Cafe and Restaurant Owners: Should You Respond to Online Reviews?

Posted on: 7 August 2019

Everyone's a critic, or at least they are since the internet came along. Anyone with an internet connection can give their esteemed feedback on seemingly any product or service available. This can be a thorn in the side of the hospitality industry, and if you own a cafe or restaurant, chances are you've had a few bad experiences on social media or specific review websites. Sometimes this feedback might be actually constructive. A customer might have pointed out that your toilets are poorly signposted. Your feedback might also be mindlessly pedantic. Maybe someone grumbled about waiting a whole seventeen minutes for their main course on a Saturday night. When it's your cafe or restaurant, and by extension, your passion and your dream that is on the frontline of criticism, it can be difficult to simply ignore what is being posted. But is there a right or a wrong way to respond to online reviews?

Just Ignore Your Feedback

Jennifer Lawrence has won an Oscar (in addition to being nominated three additional times), and her films have grossed a total of more than $6 billion (USD). And yet, good or bad, she doesn't read her reviews. Sure, there's a difference between being a Hollywood actress and running a cafe, but you could take a similar approach. Whether someone is singing your cafe's virtues or trashing you mercilessly, you can just ignore them all. The statements are online, people can read them as they see fit, but you can easily just leave them be, and have faith in what you're doing, without the need to enter the conversation.

Thanks for the Feedback

If you make the decision to respond to your reviews, you should do so carefully. This can be infinitely easier when the feedback is constructive. Someone might point out a discrepancy between the dish they've received and how it was worded on the menu. They might point out a training shortcoming, as in your serving staff were unable to answer a perfectly reasonable question about a menu item. In these instances, you can just thank the reviewer for their feedback, thank them for bringing the matter to your attention, and say you're going to address the issue. Criticism can be constructive, and you might have been unaware of the existence of certain issues until a customer points them out. 

Dealing with the Haters

Some online reviews for restaurants are so pedantic, so absurd and sometimes so aggressive that you might legitimately wonder if they've confused your cafe with someone else's. Proceed with caution if you decide to respond. Does the reviewer have any type of viewable profile on the platform in question? If so, is trashing various restaurants their modus operandi? You'll probably want to avoid an online slanging match with someone who is the cyber equivalent of the busybody who would write letters to the local paper to see their name in print. Of course, a well-written comeback can very much work in your favour. But it should be done sparingly.

Whether you choose to reply to your cafe's reviews or not, just remember that customers may prefer cafes and restaurants that respond and implement feedback. Look into other cafes in your area for possible tips for running your cafe smoothly. 

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Saving Money at Restaurants Without Sacrificing Quality

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