How to respond to positive and negative F&B reviews

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Instagram comments and stories, Facebook Page reviews, TripAdvisor ratings – F&B reviews are everywhere! Because they form such a huge aspect of word-of-mouth marketing, it is almost deadly to turn a blind eye to them. 

StaffAny dissects and investigates what makes a good review response, and how F&Bs can better respond to both positive and negative reviews.

F&B reviews positive

Positive reviews

It’s pretty straightforward in responding to positive F&B reviews – we are happy, thankful and appreciative to receive them, and our replies naturally take on such a tone. But how can we level up and also introduce a variety of responses to create more colour in our customer conversations? 

Here are some next-level opportunistic tips you can consider 🙂 

1. Play up the SEO

Yes, reviews go into SEO as well! This is an opportunity for you to reinforce your F&B name, location, best dish and/or your unique selling point.

“Thank you Manson! Coffee Company always aims to deliver the best coffee cups, especially cappuccinos, in downtown Singapore :)”

2. Zoom in on the goodness

Double down on what your customers loved and share the story behind it! People are keen to hear stories about things that they like – be it the long journey it took, the hard work from the team or even surprises like “this dish was created out of an accident!”. The business increases the human touch factor and some humour doesn’t hurt 🙂 

“Our chef Andy actually grooves to jazz music while he cooks. Maybe that’s why it tastes extra good!” 

3. Introduce other possibilities

a. Menu Items

Use this chance to talk about any underrated dishes or alternative menu items you could be testing out. Given the eyeballs on F&B reviews, this is a viable channel to get the word out. It could be a menu item, a set meal, whatever!

“If you’re bringing your girlfriends here next time, be sure to request for a table upstairs!”
“If you love the Earl Grey swiss roll, we think you might like the Vanilla Oolong mousse cake - it also has a very distinct tea taste!” 

b. Marketing Initiatives 

Customers may not reach every single touch point of your intended customer journey and by now, you probably realise you can do this through review responses!

“Don’t forget to bring your loyalty card next time for the free donut!”
“Btw, we launched a giveaway this month! Look forward to serving you again :)”

4. New perspectives

Often from F&B reviews, you get to hear first-hand what customers really love about you – and it could be something you never thought about! Perhaps it is the shape of the cup, the special seat near the window or the excellent service from the evening crew. Consider using these to market yourself to potential like-minded customer personas! 

5. Finally, ask and you shall receive!

One way to improve your online presence in reviews is to accumulate more customer reviews – by asking customers! Well because if you don’t ask, the answer is already no. Ask happy customers to leave you a review, especially if they have told you in person about their good experience. Or, you can offer a free drink in exchange for a review. Share with them how this will help you in your marketing efforts to bring your dining experience to more customers. 

F&B reviews negative

Not-so positive reviews 

And here comes the part most dread. We know how detrimental bad reviews can be in turning away potential customers but at the same time, we know it is a chance for businesses to understand their operations and customer experiences better. Ensure that the responder is calm when creating the response to avoid any heated replies! 

1. Address the customer by name

Nuff’ said!

2. Thank them

Why thank someone for a bad F&B review? We believe communication is better than none at all – better a customer who told us which parts of the dish could be better, than 20 “meh” customers who said nothing at all! 

“Thank you for writing in to share your experience with us”
“Thanks for choosing to dine with us”

3. Call out the issue clearly

This tells the customer that you hear exactly what they are dissatisfied about. It is step one to restoring the bridge of trust by showing that you are not avoiding the situation or saying that the issue they faced was not a big deal.

“I understand that you waited for close to an hour for our main dish and it was your special anniversary” 

4. Apologize and empathise

Some may ask, does this mean admitting we are wrong, even if we were really not? No, not really! Empathy is not directly saying “I am wrong” but rather, “I hear you” and “I hear your frustration and disappointment.” 

“I am so sorry... I would have been equally upset if I were you.”
“I understand that you were looking forward to the same dining experience you had previously but this time, you did not get the same standards” 

5. Explain, concisely

Many times, there are reasons for certain experiences such as overbooking of the place, or perhaps understaffing situations in the kitchen. While rational explanations may not calm the emotional customer, it can help readers understand more objectively what caused such a situation. A concise explanation would be good though, as long explanations may sound defensive!

“We were not expecting such a large crowd and we thought that our guests would only have to wait 20 minutes at max. However, it turned out to be 45 minutes and that was a poor estimation on our part”.

6. Next steps

And finally to assure both the reader and unhappy customer, this “recovery process” could be the most important to prevent similar unhappy customers. Because what’s worse than 1 unhappy review, is 2 of the exact same kind! At times, you may want to take it offline to prevent an ugly online explosion. 

“We are terribly sorry and have called for a meeting to regarding this pest situation - we have also engaged an external service for a clean up for next week” 

7. SEO?

Ending with our first point on SEO, some would recommend responses not to include the company name, location, dish and USP so that they don’t show up on reviews. Well, that’s up to you 🙂

At this point you might be thinking, gosh… must one F&B review contain all of that?! I’d need to hire a writer already! Do you have any templates?? We think it’s perfectly already to start off with templates. But as review readers, reading copy-paste review replies can make it seem slightly insincere. Forcing too many “tips” into one review can also feel overwhelming for the readers.

So TLDR, write from the heart – from gratefulness, understanding, empathy and responsibility. When so, words are easily felt.


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