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Restaurant Turns Tables on Customer’s Bad Online Review

Restaurant Turns Tables on Customer’s Bad Online Review

New Zealand restaurant reviews cranky customers online

Molten Restaurant in New Zealand gave a dissatisfied patron "zero stars out of five" as a customer.

A New Zealand restaurateur did what many others have probably dreamed of this weekend when he turned the tables on an online reviewer and left a scathing review of his own customers.

According to the New Zealand Herald, Molten Restaurant was reviewed on restaurant review website Zomato this weekend by a customer who described her meal as “the worst dining experience ever.”

"... My Chicken main course was very salty! It was supposed to have been wrapped in prosciutto but it looked more like bacon to me,” she wrote on Sunday night, adding that her husband ordered the lamb and also thought it was too salty.

This morning, Molten responded with a Facebook post reviewing that customer and her husband as patrons. The post on the restaurant’s Facebook page specified that the customers were rude to staff, had unreasonable expectations of quiet for a crowded restaurant on a Saturday night, and were not responsive when the server asked if they were satisfied.

“When we first asked how your meals were, you said fine, then ate them in their entirety, then upon the plates being cleared you let us know that it was the worst meal you've eaten in a decade and that it was too salty for your tastes,” the restaurant said. It also specified that in the future customers who did not like salty food should not order menu items described as “brined.”

“Please don't complain that the prosciutto on your meal looked like it was bacon in your online review,” the Molten post continued. “The simple explanation for this is that it was pancetta. As per the description of the dish on the menu. Nowhere is it written that the dish had prosciutto on it.”

At the end of the post, Molten declared that as a customer, the unsatisfied patron got “zero stars out of five.”

7 Surprisingly Common Problems That Restaurants Face

Do you have some of these common restaurant problems?

The food industry is a high-risk business proposition. You’ve got a lofty level of competition and a lot of details to perfect. According to an often quoted study, 60% of businesses fail in the first year. How do you ensure your restaurant’s success?

You can help increase your chance of success by understanding seven of the surprisingly common problems restaurants face and developing strategies to combat these issues.

Get Personal

One of the biggest ways to provide a great experience at your restaurant is by getting on a personal level with your patrons. Building a personal connection establishes loyalty. If a customer feels more like a friend rather than just another number they’ll be more inclined to visit your restaurant again. Train your servers to use customer names in conversation or have them strike up a casual and appropriate conversation. Having casual dialogue is a great way to gain insight on that specific customer to enhance their future service, as well as help you improve the overall experience.

Negative feedback hurts. But in order to write a smart response to a bad review, your head needs to be clear.

Breathe. Relax. Remember that a bad review only reflects a single experience in which expectations weren’t met. It’s one opinion, not a life sentence.

The first step after reading a bad review about your company is to find out what exactly happened. Do some proper internal investigation to get the full picture.

If your employees were involved in the scenario, again, objectivity is key. They might be emotionally charged when they tell you their side of the story, so try to see the events from your customer’s perspective as well.

Write your response in an objective state - rage-free. At best you'll win over an angry customer at worst you'll show all review readers that you take criticism seriously.

Another important principle when responding to bad reviews is to take ownership. If you were in the wrong, admit it and apologize.

A 2015 customer rage study showed that only 37% of upset customers were satisfied when offered a monetary remedy. When the business offered apologies on top of the credit, however, satisfaction increased to 74%.

There is an exception to the rule. Don't apologize if your company obviously didn’t do anything wrong. You can still show empathy by saying you're sorry that things didn’t work out, but clarify that the source of their dissatisfaction wasn't your company. This isn't to defend your ego, but to clarify to potential readers that the low rating doesn’t reflect your service or product quality.

8 Mama Maria’s

Featured in season 6, this Brooklyn restaurant, now called Sal’s Pizzeria and Mama Maria’s Restaurant, is still going strong. Established in 1957, when Ramsay visited this Italian restaurant, an ambulance had to be called when a customer started vomiting. Ramsay later found buckets of moldy food gone bad in the storage area and committed to helping these guys turn around.

On re-launch night, things seemed to be looking up. And while small changes have reportedly been made to the menu, the owner kept many of Ramsay’s revised menu items.

Crepes with Caramelized Pineapple and Coconut Dulce de Leche

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10 Ways to Deal with Negative Customer Reviews

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published by Web Marketing Today. Practical Ecommerce acquired Web Marketing Today in 2012. In 2016, we merged the two sites, leaving Practical Ecommerce as the successor.

Consumers often rely on the opinions of others when making purchase decisions. According to Zendesk, a customer service software platform, 88 percent have been influenced by an online customer service review when deciding what to buy.

That is why getting positive online reviews on sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Angie’s List is vital, particularly as pertains to new customer acquisition.

From a consumer standpoint, negative reviews can adversely impact your business and can drive down your listing on consumer review sites, making it harder to find.

While no one wants to get negative reviews, they sometimes happen. Here are ten ways to deal with them should they occur.

1. Respond Promptly

Promptly responding to negative reviews shows the customer that you care and value their opinion. It may also be the catalyst that results in a person who had a bad experience with your business giving you a second chance.

Such was the case with Craig Jooste, owner of a Seattle-based painting company, WOW 1 Day Painting.

Jooste received an unfavorable review on Yelp due to problems that resulted from a Living Social campaign. He responded to the reviewer with an apology and even offered to reimburse the person for the amount paid to Living Social for the voucher.

A Yelp user changed her review based on the business owner’s response.

As a result, the person revised her review saying, “If a Director of a company can demonstrate that type of responsibility, I’m sure they’d always go out [of] their way to make [it] right with any customers. I’m very happy with the outcome of our resolution and will work with WOW in the future.”

2. Take the Issue Offline

Depending on the problem, rather than respond to an adverse review by leaving a public comment, it may be better to reply privately via email or phone. For example, Yelp gives business page owners the opportunity to do so via email. If you resolve the matter to the customer’s satisfaction, leave a brief comment in the public timeline.

3. Be Polite

A negative review, particularly one that expresses a strong opinion, such as in the example below, may stimulate emotions that could lead to a sterner response than necessary.

Strongly worded review from a customer.

Take time to collect your thoughts and respond by saying something like, “Thank you for your valuable feedback. I would cherish the opportunity to speak with you about your experience. Please contact me at your earliest convenience.”

If, after talking with the person, you find there is merit to his comments, take proactive steps to remedy the situation. When warranted, provide restitution in the form of a coupon or discount.

4. Request That Defamatory Reviews Be Removed

Most consumer rating and reviews sites will not allow you to remove reviews. In the case of one that is defamatory or vilifying, request that the site take it down. Typically, you must claim your business listing before making the request.

5. Monitor your Online Presence

In order to respond to reviews, you first need to know what customers are saying and where they are saying it.

Online reputation monitoring tools like Social Mention, Reputology, or Review Trackers can help. (Social Mention is free to use while the others are affordably-priced to fit small business budgets.)

Set up Google Alerts for your business name or use a site like TalkWalker, both of which send email alerts. Social media management tools such as Hootsuite or Sprout Social also have built-in monitoring capabilities.

6. Understand How Rating and Review Sites Work

Each consumer rating and review site has a particular way of filtering and ranking reviews.

Yelp uses an algorithm to recommend reviews its thinks will be the most helpful to the Yelp community based on three factors: quality, reliability, and the reviewer’s activity on the site.

Tripadvisor, a travel site that provides reviews of travel-related content, ranks businesses based on star ratings.

Chris Loomis, the owner of American Photo Safari, a sightseeing tour company in New Orleans, said that getting a four-star rating on TripAdvisor (as opposed to a five-star rating) can result in lower rankings.

“Four-star ratings hurt more than not writing a review at all,” said Loomis. “One four-star review drove my ranking down from fourth to seventh. In a competitive market like New Orleans, that was a harsh penalty.”

Fortunately for Loomis, most reviews are accompanied by five-star ratings. As a result, his business now ranks fourth out of a list of 455 things to do in the city.

American Photo Safari ranks fourth out of 455 things to do in New Orleans.

The best way to get positive reviews, said Loomis, is by providing an excellent standard of service. “Don’t just say that you provide good service, actually do it,” he said.

7. Take Negative Reviews Seriously

In most cases, people who leave negative reviews aren’t out to defame you. They merely want to express their opinion about the experience. Take such reviews on their merits, as they may reveal an area of your business that could benefit from improvement.

8. Encourage Customer Reviews

To offset the impact of a negative review, encourage customers to leave reviews. However, don’t attempt to influence them by asking that they leave only positive reviews. Yelp ardently discourages such practices.

Put signs, table toppers, or window stickers in your store or place of business for review sites that you want to promote. Add a note to invoices or receipts asking customers to leave a review. Place badges linking to review sites on your website. These are subtle ways to encourage reviews that may spur the customer to respond.

9. See the Good in a Bad Review

Negative reviews can benefit your business. If every review is positive and abounds with four- and five-star ratings, potential customers could become suspicious, feeling that the reviews are “manufactured” rather than being left by real customers. As paradoxical as it sounds, the fact that negative reviews appear can contribute to building trust, rather than diminishing it.

10. Share Reviews with Your Employees

Make sure everyone in your company is aware of reviews you’ve received, both positive and negative. Not only will that help to ensure you prevent similar problems in the future, it builds a customer-centric mindset among employees.

The purpose of happy hour is to bring in more customers and boost your sales during the slowest time of the day. While restaurants normally hos their happy hour in the late afternoon, Monday to Thursday, it’s up to you when your happy hour (not necessarily just one hour) is going to be depending on when customers visit your restaurant in particular.

Drink and appetizer deals are best for happy hour. By getting people to buy a couple drinks and split an appetizer with their friends, they’re more likely to stay and order dinner. And if they weren’t regular customers before, putting on a great happy hour will get them coming back time and time again.

Managing Negative Reviews

Negative reviews can be crippling to a local business—especially if the business has few reviews to begin with. Even worse? Negative reviews that go unresponded to. Don't let those online wounds fester! Dealing with negative reviews doesn't have to be hard, and it can even be leveraged as a marketing and branding opportunity.

Why respond to a negative review?

Unfortunately, you can’t just ignore a bad review until it goes away. In fact, ignoring an unpleasant review can make things worse!

  • You're not just replying to just the one reviewer. You're speaking to everyone who reads this review, including potential future customers.
  • Replying is your opportunity to make things right. If a customer brought a complaint to you in person, you would try to make it right. The same goes for online reviews—despite the impersonal nature of online reviews, it’s not over just yet. You can turn this thing around!
  • Replying shows other readers you are not shady or neglectful to feedback, and have taken steps to ensure this problem won't happen to the next customer.

The best thing to do when you receive a bad review is react quickly and strategically. Here's how your business should respond to negative reviews, and make the most out of a less-than-pleasant situation.

How to respond to a negative review (4 Steps)

Step 1: Apologize and sympathize in your response to the negative review.

Acknowledge the customer’s concerns. Even if they are unfounded, show sympathy that they had a bad experience. “I’m sorry to hear about your bad experience.”

Step 2: Insert a little marketing in your response to the bad review.

Explain what your customers usually experience. “We’re normally known for our exceptional attention to detail, and we regret that we missed the mark.”

Step 3: Move the conversation offline.

Provide contact info with someone at the business so they can discuss the problem in person. “My name is [name] and I am the [Owner / Manager]. If you’d like to discuss this further, please contact me at [phone number / email].”

Step 4: Keep your response simple, short and sweet.

Don't go into too much detail or ask any questions. This will prevent saying something that might cause the upset customer to add more negative feedback by replying to the review. Three sentences for your whole reply is a good rule of thumb.

BONUS: Don't include the business name or relevant search keywords.

You don’t want this review showing up in search results!

Negative review response example

So what does a good negative review response look like in action? Check it out!

Here, this dealership is handling this scathing review the best way possible.

The power of negative review response

The best thing you can hope for when responding to negative reviews is to have that unhappy consumer revise their initial review when their complaint is dealt with.

Below, a customer updated his review to 4-stars after the general sales manager contacted him and resolved the problem.


There are many more factors you can take into consideration while thinking about your customer service and increasing customer satisfaction in your brand. We recommend following our hints to make things easier, but don’t limit yourself.

You can master your brand’s customer service – and you should never stop if you want to achieve real success, and be the exemplary love brand.

I’m a Product Marketing Manager at Survicate. I love running webinars and doing videos. When not at work, I enjoy listening to regional accents of Britain, working out, and having a sauna. Find me on LinkedIn.