With so many people using Yelp, it’s clear how the platform can provide a lot of visibility for your restaurant.
The flipside is that if people negatively review your restaurant, then a lot of people will see this information too.
But don’t let this scare you.
With the right strategy, you can quickly diminish the impact these negative reviews can have on your profiles.
This post will teach you how you can combat negative reviews for your restaurant.
If you currently live in fear of receiving a negative Yelp review, you’ll soon learn how you can fight back and regain control over your Yelp profile.
Are You Fighting a Losing Battle?
Suppose your restaurant has a Yelp profile with a total of 10 reviews – 6 of which are negative (<3 stars)
It’s completely understandable if you’ve just opened and these are all down to teething problems.
However, potential diners don’t know that. All they see is a restaurant with a lower overall rating.
Their immediate response will be to click on the restaurant with even half a star more.
Check it out below. I had to scroll through 3 full pages of restaurants to find where the ratings dropped from 5 stars to 4 and a half.
And still I’d choose the 5-star restaurant over the 4 and a half star one.
Which touches on my next point.
Restaurants with poorer ratings are featured lower in the search results.
If you’ve got even a small number of negative reviews you can expect to experience:
- Lower visibility on Yelp
- Fewer people who do see your restaurant willing to give you a chance
- Lower revenue and sales figures
It sucks and it can really hurt your ability to turn a profit.
So what should you do?
Well, the best way to improve things is by attracting a greater number of positive reviews.
Granted, it’s important for you to learn how to combat and tactfully deal with negative reviews.
But if you know how to attract positive reviews, negative reviews will be less of a worry.
That’s because potential diners will see there are more positive reviews than negative and will begin to see the negative reviews as outliers. Plus, if most of your recent reviews are positive, older, negative reviews will hold even less weight.
With that in mind we’re first going to take a look at how you can attract more positive reviews. Once we’ve got that out the way, we’ll explore how you should respond to those that leave negative reviews.
Attracting More Yelp Reviews (Plus an Important Rule You Need to Pay Attention to)
No matter what you do, you’ll inevitably run into a situation where someone leaves a bad review for your restaurant.
In fact, here’s one of the highest rated restaurants in New York on Yelp.
Even they have some 1 and 2-star reviews!
And yet this restaurant still manages to rank highly in spite of these negative reviews.
In fact, you could argue that the negative reviews give the positive reviews more credibility.
They’re able to rank highly because the positive reviews outweigh the negative reviews – NOT because they have no negative reviews.
Thus, learning how to attract reviews is vital if you want to build up some immunity to potential negative reviews.
But, and this is an important but, Yelp has a strong policy against the solicitation of reviews – AKA you can’t actively ask people to review your business.
More specifically, Yelp wants to make sure you don’t interfere with the ‘natural flow of reviews.’
The graphic below provides a detailed list of actions that could result in the interference of this ‘natural flow.’
On another section of their website, Yelp outlines in greater detail, the kinds of things you’re not allowed to do when it comes to obtaining reviews.
If you do any of these things, there’s a good chance Yelp will ban your restaurant from the platform.
Now, reading this list of rules can feel like a bit of a gut punch.
Especially since the tactics blacklisted by Yelp, are often the best methods available to a restaurant that’s trying to attract more reviews.
So, yes, a lot of methods have been taken off the table.
However, not everything is off limits.
The screenshot below is taken from an official Yelp page that’s designed to teach business owners how they can attract more reviews.
In the last paragraph, you’ll notice that Yelp offers you the chance to promote your restaurant using ‘badges.’
You can use these badges on your website, or within your email signature.
For instance, here’s an example of a Yelp Badge on a website.
Now, badges don’t sound very exciting and you’re probably doubting how well they can work. But that doesn’t mean you should dismiss them as they can produce great results if used the right way.
If you’re already collecting the customer email addresses so that you can communicate with them at a later date, you can include a Yelp badge within these emails.
This might be in the weekly newsletters you send, or even in the confirmation emails people receive, whenever they make a booking.
If you’re using a platform like Jumper to help you take orders, then you could perhaps leave a link to your Yelp profile, in the confirmation email.
You can do this by adding a variable, associated with your Yelp account. This variable should simply let people know you have a Yelp account and give them the option of accessing it.
As long as you’re not telling people to leave a Yelp review, nor are you incentivizing people to leave a Yelp review, you should be in the clear.
This tactic can work especially well if you’re emailing a group of individuals that represent your most loyal fans.
You can also ask Yelp to send you a sticker that you can display within your restaurant.
If you want a sticker, you’ll need to apply for it.
To put it simply, you need to raise awareness that you have a Yelp profile.
Any kind of contact digital or offline contact you have with a customer should mention this profile. As long as you don’t tell anyone to actually leave a review, nor do you incentivize reviews, you should be in the clear.
All that said, the best thing you can do to attract reviews is to provide a stellar service.
If your service is incredible, people will want to go out of their way to leave a review. If they’re made aware of your Yelp profile, they’ll be likely to leave a review on that platform.
Remember – there’s only so much you can do to persuade people to leave a review. The best thing you can do it get people to the point where they want or even feel like they need to leave a positive review.
If you can do that, then the reviews should end up taking care of themselves.
Handling Negative Reviews
When running a restaurant, you’re bound to attract a negative review at some point.
And when the time comes, it’s vital you practice caution when formulating your response.
Of course, if the review is inaccurate, or only telling one side of the story, it’s normal for you to feel incredibly frustrated.
But when you’re presented with a negative review, it’s incredibly important that you don’t lash out. Doing this will only hurt the image of your restaurant, resulting in more bad than good.
If you want to successfully respond to negative reviews, there are a number of things you need to do well, of which are listed below…
It’s critical that you respond to negative reviews as quickly as you can, and you shouldn’t wait weeks or months to get in touch with someone that’s left a negative review.
Thankfully, Yelp offers an app that makes it easy for you to monitor the reviews for your restaurant.
If you take the time to set up this app, you’ll receive notifications whenever someone reviews your restaurant.
Thus, if you receive a negative review, you’ll know right away. You’ll then be able to respond in a timely fashion and make the reviewer, and the potential customers feel as though you take customer feedback seriously.
Put Someone in Charge
If you’re too busy running your restaurant, you might want to put one of your employees in charge of monitoring your Yelp profile.
You may ask them to construct replies, and then run these replies past you so that you can approve them.
Of course, make sure you always take a look at the original review, before approving a response. In doing so, you can be certain that every issue is thoroughly addressed.
Review the Reviewer
When you’re hit with a negative review, you want to take a moment to review the profile of the person that posted the review. Doing this is important, as it’ll allow you to verify the validity of the claims made in the review.
For instance, if the profile shows that the person has left a lot of 1-star reviews, it’s probably a sign that this individual has unrealistic expectations and just likes to complain. This doesn’t change the fact that the person has left a 1-star review, but it can help your confidence as a restaurant owner.
On the other hand, if they’ve left a lot of 4-5 star reviews, and your restaurant is a rare 1-star review, it’s probably a sign that you genuinely did something wrong.
How Should You Apologize?
When responding to a bad review, you want to make the person who left the review feel as though you acknowledge their complaint, and that you’re apologetic for what happened.
You also want to outline the steps you’re going to take to fix the problem so that it doesn’t affect future customers.
Now, if you feel that negative the review holds no merit, at the very least you need to acknowledge the review.
Yet, how you actually respond is down to you.
You have the option of taking the above approach, wherein you treat the review sincerely and detail how you will make sure the problem doesn’t happen again.
But if you think the review lacks validity, you can also lay out your side of the story in a simple, objective way, which doesn’t lead to an online war of words.
For example, suppose someone left a 1-star review because their food arrived late. However, also suppose that in the same situation, you gave this meal away for free, but this wasn’t mentioned in the review.
When responding to this negative review, you can state that it was your fault the food arrived late and explain why this happened. You can then state that you offered the meal for free.
By providing an objective analysis of the event, you give yourself a fighting chance and can uphold the image of your restaurant, without berating the person who left the review.
If you can state your end of the story, in a respectful and reserved manner, it becomes a lot easier to show potential customers that the review isn’t an accurate representation of your restaurant.
Here’s a great response to a negative review.
This review sticks to a lot of the principles we’ve covered.
The restaurateur acknowledges that there was a mistake and mentions how they’re going to adjust their approach so that the same thing doesn’t happen again. They do this in a respectful manner and do not call into question the validity of the review.
Sometimes, a response can work out so well, that the person who left the review ends up changing it!
The example below relates to a pest control business, but it perfectly illustrates how the above scenario can occur.
As you can see, someone initially left a negative, one star review.
The business owner then left a detailed, thoughtful response that aimed to make things better for the customer.
Following this, the customer updated their review and left what could be considered as a positive review!
Following this, it’s easy to see how you can bounce back from a negative review. If you try to make amends, there’s a good chance the customer will be appreciative of this and adjust their review in light of your efforts.
Think About Whether You Need to Make Some Internal Changes
It’s worth noting that your reviews aren’t going to come in extremes, and you won’t end up with either 1-star reviews of 5-star reviews.
There will be some reviews in the middle, and it’s important you pay attention to these reviews as they’ll provide you with an opportunity to learn.
Any review that isn’t 5-stars, will likely explain why the restaurant didn’t score top marks. You can use these comments as a way to learn how you can improve the way your restaurant caters to customers.
If you can treat these reviews as an opportunity to collect actionable feedback, you’ll soon find that you’re able to achieve more positive reviews than negative reviews.
After all, by adopting this approach, you’ll have reduced the number of things that customers can complain about!
Start Combating Your Negative Yelp Reviews
Now that you’ve read this post you should understand some of the things you can do to combat negative Yelp reviews for your restaurant.
As mentioned, there’s only so much you can do about negative reviews, and in the long term, you should focus on gathering as many positive reviews as you can.
Of course, the Yelp platform doesn’t exactly make it easy to attract a lot of positive reviews, but that doesn’t make the task impossible. Provided you make enough people aware that you have a Yelp profile, reviews should soon start to trickle in.
If I had to sum up what you should be doing in a simple statement, I’d say you just need to be active.
Put links and badges to your Yelp account in your correspondence with customers and make sure you’re always responding positively to negative reviews.
Beyond that, focus on the service you provide.
Generally speaking the only people who leave reviews are those who had either a terrible or incredible experience.
Provide more incredible experiences and those links to your Yelp review page will get more clicks leading to more positive reviews.
And when that happens, it’ll be very hard for a negative review to hurt the profile of your restaurant.
If you want to see how you can take more orders through social and optimize those follow up emails with the Yelp sticker sign up for your free jumper account right here.