For restaurant owners, nothing boosts self esteem quite like a shining customer review. Whether a patron commends your food, your staff’s service, or your locale’s interior design, a good review can give leave you feeling validated, appreciated, and fulfilled.
Naturally, bad reviews can have the opposite effect. It’s hard not to get upset when reading a bad review, because no matter how big or small your restaurant is, it’s something that you’re deeply invested in on a personal level. The trick is to not view the bad review as a personal attack, but as constructive criticism. Once the initial anger has subsided, try to take the critique at face value and learn from it. Put yourself in the reviewer’s shoes. While you might not make a habit of writing negative reviews, you certainly always have an internal checklist of things you liked didn’t like about a particular establishment after eating there.
Once you’ve been able to understand the viewpoint of the customer, you will be better able to use these bad reviews to your advantage.
Here are several ideas on how to use poor reviews to improve your restaurant.
Take the Time to Read Them
Reading every bad review could be a painful process, but it’s a worthwhile one. Obviously, you can skip over the non-constructive negative reviews that are made up of three words or less, or a short chain of expletives. But be sure to seriously read and consider the reviews that seem sincere and good-natured.
It might not be a fun process reading through comments in which people are pointing out all of your restaurant’s shortcomings, but it’s an important one. Genuine criticism can often strike a chord with you and even point out something about your restaurant that you would have never thought of otherwise.
Use these valuable insights from customers to try and remedy problems they encountered while dining at your establishment. Reading customer opinions will help you look at your business with a more discerning eye in the future.
Respond To Negative Reviews
First and foremost, make sure that you’re not in a defensive state of mind before you reply to any reviews. Your priority at this point needs to be outreach. Don’t respond to abusive reviewers either. Feel free to delete their comments if they are crude or disrespectful.
Your goal should be to reach out to reviewers who pointed out valid issues with your place of business. Be gracious when responding to them. Thank them for their input and feel free to ask them what you could be doing to make their experience a better one in the future.
If you are opening the channels of communication with your customers and showing them that you are listening to what they are saying, there is a greater chance that they are going to give you another shot.
This will have a positive effect on the people reading these reviews as well. By facing criticism openly and publicly, you are showing potential future customers that you care and are deeply invested in the success your restaurant.
Promote the Changes You’ve Made
If you have decided to take some of the negative reviews to heart and make changes according to these suggestions, make sure to tell people about it. Making changes that have been inspired by bad reviews is a good start, but if the people who criticized you are not aware that you are making a concerted effort to improve these aspects of your restaurant, you are only doing half of the work.
Social media is great for this type of stuff. Get active on your Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, and other accounts to keep the public informed.
For example, if you’ve received a bad review stating that your marinara sauce was not thick enough, take a picture of your new concoction and post a picture update on social media announcing your new, thick and chunky marinara sauce.
If you’ve had complaints about the lighting or seating in a particular area of the restaurant, make the necessary changes and then take some pictures or video and update your customer base about what’s new at your restaurant.
Being proactive is the best way to not only curb bad reviews, but to also show people who weren’t so fond of your restaurant at first that you are listening to them and working on improving things.
Make your customers feel important by showing them that their comments and suggests are not being ignored. This will also make them feel as if they are working with you to make your restaurant better, one that they would visit frequently.
Positive reviews don’t just accumulate on their own. It may not take much for a customer to write a bad review, but if you want to tip the scale in your favor, you will have to put in the work.
Continue keeping an eye on your online reputation and making tweaks. The road to glowing restaurant reviews is a arduous and seemingly endless one. Listening and being proactive will help you to leverage these bad reviews and use them to your advantage.
What is your opinion? Join us in the social conversation on Twitter: follow us on @HumanityApp