How Should You Respond to Bad Reviews of Your Restaurant on Google or Yelp?

A bad review. It’s the stuff or restaurant owners’ nightmares. Even worse? Seeing one on Google or Yelp where a negative critique can feel like chum thrown into the ocean of internet trolls. So what’s a restaurant owner to do? Pull your rage fingers away from the keyboard, take a deep breath, and follow these tips.

First off, you might be asking, what the heck is Yelp and should I even care? You should. According to 2019 Review42 statistics, is the 44th most visited website in the US according to Alexa and 45% of customers are likely to check Yelp reviews before visiting a business. So if you’re thinking no one is going to see that bad review RickyBobby648 posted last night, think again.

The same goes for Google reviews. Fact: The internet behemoth is a go-to source for consumer intel with 63.6 percent of consumers reporting they are likely to check online reviews on Google before visiting a business, according to ReviewTrackers. Hard truth: If you own a restaurant, you’re going to have to deal with online reviews, like it or not. Here's how to respond:

Decide who should respond

Consistency is key when it comes to dealing with negative reviews. That’s why it’s important to make someone in charge of the response. For small restaurants, the founder or owner is likely the best person. For larger operations, a marketing team or customer service division. Once you have a person or team in place, they can stay on top of any reviews (negative or positive) and respond accordingly.

Don’t overreact

We repeat: Don’t overreact. The last thing you want to do when responding to a negative review is encourage more negative attention. It’s natural to feel hurt by a harsh critique, but posting a fired emotional response is not the answer. Remember, one negative review is not the end of the world.

Post a thoughtful, timely response

There are whole businesses designed to help restaurants manage public relations crises (some tips on that, here) and help craft smart responses. But if you don’t have that, opt for a thoughtful post and have it vetted by some close confidants. The goal is to be level-headed and to respond swiftly. In other words, nip it in the bud and move on.

Fix the problem

The truth is, sometimes negative reviews (as annoying as they may be) have good recommendations in them. Say someone complained that a waiter kept running his hands through his hair. Well, you should probably have a conversation with your staff and remind them of your restaurant hygiene policy. Whatever the issue is, address is right away so that you don’t get repeat complaints.

Consider offering an incentive

One of the best goodwill moves you can make to a frustrated customer is a comp or incentive to get them to give you a second chance. A free drink or appetizer is an easy peace offering that might just spare you more online headaches.

Go easy on yourself

Don’t kick yourself for getting a bad review. It happens and sometimes its your restaurant’s fault and sometime it’s not. Keep in mind, sites like Yelp and Google tend to attract the most extreme reactions — love and hate. So review them, respond, and move on.

And remember, when in doubt, the old adage “kill ‘em with kindness” tends to work. It’s hard for someone to stay mad at a place that goes above and beyond to make them feel heard, understood, and welcomed.

[Photo: Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels]