bad reviewYou asked, we answered. This week’s blog post is an answer to a question submitted by one of our Restaurant Branding Roadmap readers.

“I know it is important to be on social media, but I am afraid to put ourselves out there. We had a bad experience with a nasty reviewer online and we didn’t know how to respond. I know that bad reviews and disgruntled customers can hurt a brand. How do you suggest dealing with bad reviews on a Facebook page or on a Twitter feed or on a site like Yelp? Also, how do you decide where to be on social media. There are so many options and we only have so much time? – Denise”

Great question, Denise. You are right, just like your restaurant might see an uptick in business from a consistent stream of great reviews, bad online reviews can hurt your brand and your business. In today’s marketplace, an online reputation is something that every business must monitor.

First, we’ll address your question about how to deal with bad restaurant reviews. If you’re monitoring your restaurant’s online reputation, or you have an alert system set up and you come across a bad review, here are some steps you can take.

1. Read the review and step away.  Chances are your first reaction will be a strong one fueled by emotion, which is natural and understandable. You might want to respond right away, but don’t. Seek out anyone who might have interacted with or served the customer who posted the comment and get his or her perspective. If the comment focused on bad service, ask your staff for their side of the story. If the focus was on the food, find out if any attempt was made to address concerns while the customers were dining.

Since you didn’t get the chance to hear the complaints and fix them, think about how you might have addressed them in person. You can draft a response yourself, or ask someone on your team to help you craft one. Make sure that it addresses the points in the review and doesn’t sound reactive or emotional. This may take time to edit a few versions.

2. Post your response.  Your response should have a calm, diplomatic and empathetic tone.  Show the reviewer that you care about their experience at your restaurant and offer a solution to fix the problem. In some instances, you can respond publicly or privately – that is up to you. If you respond in a public forum, then it shows others that you care and that you want to remedy a situation.

You may or may not hear back from the person. If you do not, that’s OK, you put forth the effort to apologize and fix the situation and that is all you can do. If you do hear back from the reviewer, focus any further discussion on the solution. If you find yourself getting dragged backwards into what went wrong, you might find yourself in an unpleasant back and forth with everyone on the internet as a spectator. That is a dangerous situation, because you might get reactive and emotional again. Offer the solution and move on.

If you find that you begin to respond to your reviews (positive and negative), make sure that your response time, tone and technique are consistent. How you respond can help support your brand, too.

3. Take stock of all reviews. It may be the case that you had someone in your restaurant who is difficult to please and impossible to satisfy with steps one and two. It happens. Take a look at all of your reviews on various channels – sites like Yelp, Urbanspoon, Tripadvisor and social media spots like Facebook and Twitter. Are the reviews overwhelmingly positive with one or two bad ones? If so, potential restaurant customers will likely judge you by your overall score.

However, if you see several bad reviews and the same issues being highlighted, it might be time to take a look at those areas and just use the feedback as opportunities to improve. You might then be able to reach out to those reviewers to say, “we’re sorry that you had a bad experience with our restaurant, we’ve taken your comments to heart and we’ve fixed XYZ and we’d love for you to visit our restaurant again.” It is possible that people will accept your invitation and if you really have made improvements, you may create some new loyal restaurant customers.

As for the second part of your question, yes, there are tons of channels and opportunities to be online and to interact with potential and established customers. You do not have to be on every single one of them. In fact, if you try to be every where, you’ll probably get so overwhelmed with trying to keep up your social media efforts that you’ll give up.

Talk to your customers and find out where they hang out online and which channels they use. The only place you need to be online is where your customers are.  Spend time on that channel, whether it’s Facebook or Twitter and find ways to engage your customers and share information that will be relevant to them such as your hours, daily specials, closures, delivery options, reservations or events.

After trying different social media options, decide which channel has helped your business the most and focus on that channel. You can also work with a social media strategist to help you put together a plan and automate many of these tasks so that it’s not a huge time commitment every week.

It can be daunting to get online, but if you communicate with respect and show that you are there to help your restaurant’s past, present and future customers, you will be in good shape!


Do you a question for us? We’d love to answer it here on the blog. You can email us jring[at]restaurantbrandingroadmap[dot]com or reach us on our Facebook page or Tweet to us.

Did you like this article? Sign up for free updates from the blog and receive our FREE e-book “25 Things Customers Think (But Won’t Tell You)” by entering your email in the box at the top right corner of this page.

You’ll also be the first to hear about our upcoming free webinars and courses where we’ll share more step-by-step tips on how to create a successful restaurant brand.

Related articles

Do independent restaurants hear the yelp?

Your restaurant and social media

Manage your restaurant’s online reputation for pennies or FREE