Yearning for the comment card and box

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The digital revolution has ushered in countless innovations that make our lives and businesses better. We’re not convinced online reviews of restaurants is one of them. Now, we’re not calling for a return of the comment card and box, but we do know many restaurants and pizzerias kind of wish that was the case.

The beauty of the comment card was that it allowed a customer to offer praise, criticism or a suggestion, while also affording the restauranteur the time to review the comment and decide how to respond. Improvements in quality and service could be made before they became a serious issue.

Today, restaurants, pizzerias and bakeries aren’t afforded the time the carefully consider feedback from consumers. Instead, this feedback is instantly made public, often opening the door to either a mob mentality of criticism or infighting between reviewers, all on a public platform.

In extreme cases, such as the Red Hen debacle in Lexington, Virginia, a restaurant can be put in immediate crisis mode in a matter of hours. Snap decisions open a floodgate of praise or criticism that can ruin a business. We don’t think it’s necessarily fair, but we recognize it’s the reality of living in a socially-driven world.

Even the best restaurants in the world are prone to negative reviews on sites such as Yelp. Here are a few ways to handle them.

Claim your business

On review sites such as Yelp, restaurants, pizzerias and bakeries can often “claim” their business page. This doesn’t give business owners the ability to delete negative reviews. However, it does allow them to respond to negative reviews. As you’ll learn below, this is key.

Don’t ignore negative reviews

Most of us like to avoid conflict whenever possible, especially when someone writes something negative about your restaurant. Unfortunately, in the age we live in, it’s impossible for a restauranteur to bury his/her head in the sand and ignore negative reviews. This practice often leads to a “piling on” of even more negative comments.

Remember, these are your paying customers

Even if a customer has a bad experience, you have the ability to make them a return customer if you respond to them in an honest, diplomatic manner. Even if you think the review is off-base, recognize the reviewers feedback and offer a straight-forward honest reply. For most reviewers, this is enough to make them consider visiting your establishment again.

Don’t focus on the negative

According to Yelp, 80% of the reviews on its site are positive, so don’t focus on just the negative ones! It’s human nature to dwell on the one bad comment, even if it was preceded by hundreds of good comments. Stop that line of thinking and don’t get wrapped up obsessing over bad reviews.

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