How to Respond: A Guide to Reviews for Bars & Restaurants

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Online reviews are part of being a bar or restaurant owner today. No way around it. While you may not exactly love Yelp, there are clear benefits to review sites. Happy customers provide “social proof” to your prospective guests, encouraging people to spend their hard-earned dollars and time at your establishment. On the other hand, poor reviews provide an opportunity to showcase your excellent customer service. Whether positive or negative, all feedback is a chance for you to show off your location in a favorable light.

Reviews: Fast Facts

  • 97% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses in 2017
  • 85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations
  • 30% of consumers review how a business responds to comments when deciding whether to visit
  • Yelp & Facebook are local consumers’ most trusted review sites, followed by Google &
  • Consumers read an average of 7 reviews before trusting a business – up from 6 last year (2016).
  • The most common review searches are for local restaurants & cafes
(Courtesy of BrightLocal)

Recent Reviews Matter

Seventy-seven percent of consumers think that reviews older than three months aren’t relevant. A good review from over six months ago is very likely to be trumped by a negative review from one month ago. Your most recent reviews are seen as a reflection of the current status of your service. A good way to get more reviews is to train employees to ask customers to write a review when they know they’ve provided good service.

You can also use text messages to request reviews, making it less likely that guests will forget. Simply ask your patrons for their mobile number,  and send a text message with a link that opens a review submission form. You can also display positive reviews in your business with Evergreen’s digital menus. This encourages your guests (while they are drinking your award-winning IPA or digging into a plate of your famous wings) to leave one of their own.


Tips for Responding to Positive Reviews

Don’t Ignore Them

You wouldn’t ignore someone sitting at the bar who compliments your selection of Imperial Stouts. So don’t brush off your guests online. If someone leaves a positive review, realize they took time to look up your business and leave a comment. Given how quickly we all cruise the Internet today, it’s kind of a big deal. Responding to positive reviews builds rapport and allows your business to build a relationship with your customers.

Be Genuine

If a customer left you a positive review, let them know you appreciate their kind words! Expressing gratitude is relatively easy to do when the review is positive, and there are several ways to do a great job. A quick “Thank you!”is an easy way to get started.  You could also leave a longer comment like, “Thank you for the wonderful words, we’re glad you enjoyed your experience with us!” or, “Thanks for making our day with your kind comments. We can’t wait for you to come back!” For glowing remarks, ask to share their review on your social media sites. You get to show the world what folks think of your establishment and your customer gets their name mentioned. Everyone’s happy.


How to Respond to Negative Reviews

Realistically, you may not have time to reply to every four-star review. But you MUST respond to every negative review. Responding to negative reviews lets you do damage control. It also shows that your business genuinely cares about providing the best experience possible. This is very important, as 30% of consumers take a look at a business’ response to reviews before visiting. Responding to negative feedback opens the door to bringing an unhappy patron back through your doors because they’ll see you care about solving what went wrong. And customers browsing your reviews will see the same thing. All good stuff.

Top Tips for Responding to Negative Reviews

  • Respond as soon as you can respond well
  • Be professional
  • Know when to push back
  • Keep it simple
  • Don’t include your business name in your response (you don’t want the comment thread to show up in Google)

Skip to minute 32:41 of this webinar to hear an expert share a few examples of great responses to negative reviews.

Be Professional

When a review isn’t so sweet, avoiding the urge to “dish it back” can feel as hard as bench pressing a tractor. But although negative reviewers may not always be polite, the fact of the matter is that they still took the time to give your business feedback. And more importantly, your prospective customers are taking a look at what they said. It’s up to you to go high when they go low. For example, “Hi, (name here), thank you for taking the time to reach out to us, we’re sorry you didn’t have the best experience during your visit. We’d love to make sure your next visit lives up to our standards.” Or, “We appreciate you going through the effort to let us know how we can improve, we’d love to make it up to you by giving you a discount the next time you stop by!

Address the Problem

If your business receives legitimate negative feedback, figure out how to resolve the issue. Bad customer service, or a trend of bad service by the same employee? Resolve it quickly. If the staff member deserves to be let go, do what you need to do and invite the reviewer back with an apology. Or if the customer’s experience was simply lackluster, apologize for an experience that didn’t meet expectations and welcome them to come back again. Perhaps a resolution involves inviting the customer back and offering a small discount. Whatever you do, engage with a reviewer who has had a negative experience at your business in a timely, polite way, and you will make your business look better by taking steps to resolve that experience.

How to Dispute a Review

While 99% of negative reviews can be addressed with a simple, professional response, there are circumstances where you need to fight back. Every small business owner has had the experience of going to their Yelp page and seeing a review that’s not only negative, but also fake. It’s one thing if someone legitimately had a bad experience, it’s an entirely different thing if a competing business is leaving you bad reviews in order to boost their own reputation. This is a prime example of when disputing a negative review is in order.

Disputing a Negative Review on Yelp

There is a straightforward process for reporting a questionable review on Yelp. This option is built into the web and mobile applications for Yelp, and it’s relatively straightforward to report a review. That being said, the harder part can be determining (and arguing) whether the review has violated any of Yelp’s policies. These include an apparent conflict of interest (like a competitor or former employee), a review focusing on someone else’s experience instead of their own, or the review including inappropriate material.

Yelp has published clear guidelines about when you should report a review.  

Disputing a Negative Review on Facebook

You can report any Facebook review that does not follow the Facebook Community Standards, which include things like threats and hate speech, fraud and spam. One main difference here is that these standards apply to content across all of Facebook, and so they’re less specific to businesses and reviews.

Similarly to other posts on Facebook, you can report a review on Facebook from within the options of that post itself. One main difference between Facebook and Yelp is that on Facebook you are able to disable reviews entirely, although we don’t recommend this because potential customers may view it as questionable behavior by your business. It’s always best to seek out positive reviews than to try to hide from reviews altogether.

Disputing a Negative Review on Google

Just like Facebook and Yelp, Google My Business has a policy on what content is not allowed. It is important to understand whether a review fits their criteria, which includes spam and fake content, offensive content, or conflicts of interest. Google allows businesses to report Google reviews as inappropriate from within their Google My Business dashboard or mobile app and also from within Google Maps.

How to Stay On Top of Reviews

Now that you know how to respond, the question becomes: how do I find the time?! Most business owners (and even staff) don’t have time to check each review platform for fresh comments, or even to regularly monitor the heavy hitters like Google, Yelp, TripAdvisor and Facebook. Don’t worry! There are a number of software solutions that compile reviews from multiple sites, notify you when a new review comes in and help you quickly respond. Services include Yext, Podium and Evergreen, which lets you monitor and respond to reviews from a single inbox while also tracking average ratings over time.

However you structure the process of managing your online reviews, at the very least, make sure you’re responding to your customers’ comments. It’s what keeps them coming back!


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