The Dos and Don’ts of Handling Bad Restaurant Reviews

Between the rise in unreliable third-party to-go orders and a recent wave of price increases, there has been an increase in nasty reviews online. For some restaurant managers, over-the-top, bad reviewers simply do not merit a response, especially if the diners were unruly or rude. But responding to these might be in a restaurant’s best interest. Potential customers can see that management is committed to quality (or protecting their staff), and review sites like Google and Yelp will be more likely to recommend active businesses.

But before you hit “reply” on a nasty review, consider the following Dos and Don’ts:

DO Get Both Sides of the Story

Before making any decisions, do your due diligence. Find out which staff members were present and get the rundown of the encounter from them. Even if you were present, you would still want to get multiple points of view of the situation. This is not about pointing fingers, just gathering facts.
Your reply should present a factual synopsis of the issue to clarify any subjective or exaggerated claims in the review. If things don’t add up, and it seems that they incorrectly left the review for the wrong business, kindly let them know!

DON’T Respond in the Heat of the Moment

You don’t want to let a bad review linger, but at least sleep on the situation and discuss it with a fellow manager before replying. What light would your reply throw onto your business? Consider typing out a response, and then reviewing it the next day before posting it.

DO Offer to Take the Conversation Off-line

If there truly was an issue with quality or a lapse in service standards, take the conversation offline. While customers will appreciate ownership making things right, you don’t want to broadcast too many specifics or encourage copycat reviews fishing for freebies. Provide a specific phone number or email for them to reach out to, not just the general restaurant number.

DON’T Sink to Their Level

Chances are that an unreasonable reviewer is having a bad day and looking for a fight. It can be tempting to leave a snarky or defensive reply but don’t add fuel to their fire. If you can keep your response factual and level-headed, customers will read between the lines and favor your side.

DO Protect Your Team

Customer input is valuable, but not at the expense of your staff. If the reviewer personally attacks a particular employee or makes threats, let them know that your staff’s safety is your top priority and that such guests are no longer welcome. If the review violates the review platform’s policies, flag it as such. If the guest was rude to staff or other diners at the restaurant, gently let them know that you do not tolerate that in your restaurant. Your team will appreciate knowing that you have their backs, and that the customer is not always right.

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