Criticism can be difficult to take, especially when it's in the form of a negative review. When responding to a bad review, it's essential to be professional, polite, friendly, and apologetic. It's important to recognize when your restaurant has let a guest down and take responsibility for failure. A good response should be humble and apologize.
You must face the problem head-on, not divert responsibility or make excuses. Minimize potential harm by publicly responding to the guest on the same social platform. Start by thanking the person for taking the time to comment, then write that you are sorry and that the complaint is not representative of your restaurant. From here, offer to solve the problem with a discount or coupon, if possible.
A public response is an opportunity to share your side of the story and show potential customers how you would react if something went wrong during their dining experience. Even if the review contains more bad things than good things, draw attention to something positive that the reviewer wrote. But what's even more important is that you can use a negative review to improve your restaurant in a real, meaningful and impactful way. If you're a New York Times reader, you're probably embarrassed to read the review of Kappo Masa, the second most expensive restaurant in Manhattan. So your opinion won't reflect the typical experience someone can expect to have at that restaurant, so it defeats the purpose of writing a review in the first place.
Potential customers will assume that the issues addressed by the reviewer are ongoing or that the restaurant doesn't care. If only a bad restaurant review says your food is too expensive, you might only have one guest with tight pockets. Despite starting with This place is a joke, this review is actually an invaluable resource for the restaurant. But if a review mentions a problem with a dish, such as oily pig ears, it's worth investigating how that menu item is prepared and whether any improvements can or should be made. If you get a bad review, it can be disheartening; you invest your heart and soul in your business only to have it tarnished by a customer who is simply in a bad mood, doesn't like restaurant food, or has unrealistic expectations.
In addition to being against the terms of service of most review sites, accepting free food in exchange for leaving a good review and not disclosing it is actually a violation of Federal Trade Commission guidelines. When responding to negative reviews, it's important to remain professional and polite while taking responsibility for any failures. Offer solutions such as discounts or coupons if possible and draw attention to any positive comments made by the reviewer. Most importantly, use negative reviews as an opportunity to improve your restaurant in real and meaningful ways.