Social Media Meets Restaurant: Giving a Good Answer to a Bad Review / Customers / Last Modified: February 22, 2018
Photo credit: Tero Vesalainen/Shutterstock

With so many consumers turning to online reviews before they try a restaurant, you can't afford not to respond to negative reviews in the best way. Here are four important parts of your response.

Social media is one of the most powerful tools for restaurants and the culinary industry as a whole. With the widespread use of networking sites, consumers often refer to different platforms to confirm whether a dining spot is any good.

Today, online restaurant reviews are more powerful than any marketing strategy – they could make or break any spot. This is the very reason why business owners should make sure they deal with online reviews in the best way possible.

How important is a good restaurant review?

A 2011 study by the Pew Research Center revealed that people looking for information on restaurants, cafes and bars rely on the internet. In addition, in the spring of 2017, there were 89.46 million internet users in the U.S. who'd checked restaurant information online in a span of 30 days. These statistics show that a restaurant's online reputation can indeed influence a consumer's dining and purchasing behavior.

A recent social experiment also proved this in the most interesting way. Oobah Butler, a journalist for Vice UK, created a fake restaurant in his backyard and published fake positive reviews on TripAdvisor in an attempt to turn his make-believe restaurant into London's No. 1 dining spot. In just six months, and after several fake marketing materials and online reviews, Butler was able to make a fake restaurant the top spot in London, all thanks to social media.

While this obviously is not the best way to use social media, the experiment only proves how important a positive presence on social is for any business, especially restaurants, cafes and bars. Notably, a 2012 ModernComment infographic revealed that 52 percent of consumers are more likely to use a local business if it has positive reviews.

How to deal with bad reviews

According to a ReviewTrackers survey, 51.7 percent of customers expect businesses to respond to their online reviews within seven days, and 21 percent of those expect a reply within 24 hours. Moreover, ModernComment confirmed that 78 percent of reviewers believe businesses that respond to reviews actually care about them. So it is imperative that restaurants reply to reviews, and all the more if they are negative.

So, how should restaurants, cafes and bars respond to bad reviews? Here are the four R's to a good restaurant review response.

1. Read the review carefully.

Do not act in haste. Take the time to read the comment before responding to any of it. This helps managers and owners understand the issue better, plan a course of action and formulate the best response.

2. Review the issue and what you can do to resolve it.

According to a restaurant owner, 80 percent of complaints happen online, with restaurants finding out about the issue after negative reviews have already been posted on Yelp and TripAdvisor. If this is the case, restaurant management may not even be aware of such a problem. This is why researching the issue is important.

Learn where the problem started and which staff members were involved, and listen to their side of the story. Knowing every detail behind the complaint will help you respond to the consumer in the best way possible.

3. Respond with an apology and a promise to do better.

Ever heard the saying "the customer is always right"? Restaurant owners and managers need to understand that customers have the power to make or break a business. So it should be a top priority to make them feel that your business cares about them enough to address any issues they may have.

All responses should start with an apology, to appeal to the consumer's emotions and make them feel heard and understood. Whether the problem was caused by the restaurant or other parties out of the business's control, it's always best to apologize and follow it with an explanation. At the end, make sure to reassure the consumer that the issue will be dealt with.

4. Reinforce the customer's positive experience.

The response doesn't have to be all negative. If the review had any positive input, make sure to reinforce it. Thank the customer for any good point or compliment they raised in the review. This way, other consumers reading the response will be reminded of the positive details of the restaurant's service.

Whether your restaurant is responding to a review or on Yelp, Facebook, TripAdvisor or Foursquare, or replying to a comment on Instagram or Twitter, it's important to make the customer feel understood and be empathetic. With a good response to a negative review, any business can turn a hater into a returning consumer.

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