How to Turn Bad Reviews Into Good Business

Beata Grace Beatty

Beata is a Florida-based freelance writer. When she’s not researching and pitching story ideas, she’s reading, walking on the beach, fiddling with home projects, and keeping up with her two daughters.

More than 60% of customers check online reviews before they try a new restaurant. In addition to reading comments on Facebook and Instagram, the more popular review sites include Google, Yelp, Zomato, and Open Table. No matter how smoothly your restaurant and staff are running on any given night, you’re bound to get a negative online review. It could be anything; maybe the chef wasn’t up to par on that particular day, the server was off their game, or perhaps the customer was in a foul mood. It could have been raining that day. Whatever the situation, a bad online review doesn’t have to affect your business and bottom line negatively.

The keys to neutralizing any poor review are communication and action. What steps can you take to remedy a poor review, so past and future customers keep coming through your doors?

Restaurant owner responding to a bad review from the customer

Check online reviews daily

You’ve designed and curated your marketing and social media plan, giving your customers a glimpse of the great food and inviting restaurant space. They’ve come in to dine, and many of these people are leaving feedback.

Take the time to read what they are saying and address their concerns. Show you are listening. Customers are forgiving, but they want a timely response. While it’s easy to focus on the negative reviews, don’t forget to read and acknowledge the positive reviews which may hold some constructive criticism. Those 4 and 5-star reviews may have valuable feedback that allows you to improve your reputation or avoid future negative feedback.

While you should gather your thoughts and not respond emotionally, remember that a quick response and resolution to any complaint is worth the effort. A one-star increase in a Yelp rating leads to a 5 to 9 percent increase in revenue.

Acknowledge and respond to the reviewer

Be personal and address the reviewer by name. Thank them for spending time on the review, apologize for the mistake or problem, note something positive from their review, if possible, and clearly state how you will resolve the complaint. Online reputation management is vital for staying engaged with customers and maintaining a positive online presence. A manager’s timely response to complaints shows thoughtfulness, and new diners will usually give you the benefit of the doubt.

Keep it simple and offer customers a chance to take it offline

Ryan Erskine, a contributor to Forbes, says that you should not mount your legal defense online. After you’ve acknowledged and apologized—even if you don’t think you or your staff were in the wrong, offer contact information and attempt to speak in person. This personalization shows that you are taking feedback seriously and proving that excellent service is at the core of your brand. It’s another opportunity to win a customer back and draw potential diners.

Encourage positive reviews

Manage negative reviews, but just as importantly, encourage diners to post positive reviews. This can combat any dings to your reputation and gain you new customers who found the positive review helpful. When you take time to respond to positive reviews, you can proactively neutralize inevitable negative reviews.

Don’t take things personally, but there’s always room for improvement

You cannot make everyone happy, but remember that restaurant review websites are marketing tools that have the potential to draw more customers into your establishment. Review websites also allow you to improve the information available to your customers.

If you focus on customer service, acknowledge customer praise and complaints, and communicate often and promptly, you shouldn’t worry about the occasional bad review.

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