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Many business owners are aware of the kind of impact Yelp can have on their reputation and business performance.

Restaurateurs, in particular, can experience a 5-9 percent revenue increase – and greater chances of being fully booked at peak dining times – with a simple half-star rating improvement on the online review site.

A bad Yelp review, meanwhile, can mean a blemished reputation and lost sales. Which is why you’ll see a few business owners go crazy after receiving negative reviews.

(Check out: “Managing Bad Reviews: What Else You Can Do After Writing a Response”)

Hey, we understand that online criticisms can feel like a punch in the guy, but if you’re trying to build a positive image online, remember that there are other ways to respond and handle the issue. You can’t put the fire out by fanning it!

A new Eater.com report provides yet another example of what NOT to do after you receive a bad review on Yelp.

Here’s what went down: after visiting Zebra’s Bistro and Wine Bar in Medfield, MA, Yelp user Kiki B took to the review site to share her thoughts and described her experience at Zebra’s as “very unpleasant and disturbing”.

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“All of a sudden, the manager came to our table and told us to leave because he thought we had too much to drink…. (But) we were not drunk or misbehaving,” she wrote as part of his complaint. “He even threatened to call the police when I protested that we each had no more than 3 drinks and maybe we should have coffee before driving. I questioned him if he thought he might be responsible for over serving us.  I asked him if he applied the same drink limit to other customers (we are members of the LGBT community). This further angered him and he said, ‘Then call your lawyer.’”

Of course, if your restaurant serves liquor and alcohol, it’s perfectly reasonable to NOT serve any more drinks to customers who may have had one too many. But this does not excuse what chef Brendan Pelley wrote in his response to Kiki B (posted on Instagram). Read it below – at one point he calls her “a mentally ill raging alcoholic.” Oh dear.

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Okay, so there are other issues here waiting to be cleared up and resolved, like “Does the restaurant really have a restraining order against Kiki B?” and “Were the police really on scene?” and “Is this a gay rights issue or is Kiki just using that to gather community support for what she claimed was a disturbing experience?”

Regardless of all these questions, we have a few suggestions to Chef Brendan – and other restaurateurs – the next time a negative Yelp review comes in:

Respond where the review is. If the customer voiced his or her opinion on Yelp, don’t go to Instagram and post your response there. Not only will this seem passive-aggressive; you’re also losing the opportunity to connect directly with the reviewer – and other potential customers – and engage in meaningful conversation.

Don’t get personal. There’s no need to call out – and call out in public – a customer for being alcoholic. Or being anything. No matter how scathing the words of a review are, do your best to keep your temper in check and avoid saying things that personally attack the reviewer. (Besides, it’s best to avoid using words that could get you sued for libel.)

Don’t discourage return visits. It’s important to see negative reviews as an opportunity to win back customers and prove critics wrong. It’s okay to feel like you have to fight back (sometimes reviews can be totally unfair), but if you’re going to defend your business, do so in a way that does not alienate the reviewer and prevent him or her from making a return visit.

To be fair to Chef Brendan, he released a statement to apologize for what he had posted on Instagram. He wrote: “I sincerely apologize for expressing my frustration with a guest’s review on social media. This is by no means the way Zebra’s Bistro and Wine Bar responds to guest feedback and my words do not reflect the hospitality-first philosophy of the team here.”

Migs Bassig

Migs is the Content Manager for ReviewTrackers. He's a creative writer who has helped numerous companies communicate more effectively online, and he loves sharing his local marketing knowledge to help brands and business succeed.

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