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How can restaurants avoid negative reviews?

The food industry in the US has seen a marked upsurge in dining expenses, with families spending over $3,000 annually on eating out. Research also suggests 90% of customers research a restaurant before dining there. 

Given the growing dependence on online reviews and recommendations, eateries must focus intensely on leveraging positive feedback. Positive reviews can encourage an influx of business, while negative ones can significantly impact a restaurant’s reputation and revenue. 

One research study found a single negative review can drive away 22% of customers, while three can push the number to 59%. 

So how can restaurants avoid negative reviews online? 

How can online reviews affect your business?

With just a few keystrokes, the experiences of countless other diners will be at the fingertips of your potential customers. These digital endorsements carry significant weight, helping to mould consumer opinions and guide their choices.

Customer expectations have evolved considerably in the hospitality industry. In the past, diners relied heavily on word-of-mouth recommendations from family and friends when choosing a restaurant. 

Today, however, the internet has revolutionised this process and diners now have access to endless information. Customers can browse through review platforms, explore social media posts, and view photographs of the food before deciding to dine at a restaurant. 

These digital advancements have raised the bar as diners seek exceptional food, memorable experiences, and outstanding service. Therefore, restaurants must adapt to this shifting landscape and focus on online reputation management.

A 2020 survey conducted with online customers in the US sheds light on the pivotal role played by customer reviews. Over 90% of respondents said positive reviews greatly influenced their decision to support and engage with specific businesses. 

Such findings underscore the impact of online feedback on consumer behaviour and highlight the need for businesses to navigate this digital landscape proactively.

An image of restaurant customers consumers eating from takeaway containers, takeout boxes, fast food containers, sushi boxes, in an article on how restaurants can avoid negative reviews

How should restaurants respond to negative reviews?

Overall, restaurants should consider negative reviews as valuable opportunities for growth. Business owners should approach these reviews with an open mind and carefully analyse the feedback instead of taking it as a personal attack on the establishment.

Restaurant owners can demonstrate a commitment to continuous improvement by acknowledging their shortcomings. Furthermore, responding in a professional and empathetic manner, and taking decisive action to address the concerns raised, can help boost the restaurant’s reputation. 

Personalise your response 

If possible, use the customer’s name when addressing negative online reviews. This will show you value their feedback. Furthermore, this personal touch demonstrates a genuine interest in resolving issues and helps to build a connection with the reviewer.

Express gratitude for the feedback

It is essential to thank customers for taking the time to provide feedback, even if it is negative. This shows your business acknowledges and appreciates their input. Additionally, by expressing gratitude, restaurants convey humility and a willingness to learn and improve.

Provide an explanation or clarification

Most importantly, address the specific concerns raised by explaining any mistakes or misunderstandings that may have occurred. Clearly communicating your perspective can help present a balanced view of the situation.

Take conversations offline 

Aim to move conversations with your customers offline. To ensure privacy and maintain professionalism, restaurants should speak with the customer directly – particularly when dealing with more complex or sensitive issues. 

This allows for a more personalised approach to resolving problems while respecting the customer’s privacy.

Extend an invitation 

Encourage customers to give your restaurant a second chance by offering dissatisfied diners a personal invitation to return. This gesture will demonstrate a commitment to making amends. Beyond this, it also provides you with an opportunity to showcase any improvements made based on the feedback received.

Refrain from generating fake reviews

The implications of generating fake reviews cannot be overstated. It is unethical and can have severe legal consequences. According to a recent report, fake online reviews influenced close to $152 billion in global spending on lacklustre products and services last year. 

Notably, the Federal Trade Commission recently cracked down on this practice and increased the maximum fine for fake reviews from $43,000 to $50,000

To maintain trust and credibility, restaurants should prioritise genuine customer feedback and avoid manipulating online review systems.

Essentially, it all comes down to maintaining a customer-centric approach. However, the best defence against negative reviews lies in proactive measures that restaurants can adopt organically and through innovative strategies.

An image of a pizza being pulled from a pizza oven in a restaurant, takeaway pizza, fast food containers, in an article on how restaurants can avoid negative reviews

How can restaurants avoid negative reviews?

Avoiding negative reviews goes beyond making a good first impression. It requires exceptional and consistent customer service throughout the entire dining experience. This involves:

  • Attentive staff
  • Prompt service
  • High-quality food
  • Clean surroundings
  • Comfortable ambience

By prioritising these aspects, restaurants create an atmosphere that encourages satisfied customers to leave positive reviews.

Meanwhile, restaurant owners can implement simple yet effective strategies to manage reviews by adopting techniques used by marketers. According to Indeed, the ideal time to ask customers for reviews is when they complete a purchase or return for another. 

An interesting way to approach this is through Wi-Fi marketing, which leverages guest networks to engage customers and solicit reviews.

Engage customers who connect

Leverage the brief moment when customers log in to the WiFi network by redirecting them to a “Thank you” page. This page should include a strong call to action that encourages them to leave a review. This tactic takes advantage of their undivided attention, increasing the likelihood of obtaining valuable feedback.

It also feels like a transaction, as you provide something they want by letting them use the network. More so, customers may be more willing to leave a positive review in the moments after they’ve received the service. 

Timing is key 

It is important for businesses to allow some time for customers to reflect on their experience. However, they must strike while the experience is fresh in the mind of the diner. This targeted approach maximises receptiveness and encourages customers to share their feedback.

As customers must submit an email to use the Wi-Fi service, consider using automated messages asking for reviews after a designated time frame, such as one day after the customer’s visit. 

Leverage social media connections

Capitalise on social media connections established via guest Wi-Fi networks by running targeted ads prompting customers to leave reviews. Using analytics allows for strategic timing and ensures customers see these ads at optimal moments. 

By implementing these strategies effectively, restaurants can harness the power of customer feedback. Furthermore, they can use it to enhance their online reputation and overall customer satisfaction.