Every restaurant will have some negative reviews. It is just the business that we are in. I am sure that you speak to many happy guest every day!
However, when someone is looking for somewhere to eat passing through on a road-trip or maybe even one of your neighbors, they tend to look to the voice of the people [the new word of mouth] about what people think and if they would go back. It is imperative that you read, respond, and take action to correct any on-going and repetitive comments. You can’t just ignore these, and here is the reason: People look at your overall rating first and will consider where to go starting at the top down usually by price category and general location first. Then they take a look at the last 1-2 pages of comments and decide if they want to visit. Real people understand that not everybody will love you, and so they tend to look at several [5-8] to get an idea. Then they decide. Are you one of the chosen? This is why you need lots of good comments to off-set the occasional bad reviews and send them to back pages. Try it for your restaurant and decide if you would eat there based on what you find if you searched your area?
So, with that being said, who is watching your social media and responding to all the reviews? Are you handing out cards or inviting your happy guests to comment? This way you get good reviews at the top, or one the first pages.
Someone should respond to all negative comments. This shows that you care and if there was an occasional negative review people see that you are working to correct issues and care about their feedback. Just good business sense right? However, often our pride gets in the way: “they don’t know what they are talking about”, or “people love our food” are some of the comments that we will say to defend our pride! This doesn’t help. Listen to the truth of what real people who have no axe to grind are saying. Then, show some empathy in your responses and also some sense of humor.
The plan should include your Trip Advisor score, Yelp score, Facebook, and Open Table at a minimum. What are the top three things people are saying about you? What is good, and what needs work, and make a plan to correct.
Track and share your comments with your staff, of course use discretion and common sense about not singling anyone out. This is not an opportunity to bash your team, but instead, to bring them together to solve issues. They do care as they want to make money, too, and be proud of where they work!
Someone needs to review comments every day; assign someone a half hour to do this. Find someone on your team who has a passion for it. Also use the team on your Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts and post something daily if you can. A quick picture of one of your entrees, people having fun, awesome cocktails, specials or events, keeps people connected and makes you relevant. You want to be seen as a fun and engaging place to go. Let people know that you’re restaurant is a great place to be.
Have the awareness to ensure that these comments don’t get you and your team down. Keep it positive, realizing and remembering the many positive comments that you do receive!
If you take some of these steps, it can be the most inexpensive advertising you ever do!
Russ Blakeborough is Managing Director at Focus F&B. Russ works to reimagine food and beverage at hotels and restaurants. We work on refreshing your current concept and creating steps for improvement. We have the tools and resources for cost-effective and immediate improvement.
Russ, originally from England, now resides in Savannah, Georgia, in the USA, and operates worldwide.