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National Restaurant Association - Bad online review? Here's how to handle it

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Bad online review? Here's how to handle it

When your restaurant receives a bad online review, you may be tempted to fire off an emotionally charged response telling the reviewer how wrong they really are.  

But that’s the wrong move, online review experts say, and could end up making the problem worse. Instead, restaurant owners should engage the unhappy customer, identify what sparked the bad feelings, and take steps to win back the customer by fixing the problem.

“Nearly 80 percent of the reviews on [Yelp] are three-star or above,” said Morgan Remmers, Yelp’s manager of local business outreach. “Those negative experiences that are actually giving you constructive feedback are really important to note so you can implement that feedback and make that user experience, going forward, a better one.” 

Remmers was one of the online experts who shared insights with restaurant owners during the National Restaurant Association’s members-only webinar, “Responding to Online Reviews.”

Restaurants should have policies in place that determine how they respond to negative reviews, said another panel member, Dan Simons, owner of the Washington, D.C.-area Founding Farmers restaurant. Simons has paid close attention to online customer engagement since he opened the restaurant, and Founding Farmers has drawn more than 3,000 ratings on Yelp. Restaurants should strive to engage customers on Yelp and other review sites, Simons said. Active engagement also seems to encourage other customers to submit reviews, he said.

Listen to the National Restaurant Association’s webinar, “Responding to Online Reviews.”

It’s also important to develop what Simons calls a “neutralizer,” a standard process for assessing reviews that removes emotional elements and puts the focus on the issue driving the review. “We start to separate the review into its useful pieces,” Simons said. “When we want to respond to a guest, we don’t have to think about responding emotionally to their emotion, we just have to focus on the catalytic event.”

Listen to the archived webinar and learn:

  • How Yelp selects which reviews appear on a business’s page
  • Techniques to respond quickly and effectively to negative reviews
  • How to find and maintain your restaurant’s unique voice
  • How to zero in on the issue that led to the negative review, respond appropriately, and earn customer loyalty.

Get “Online Reviews: The New Word of Mouth,” the leading guide to online reviews for restaurants.

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