How to Respond: A Guide to Reviews & Check-ins for Bars & Restaurants

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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)


Tips for Responding to Reviews

Don’t ignore them (good or bad)

You wouldn’t ignore someone complaining about an hour-long wait or commending you for your selection of Imperial Stouts. So don’t brush your guests off online. Responding to positive reviews builds rapport and allows your business to build a relationship with your customers. On the flip side of things, responding to negative reviews provides an opportunity to 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. Skip to minute 32 of our webinar to get our expert advice for responding.

Be genuine

Expressing thankfulness is relatively easy to do when the review is positive, and there are several ways to do a great job. For example, you could begin your response with, “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!”

That said, when a review isn’t so sweet, it can be harder to express thanks for harsh words. 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 had to say. You could still start with, “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!

Remove keywords relevant to your business from responses to negative reviews

There are a collection of keywords that people may use to find your business through search engines, such as your business name. Refrain from using this in your responses to negative reviews, as you don’t want that to show up as soon as someone looks up your business!

Try to gather a consistent volume of reviews

77% of consumers think that reviews older than 3 months aren’t relevant. A good review from over 6 months ago is very likely to be trumped by a negative review from 1 month ago. Your most recent reviews are seen as a reflection of the current status of your service. A good way to provide incentives for reviews is to offer specials to those who check-in to your business on Yelp or give you a like on Facebook. Another option is to train employees to remind customers to give a review when they know they’ve provided good service.

How to Respond Effectively to Negative Reviews

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
  • Pro tips for adding personality, when it’s ok to not respond, disputing reviews and learning from reviews

How to Dispute a Review

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. Read on to learn how to dispute a negative online review on Yelp, Facebook, and Google.

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.

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