially if the guest lists you or another employee by name. However, now is not the time to write in all caps or use exclamation points. If you come across as angry and loud, anyone who reads your reply will immediately reconsider visiting your business.

Take a deep breath, count to 10, and then craft a polite response. 

Do not avoid blame. Recognize that the customer’s experience was subpar and that your restaurant takes ownership of that. 

Even if they complain about something that was out of your control, such as the weather or other guests, show that you understand why those factors affected their experience. 

Answer publicly and follow up privately

Even if you have the customer’s direct contact information, you want to craft a public response. You may be able to solve the problem by directly calling the guest, but this will not solve the problem of having the bad review. Anyone browsing your social channels will see that you did not reply and may interpret that as unresponsiveness and poor service.

You do not have to write a full response online, but you should provide a brief message following the advice above. At the end of your message, leave a contact email so the customer can contact you directly.

By taking the conversation offline, this prevents a long string of messages from clogging up your social media. Moreover, it lets you speak with the customer candidly without worrying about how others will interpret each sentence. 

Lastly, providing an email address may prevent others from leaving bad reviews. Since these guests will have your direct contact information, they will not need to blow up your social media pages to get attention and a response. 

Offer a chance to try again

If possible, invite the guest to return and enjoy a free meal. They may not take you up on that offer immediately, but let them know it always stands. 

Yes, some people leave bad reviews with the hopes of getting a free lunch, but you should not assume that is the motivation for most reviewers. These people care enough about your business to leave their feedback, so inviting them back may encourage them to revise their previous remarks. 

Learn from your mistakes

During this entire process, you should be identifying failures that resulted in the bad review. If the same recurring ideas pop up in many reviews, then that issue is worth addressing internally. 

For smaller issues, such as a hair on a plate or a guest complaining about sitting by the kitchen, look for ways to address these needs before they leave your restaurant. Stopping by each table and speaking candidly with guests should be a habit, and offering diners a chance to vent in-person is much better than waiting for negative reviews that can harm your reputation.

How to get more positive reviews

While handling bad restaurant reviews is a must, you also need to focus on collecting good reviews. Each review is free publicity, and you can never have too many. 

Be personal

Show your customers that you value them by remembering their favorite table and usual meals. For regular customers, invite them to join a loyalty program. Once they sign up, your customers will receive customized offers and promotions of any events at your restaurant. 

Some loyalty programs allow you to reward repeat visits. For example, visiting your restaurant 10 times may trigger a free dessert award. 

Encourage reviews

Some people never think of leaving reviews, regardless of the type of service they receive. After handing the customer their receipt, your servers can request the customer to leave a review. Some restaurants even grant discounts for posting feedback, but make sure you do not violate the terms of service for the review platform.

With the right point of sale system, you can even prompt reviews via the receipt. If you use digital receipts, your customers only need to click a link to take them to the review sites. 

Speed up your process

Certain aspects of your restaurant can be improved, and technology is here to help. Reducing how long your guests have to wait for their meals is shown to increase customer satisfaction.

With table management and online reservation integrations, you can reduce guest wait times and improve their dining experience. In the same vein, tableside ordering with a handheld device sends requests to the kitchen faster since servers don’t need to run to the kitchen to place orders. 

Reduce confusion and disappointment

On a busy night, your restaurant can easily run out of high demand resources. Nothing is worse than a server taking someone’s order, only to return a few minutes later and say the restaurant is all out of stock. This type of mix-up might seem small, but it is mentioned in many bad reviews. 

With smart restaurant management software, your servers can see which drinks and meals are out of stock. If a customer requests one of these items, they might still be disappointed, but it will be to a much smaller degree. 

Get all these and more with Epos Now

The Epos Now hospitality point of sale system features powerful software that lets you have full control over your restaurant. 

In addition to processing orders securely, our cloud POS is perfect for:

  • Taking stock and automatically updating inventory
  • Integrating with customer loyalty programs
  • Processing orders tableside with our handheld POS 
  • Exporting data to accounting software like QuickBooks

Speak with a POS consultant today to learn more about Epos Now and how our system can get you closer to that five star review.

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