Managing Your Restaurant Reviews—The Good, Bad, and the Ugly

According to Upserve, 90% of guests research a restaurant online before dining there—more than any other type of business. Diners want to ensure a good experience because, unlike retail, you can’t return a dinner or the service that went with it.

Today, your online presence and the corresponding reviews can increase your customer count dramatically or cause potentially new guests to dine somewhere else.

Platform For Restaurant Reviews

While most restaurant owners and operators pay attention to reviews received on platforms such as Yelp and Google, there are, for better or worse, numerous restaurant review sites found on the great wide web. Just a few of these additional sites include Facebook, TripAdvisor, OpenTable, Zagat, and Zomato.

Google still ranks first out of these platforms, with over 63% of consumers checking the reviews on Google Search and Google Maps before patronizing a business. Yelp comes in second, with just over 45%, followed by TripAdvisor and Facebook.

Make sure your restaurant has a solid presence on these sites and that someone is regularly viewing them and responding to reviews. Claiming your business listing on Yelp enables you to respond to reviews privately or publicly, increasing customer engagement and helping mitigate any bad experiences with a direct and thoughtful response. Claiming your Google My Business profile allows up to upload photos and supports instant messaging for faster engagement.

Monitoring Review Sites

It can seem like a full-time job responding to reviews, engaging in social media, and creating new online content regularly. That’s probably why, in the last decade, job postings for “Social Media Manager” have increased more than 1000% percent.

For those who don’t have the time, or the desire, to manage their online reviews or hire a social media expert, several companies offer reputation management software to help operators manage their online presence and reviews. In addition to seeing all reviews on one dashboard, some support profile enhancement and increasing customer reviews through direct requests.

Responding to Negative Reviews

While it’s tempting to avoid negative reviews and pass them off as patrons in a lousy mood, statistics suggest that this is the wrong road to take. One in three customers expects a response to a negative review in three days or less. A quick response time demonstrates care and attention to detail and suggests your establishment is diligent in its efforts to ensure guest satisfaction. As a one-time resort manager, it was our job to respond to every review, good or bad, daily.

The good news is that, in the almost two decades that people’s opinions have been splashed across the internet, we’ve learned a thing or two about responding to these reviews.

The Benefits of Online Reviews

While it’s evident that good reviews improve a restaurant’s reputation, bad reviews can help operators see through the eyes of customers and, in instances when a bad review is warranted, improve processes or products. Tracking consumer sentiment can help you stop a slip in operations before it becomes a regular occurrence.

Looking at negative reviews through this lens enables you to thank customers, even for their criticisms, and respond from a place of appreciation, sharing the changes you’ll make to ensure a positive customer experience every time. If they experienced a horrible meal or terrible service, consider offering them a complimentary meal, appetizer, or beverage so that they’ll give your restaurant another opportunity.

Of course, not every negative review is warranted. Unfortunately, some people tend to look for the bad, revel in proving others wrong, and wake up nearly every day on the wrong side of the bed. Hard to be them and harder to be on the receiving end of their reviews. So, how do you respond to a disrespectful, inaccurate review?

First, take a deep breath and step away from the computer. Lashing out, while a temporary release, will not serve you in the long run. Once your emotions have taken a back seat, address the review in a fair and clear tone. “I’m sorry you experienced a short wait despite seeing open tables. Unfortunately, our current staff shortage has forced us to close some areas of the restaurant to ensure each guest receives the type of service and quality of food they have come to expect from our establishment.”

Keep in mind that many potential and existing customers will see this review. Your response lets them know that you are committed to excellence. Make sure to keep it short and avoid lengthy back and forth with irritated guests. If more needs to be communicated, make it a private conversation by email.

This type of response is different from making an excuse. Instead, it’s letting the customer know that you hear their concerns, the reason why this circumstance may have occurred, and the steps you’re taking to ensure you exceed each guest’s expectation.

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