Three years ago on February 17, 2015, we wrote a piece entitled “Why I Think We Shouldn’t Write Bad Restaurant Reviews”. It received a range of mixed responses, from agreements to disagreements, and is still perhaps the article with most comments on Wanderbites. Before reading this one, it is imperative that you read that article first to understand where we are coming from.
Done? Okay. Let’s continue.
Fast forward to 2018, the circumstances have changed. Social media is a nation of its own. There are more online food portals than ever. Yes, some people abuse the term free speech. Let’s face it: Bad reviews are unescapable. Restaurant owners, you can’t run from them. Saying “What gives them right to say our food is bad?” is useless and obsolete.
Do this instead: Control your response and twist these reviews to your advantage.
1. Keep a positive mindset and attitude
Say someone is sending you a direct message via Instagram to tell you that your floor staff is unfriendly. Instead of pointing out that you have done rigorous training and there is no way that your staff is behaving that way, reach out back to the customer. Express gratitude to them for taking the time to share their experience to you, as that means they are giving you a chance to improve. Even better, ask for a detailed information about date and time of visit, thus you can confirm via CCTV or staff scheduling who exactly was on duty.
2. Feel thankful
Be appreciative of the fact that someone is being honest and caring enough to complain. It is always much better to know a problem early on rather than letting it snowball into something bigger. At this time and age, you should always see feedback as something essential for you to grow. It is much scarier when a customer simply agrees with everything and says that everything is good, but they don’t come back.
3. Don’t beat yourself up, no one’s perfect
If you’re the type of person who overthinks and beats yourself up for every little negative comment, stop. Just stop right there. No one’s perfect. F&B is a complicated business that requires numerous elements to be able to run perfectly. There are many vendors and parties involved, entangled with one another like a giant spider web. Anything can easily go wrong. The chef could be in a really foul mood. The supplier could mistakenly send you ingredients that have gone bad. We’re not saying this so that you can slack off. You should always stay vigilant, but when a mistake happens, embrace it as what it is. Humans are not robots. One error out of a hundred is acceptable.
4. Solve ASAP
Any kind of bad restaurant review should be answered and solved as soon as possible, if possible within 24 hours. We understand that it’s difficult to keep track of all the comments with the presence of a lot of different medias, so just do as best as you can.
5. Remember that how you respond will amplify your brand
Let people know that you can be civil for these small things. There’s no need to cover up a bad review. When it is given in a private matter, respond it privately. On the other hand, when it is given in a public space—be it Zomato, Google Maps or Trip Advisor—give a response there. How you react reflects who you are, and more importantly, your brand. People will surely appreciate an eloquent and positive response.
On top of all of those, whenever possible, try to flip the negative feedback into something positive. Go the extra mile. Invite the customer back. If the feedback happens on the spot, re-do the order or give a free menu. Build a good relationship with your customers. Who knows maybe these people will become your loyal customers in the future. Don’t fear a bad restaurant review. Accept them, learn, and grow.