5 Tips for Handling Negative Restaurant or Bar Reviews

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Okay, let’s start from square one, shall we? A review page is a website that houses the opinions of the public. This is, in reality, a 24-hour message board for consumers to get the inside scoop on whether or not you are worth doing business with.

There are many review pages. However, the one I feel is the most trusted is Google. This is an opinion based on the terms and conditions, along with what's required of the user. This makes for a very even playing field.

Now, every vertical has different review pages, right? Contractors have Angie’s List, doctors and dentists have RateMD. However, every vertical is on what I call the Big Three: Facebook, Google, and Yelp. No matter what you do, you will most likely end up on one of these three sites. People can review, or recommend in Facebook’s case, on these pages. That’s what makes them relevant to your success.

Tip #1: Don't get emotional.

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I always tell everyone I speak to regarding this that you have to let go of the emotional heartstrings when it comes to responding to a negative review. Think about it from a customer perspective: What if a large brand were to respond to a customer publicly with, “You know what, I don't even want you as a customer. Don’t bother coming back.”? A response like this would go viral on every major social platform. It could potentially alienate hundreds of thousands of potential customers and future sales. The same could be said for your bar or restaurant. 


The first thing to do in this situation is to breathe. Take a day and think about something else. Do not pay any attention to some small time ‘blogger’. Do not respond to the review right away. The next day, when you wake up bright eyed and bushy tailed, read the review again with a cool head.

Tip #2: Generate reviews without being intrusive.
How are you monitoring customer satisfaction? What are you doing to grow your customer loyalty? One of the big reasons why we want to generate reviews consistently to our public review pages is to make deposits into our “Damage Control Account.”

Create a landing page that asks in a non-intrusive way, “How Did We Do?” DO NOT say, “Leave Us a Review.” This way, the customer doesn’t feel like you’re soliciting but that you actually give a hoot about the experience they had with your business. Give them a review card that drives them back to the page to generate the review. Another great way to do this is by adding the link to that landing page on your receipts, invoices and email signatures. The more you advertise the link, the more traffic will go there.

Here is an example: http://m.reputationlogin.com/example-restaurant/reviews/display/

Side Note: Do not make them take a longer survey. This does nothing to generate an online review. I don't know a single individual who finished taking their SATs and said “Wow, this was a really fun experience—there is no other way I would have liked to spend my time.” 

Tip #3: Mitigate those reviews.

Just like a survey, it's your right to solicit feedback for your own training and education of your employees. Using the landing page we previously discussed, the customer will immediately have the ability to leave a review.

If the customer leaves a negative review (I personally consider a three-star review negative) immediately redirects to a complaint line to leave their negative comment. If the customer had a four-star, or five-star experience with your business they can quickly share that experience on any review site they decide is relevant. Yelp, however, will not let you use this strategy. If you are caught doing so or work with an agency that is doing this, you are violating their terms of service. This could result in many negative ways for you, and your bar or restaurant. But look, don't sweat it. I truly believe that Yelp is for Yelpers, and most business owners are not too high on the Yelp train. I am in no way stating it’s not a viable asset to your business. In my opinion, Google and Facebook are much more important to a business’s digital footprint than Yelp.

Google Users as of 2018: 3.5 billion searches per day and 1.2 trillion searches per year worldwide according to InternetLiveStats.com.

Facebook Users as of 2019: Growth was experienced across all global regions for the fourth quarter of 2018. There are 1.74 billion active mobile users (Mobile Facebook MAU) for December 2016 which is an increase of 21% year-over-year (Source: Facebook as of 02/01/17). In Europe, over 307 million people are on Facebook from Zephoria.com.

Yelp Users as of 2019: Based on a sum of monthly unique desktop, mobile web, and app users, Facebook currently has about 1.74 billion mobile active users. Yelp has just 10 percent of that based on a report from Alpha.com in 2018.

So, do the math. Where do you feel your most relevant opportunity is to grow your business using online reviews? If you said Google and Facebook, you would be correct. If you said Yelp, think again.

Tip #4: How responding to public reviews is the game changer.
Do not just respond with “Thanks” or the same response over and over again. That comes off lazy, impersonal, and is almost as bad as not responding at all; sometimes even worse. You always—and I mean always—want to make sure that you add some marketing or keywords relevant to your business in a positive review response.

For example, if the reviewer says, “Wow the crab cake was so good, I will definitely be back.” You should mention in your response, “If you liked the crab cake, you should try the prime rib on Tuesdays.”

Other reviewers see this, as well as other directory pages and search engines, placing you into the keyword phrases searched near your business. However, it also helps in that customer returning by themselves or with friends based on your response and recommendation.

Here is a link that proves this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NzxoOfuRI0A

Tips #5: Don't reward negative reviews.

DO NOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, give someone something for free if they had a negative experience, or publicly respond and promise that. You will create a snowball effect with other potential reviewers.

Bonus Tip

When flagging a review for removal, copy and paste the actual guideline as to the first reason why you are flagging it in your comments section of the flagging process. This will help your chances of removal.


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