A restaurant meal is a social experience. And after the meal is over, people keep talking online about what they did and (cue the scary music) what they didn’t like. Today, we’re focusing on how to handle negative reviews and how to get unhappy diners to come back for more.
It Matters What People Say Online
According to the National Restaurant Association, 34% of diners use peer review sites to help decide on their restaurant choices, 47% of frequent full-service customers factor in reviews, and 53% of Millennials research dining choices this way. 
Nobody, including your restaurant, is perfect. But, how you handle negative online feedback says more about your establishment than the review itself. Here’s a good rule of thumb:
Address negative reviews privately first, publicly second,
and professionally at all times.
- Diners with a complaint usually contact the restaurant before going wild online. So do your best to address any service problems in the dining room.
If the diner is already out the door, you can still catch them if you have their email, send one right away asking how you did and offering to resolve any issue.
- Once a bad review goes online, don’t worry. Address the diner in a private response. Make up a script beforehand something like this: Introduce yourself, apologize, acknowledge the complaint and explain what you’re doing to address it. Then personally invite them to return.
- If you can’t resolve the problem offline, respond directly to the review on the site. Be respectful and offer the same constructive solutions as you did in the private correspondence. 
Most reviews are positive. So encourage more of those whenever possible—it’s as easy as saying, “Thanks! We hope to see you again, soon.” after a good post. You can also post those good reviews (aka testimonials) on your own site. And they don’t all need to be online, encourage your servers to ask their happiest diners to share feedback on a comment card…then share it on your site.
At Restaurant.com, we post reviews through our “Verified Diner” system. Only diners who have used a Restaurant.com Certificate that has been validated are able to post reviews. That means we can guarantee that ratings all came from diners that you actually served—and that you have emails for in case the experience isn’t what they expected.
 Online Reviews: The New Word of Mouth (note, this is a PDF)