Negative Online Reviews: To Respond or Not to Respond

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Online reviews can be a double-edged sword for restaurant owners.  A raving review can help to bring new business in for a meal while a poor review can scare new diners away as well as make any owner emotionally upset.  All too often it seems that the media is covering a story of a review gone wrong with either the reviewer or the restaurant owner in hot water with the public.  One such restaurant owner rant went over and above what most people felt was okay, and that could certainly hurt business.  Learning the best way to respond to online reviews can help you not show up on Facebook for all the wrong reasons.

Create a Policy

One of the first things that any restaurant owner should do is create a policy that guides any online review responses.  This can simply be determining who should be allowed to respond to online reviews or even if reviews deserve a response.  Also, there should be some guidelines set as to how to respond.  If you appoint someone else to respond to online reviews, you will want to make sure that they are not going to respond to things in a manner that will make matters worse.

Don’t Emotionally Respond

It is always good to wait before responding to a negative review.  Owners who are heard about on the news and social media for handling a negative review in a bad way are probably regretting not taking a moment to let go of their anger or upset over the negative things said before replying.  Your business is your pride and joy, and it’s hard to allow someone to bad talk it.  That is human nature.  How you respond to it is just as important as the negative review.

Valuable Feedback

Try to look at this feedback as something that can be positive even though it might have ruined your day.  Sometimes, there might actually be a grain of truth in what has been said, and this is a chance to learn how to better your restaurant experience for your guests.  Do a little research.  Based on your sales, was it busy that day?  Talk with your staff to see if anyone remembers this situation since most reviews are left soon after a visit.  Maybe something happened that soured the guest on the experience that can be changed or maybe they are just one of the people that always have something awful to say no matter how hard your staff tried to please them.  Learning about a problem this way is better than having a problem that you are not aware of having in the first place.

Time to Respond (or Not)

Okay, you have set a policy for responses, waited to let your emotions not get the best of you and have researched the feedback to see if it had any value.  Now it is time to determine if you should reply.  If the majority of your reviews are positive, then not posting a review is perfectly fine.  Everyone knows that there are just some people that are never happy, and will rely more on all the positives than the negatives.  A lot of negative reviews may mean that you have something more serious to ponder than just responding to one review.

When crafting your response you want to be professional and try to be understanding of how they felt.  Let them know you are sorry about their experience, and invite them to come in again.  This review can be an opportunity to win back a guest, and put a positive spin on how customer service is important to your business.


You will want to wait to click respond before posting this online.  Let it sit for a while, and review it again.  You want to make sure that it is positive public relations for your business, and is letting review readers know you value all customers.  You may even have someone else read your review before posting it to get their view of it.  Spouse, friend or even a marketing firm can be good bets for getting help on how it sounds to someone else.  After this additional feedback, determine if you still need to respond to the individual, and submit if you think it is well worth it.

Remember that anything you place online will always be there.  Think before you write and post a review unless you want it to continue to haunt you and your business.  Your future guests will appreciate any positives changes that are made based on this review and the effort that was made to either not respond to what can be seen as online bullying or to craft a polite response.  The ultimate decision on replying is up to you to determine based on your response policy, but following these simple rules will help to prevent a media circus.

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Rafi Cohen, a graduate of Baruch College & Brooklyn native is the Co-Founder @ Orders2me, an online ordering platform that gives restaurant owners all the features they need to grow their business in the digital age.

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