Six Tips for Responding to Online Restaurant Reviews

More than half of Millennials (19-35) say they take restaurant reviews into account before making a dining decision. They also spend 44% of their food budget on dining out ($2,921 annually). Considering that 69% of Americans look for online reviews before making purchasing decisions, restaurants should take online restaurant reviews to heart.

Restaurants might be able to save some face by engaging with their restaurant’s online reviewers. We know. Most of the time, you’re told to stay clear from such things as only bad can come from it. And if you’re someone who’s a bit thin-skinned that might be your best course of action. It’s easy to take things too personally and walk down a dark road that’ll only lead to bad press and lost business.

But it is possible to remain active and engaged with online reviews and not look like a petulant child.

Here are some tips for responding to online restaurant reviews – both the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Be professional.

This is, by far, the most important of the tips we’re going to drop on you today. If your instinct is to jump into reviews with guns blazing, you’re gonna do nothing but set your reputation on fire. Keep it professional. Always be the bigger person. Don’t scoop to name calling or trash talking.

It is possible to stand firm against unfair restaurant reviews but it’s best saved for when your restaurant’s staff is being unfairly called out or trashed. But even then, be the adult in the room.

Respond to the good and the bad.

It’s easy to just go through the five stars and leave thanks – and you should do that! – but don’t be afraid to dip into the one-star pool. The water’s cold, but those guests need the most TLC if you’re hoping to make amends and save face.

Spell correctly.

For the love of the holy and unholy grammar gods, proofread your post. It’s fine to use dialect vernacular if that’s in your restaurant’s personality, but make sure you know the difference between “to” and “too” and your “their/there/they’re” and “lose/loose,” etc. The quickest way to lose credibility or for a thread to turn into a raging dumpster fire is to spell something incorrectly. Spellcheck is your friend.

Respond quickly.

There’s a little more wiggle room for this. You got a lot of work on your plate, so responding to reviews might fall by the wayside for more pressing concerns, but sooner is definitely better. You want to strike while the iron is still hot, so you can mold the situation as best you can. Replying to a six-month-old review isn’t going to do very much but make the reviewer really confused. If you’re looking to make amends, you need to do it ASAP.

Mine for details.

Sometimes reviews leave you detail explanations on why their experience was good or bad. Other times, you get a generic “This place sux.” There’s a good chance you’re not going to be able to engage with those reviewers on a useful level, but it’s worth reaching out. If they do engage back (and are pleasant), try to get details on what went afoul. Bad food? Bad service? Something else? Any details you get can be used to trying to make sure the problem doesn’t happen again. You may even try to make amends by offering them a discounted or free meal, apps, or drinks for an evening. If they’re not interested, leave it be. You don’t want to come off as a desperate car salesman.

If a guest had a particularly amazing time, try to find out what happened. Was the food just that good? Props to your kitchen staff! Did one of your servers go above & beyond the call of duty for them? It’s good to know so you can try to replicate with future guests while also giving props to your staff on a job well done.

Thank guests for their feedback.

Good or bad, thank the reviewer for stopping by your location and providing feedback. Illustrate to them that their thoughts are important to you and that you take their experience seriously. You’re not going to be able to please everyone, but that doesn’t mean you should be bullheaded in return. To anyone looking at the bad reviews, they’ll see that you’re willing to go the extra mile to make things right and that’s going to dull the sharpness of bad reviews in their eyes.