Amanda Kelley, Senior Email & Social Media Specialist
Amanda Kelley, Senior Email & Social Media Specialist

Smartphones put reviews literally in the hands of millions and can influence someone’s decision on where to dine out. A potential customer could be standing on your street corner or staying at the hotel down the street trying to choose between you and your competitor’s restaurant. According to the National Restaurant Association, more than 1/3 of diners report that information on a peer review site is likely to factor into their decision when choosing a restaurant, so keep in mind that managing your reputation is important!

Why should you respond to positive reviews?

  • It’s polite. If a customer gave you a compliment in person, you would definitely say, “Thank you.” With an online review, these compliments are public, which is even more of a reason to be polite.
  • It helps encourage repeat customers. If a guest had a great experience dining with you and chose to share that online, thanking them for their kind words gives them even more of a reason to come back and visit again.
  • It can affect your search rankings. You can improve your SEO (Search Engine Optimization) ranking of the review if you reply properly.

How to respond to positive reviews:

  • Thank them for the review & be specific. Address the customer by name, if possible, and reference specific things mentioned in the review. You want to make sure you sound like a real person, and always be genuine.
  • Don’t reward or incentivize. Rewarding someone for leaving a positive review will leave a bad taste in the mouths of potential diners. You certainly don’t want people to accuse you of “paying” for positive reviews.
  • Address minor complaints. Even the greatest compliments sometimes come with a hidden complaint. Let your guests know you’re addressing any issues mentioned in the review and are working to improve.
  • Use the business name and location in your response. This will help your positive reviews appear in search results.
  • Use the response as an opportunity to market your restaurant. Mention new features, menu items or promotions and invite the reviewer to join your eClub or Loyalty Program.

Why should you respond to negative reviews?

  • Try to resolve the issues. Addressing your guests’ concerns gives you an opportunity to make things right. If a manager did a table-touch at the restaurant when a guest had a complaint, you would do whatever you could to try and make it right. The same thing goes for online reviews – you can still turn around a negative experience.
  • Show you care. Replying to these reviews gives your guests the impression that you value their feedback. You’re not just replying to the person who left the review. These online reviews are public, and how you handle these reviews can influence potential customers for years to come.

How to respond to negative reviews:

  • Apologize and be sympathetic. Acknowledge your guests’ concerns and show sympathy that they were disappointed or had a negative experience.
  • Focus on the actionable content. Try not to address things that are out of your control, but be sure to focus on areas where you can improve.
  • Keep it simple. Follow a simple format to handle these reviews: thank the guest for their feedback, make sure they know any issues are being addressed, mention specific concerns when possible, and when appropriate, encourage them to try the restaurant again.
  • Don’t get defensive! You can correct any inaccuracies or misinformation, but do it carefully. Be polite, and don’t make excuses. Simply apologize for what went wrong and make it clear that the guest’s feedback has been heard.
  • Move the conversation offline. Give the customer an opportunity to speak with someone at the business by providing contact info that makes it easy for guests to reach out. If you plan to offer a gift card to try to coerce the guest to come back and give you another chance, do this in a non-public setting so people don’t get the impression that if they leave you a negative review, they’ll get something for free.

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