When you own a business in the hospitality sector, unfortunately, dealing with negative reviews is part of the process. There will always be that one customer who is able to find fault with something. And maybe they’re right… or maybe they’re just having a bad day. Either way, bad reviews can break a restaurant, if not handled appropriately. And even a lack of reviews can have a negative effect, as your eatery becomes invisible amongst Google’s ‘highest-rated’.
A restaurant review can be highly influential, and should not be underestimated. 10 years ago, if you wanted to review or even just find out about a restaurant, you’d look to TripAdvisor, now people can leave comments, both positive and negative, on multiple platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and of course, Google.
With so many restaurants, bars, cafes, and pubs to choose from, customers will often decide whether they visit your establishment based on what they read online. And if the majority is negative, or there are very few reviews, it’s unlikely they’ll take the risk.
In this article, we’re going to take a look at how you can build your reviews and put your eatery firmly on the map, as well as how to deal with any negative ones.
DEALING WITH NEGATIVE REVIEWS
You should always reply to a review, especially if it’s negative. Customer’s think much more of an active business, that’s accepting and understanding, and also open to criticism – be it constructive or not.
It can be hard to accept a bad review, especially if you know it’s unworthy. But at times like this, ‘the customer’s always right’, does – unfortunately – apply. You don’t need to bow to their every need. But something amicable and polite like: ‘We’re so sorry to hear this. Please drop us an email on xxx, so we can discuss it further / make it better.’ You’ll be surprised how many people won’t take you up on the offer, but just showing that you’re willing to go the extra mile will resonate with customers who can see the review…and debating a visit.
But of course, we want as few negative reviews as possible. So how do we generate positive ones?
GENERATING POSITIVE REVIEWS
To get positive reviews, you need to build relationships with customers. If they book regularly, why not offer them a coffee on-the-house or an extra side of something special with their meal. A generous gesture like this goes a long way with a customer – just look at Pret and their free daily coffees…
Giving people an incentive to write a review also goes a long way. And it also gives people a reason to come back. You could give them a unique code on their receipt that when entered online at the end of their review, gives them an offer for your restaurant: a free side, free coffee, free glass of wine, free main with a full-priced paying one – you make the rules.
We spoke about engaging with negative reviews, but it’s just as important to engage with positive ones too. It not only helps to build a relationship with customers, but again it shows that you’re an active business; you are listening to them. And it’s got to bring a smile to your face when a customer says how wonderful and delicious the food is, and how great the customer service is…
We’re all guilty of saying yes to doing a review and then forgetting the minute we leave the restaurant. If you can, set up a review site, so the customer can do it immediately. These days you can literally print a scannable QR code on a receipt, so they can do it while it’s fresh in their mind.
Take positive reviews and share them on your website and social platforms. Doing this will not only make you look good, but it’s also another great way to engage with customers (It could also be worth checking if a customer is happy for you to do so). People really like to know you’re listening to them and that what they say is valuable. By sharing customer comments, you’ll not only build your relationship with them but spreading the word that your establishment is the place to go.
Finally, be active on social media. I don’t mean just sharing reviews from customers but be visible. Share photos of food, upcoming menus, any changes to opening hours. The more you do, the more people will engage and the higher the ratings for your restaurant will be.