A bad review on Yelp can seem like the kiss of death for any restaurant, especially a small one. Seeing a bad review of your restaurant online hurts, and it might hurt your business. But what can you do about it? You can’t remove it or prevent potential customers from seeing it. You’ll just have to do a little damage control, and here’s how.
Privately Message the Reviewer
When you get a bad review, the one thing you absolutely must do is contact the reviewer on Yelp with a private message. No matter what they’ve said, make sure you react in a positive manner. Apologize to them for their bad experience, and do what you can to right it. Offer them a discount or free meal, and let them know that their opinions are appreciated and will be genuinely considered.
In most cases, the reviewer will appreciate you reaching out to them. In some cases, it may even prompt them to change or delete their review, though you should never explicitly ask them to do this. Your message to them is a form of customer service, and you should react however you would if they were giving their complaints to you in person. Sometimes extending the olive branch is all it takes.
Write a Public Response
You can also publicly respond to bad reviews on Yelp so that other users can see what you have to say. If you want to write a public response, make sure you also send a private one. Your public response should be concise, positive, and solution-oriented. Again thank them for their feedback and apologize for their experience. If something has changed, say so. For example, if they had a complaint about a server and that person is no longer working for you, tell them. Your response will hopefully help counteract the negative feedback from the review, so that when people read it they will also see your sincerity and commitment to your customers.
Counteract Them with Positive Reviews
If a user doesn’t change or remove their review, their star rating will affect your overall rating on Yelp. The only thing you can do about this is work to balance it out with more positive reviews. Don’t cheat by buying reviews or writing them yourself. In your restaurant, encourage your customers to write reviews. Don’t ask for positive reviews or you’ll seem desperate, and most of the people who will take the time to write a review after you’ve asked will probably write a good one anyway. You can even offer further incentive such as a discount to anyone who writes a Yelp review for you. Eventually the bad review will be overwhelmed with positive ones and won’t hold nearly as much weight.
Don’t Sweat It
Finally, don’t worry so much about bad reviews. After you’ve done what you can with messaging the reviewer, it’s not worth losing any sleep over. Take what you can from the review and use it to improve your restaurant, and then concentrate on running your business.
Tobias Eriksen is a danish restaurant owner and amateur writer who loves to give advice on anything from fatherhood to managing a business. In order to make sure his articles and work come across in a clear and professional manner he proofs them with a grammar checker.
Photo Credit: javier balseiro