Everyone’s a critic. No matter how amazing your chef is, how long you’ve worked on your décor, or how wonderful your last review was in the newspaper, not everyone is going to like your restaurant or your super special pizza sauce recipe that’s been passed down in your family for generations. Those dissatisfied customers, unfortunately, will complain to anyone who will listen. Sure, their comments sting. So what should you do?
Be prepared! You should look at poor customer reviews as an opportunity to both showcase your pizzeria and bring in positive word-of-mouth and social media mentions. Instead of chasing potential customers away, you can use poor reviews to bolster your restaurant’s reputation. Here’s how:
1. Be proactive on social media. It’s not unusual for someone to start tapping out a complaint on Facebook or Twitter while they’re eating to grumble about the service or food. You can’t do anything about this kind of sharing—if it’s not done online, it’s done by phone or face to face. But you can instead promote your pizzeria by creating a business page on Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and Google Plus. And when people leave reviews on your Facebook page, you can answer them immediately with an empathetic reply. For a negative review, try this response: “I’m sorry you had a bad experience at our place. We want everyone to walk out of here satisfied with their meal and service. Please call us and let us make it right.”
2. Be Search Savvy. Ask your regular happy customers (through social media, flyers at your restaurant, or just in face-to-face conversations) to post a good review on Google. When people search for “restaurant Louisville KY,” they’ll be directed to a screen with graphics at the top and searches underneath. This is Google Carousel, a fairly new search page that help local searchers. Google reviews show up here, so the more 4- or 5-star reviews that show up, the more visibility your restaurant will get.
3. Trumpet Your Successes. If your local paper runs an annual “Best Pizza in Town” contest that asks locals to vote on their favorite pizzeria, it’s time to gather the troops and invite them to vote for you. Make it easy for them, either by letting them know where the online link is to the voting website or reminding them of where the voting forms are located.
4. Ask For Opinions. Consider putting a few surveys on each table and asking customers to fill them out and drop them in a box when they’re leaving. Or post a survey link to every delivered pizza box that goes out the door. Ask customers to be honest! The survey can have questions like:
· Why did you choose our restaurant to dine at today?
· What’s your favorite item on the menu?
· What could we do better?
· What could we do that would get you to dine here every week?
· Do you think we offer you a good value?
Then, review the answers so that you know what your customers really like—or don’t like. Post the good reviews on your Facebook page or website under a “testimonials” tab. People love to hear what others think and will want to read about others’ experiences.
5. Court the Press and Impress the Public. Making a big change? Hitting a special milestone? Opening a new location? Let the local newspapers, food critics and bloggers know about it through a public relations campaign that includes social media. Some positive coverage will send new business your way. And remember, you can be your own newsmaker: consider bringing a food truck to nearby events and participating in cook-offs or summer food festivals. Instead of people coming to your door, go to where they’re at so that they can try your signature pizza.
You can recover from negative reviews with planning and an approach that focuses on your restaurants’ satisfied customers. By forging closer relationships with diners who will give your place dozens of great reviews, you can easily cancel out the bad ones!
Dana Hardek writes for East Coast Chair & Barstool, a national e-commerce supplier of bar and restaurant furniture. To shop their wide selection of tables, chairs, and bar stools, head to www.TablesChairsBarstools.com.