How to Handle Online Complaints Involving Your Restaurant Staffs

It is unrealistic to expect that you and your staffs can make every single customer happy  and satisfied every day. In the age of instant opinions, bad reviews are inevitable — eventually, your restaurant will receive one.

As a restaurant owner, you have very limited control over what someone says online, but you do have control over how you handle bad publicity.

So what happens if a staff was specifically named in a negative review? SOS.

That’s why it’s good to have a plan in place for when something goes wrong. 

1. Create a Plan for Negative Reviews

It helps to have a basic response template prepared that you could tailor for different types of negative reviews. Why is this a smart idea? It’s a good practice because you can prepare it before you feel defensive about a bad review. 

When crafting your response template, follow these four basic elements:
– Express your apologies to the customer.
– Thank them for their feedback.
– Let them know you’d like to try and fix the problem.
– Continue the discussion by offering to personally communicate with them

Before finalizing the response process, it’s important to consider these 2 factors:

a) Respond in a Timely Manner
I understand if your first instinct is to quickly defend your staffs, or you feel the need to respond to the complaints immediately in fear of bad reputation. But trust me it’s better to take some time to get a hold of the situation first and respond professionally than to respond emotionally.

b) Assign Ownership of the Process
It’s crucial to identify people in your business who will be directly responsible for responding to negative reviews. Because reviews occur at the crossroads of marketing, operations, social media, and customer service, the situation is actually complicated.

2. Ask the Named Staff

If you found a negative review that specifically names a staff member, it’s important to get their side of the story. Call the named staff aside for an open discussion. Make it clear that you’re impartial and the truth is important to improve the restaurant’s overall services.

Take note that overreacting can cause a lasting negative effect on your existing staff relationships. Hence after determining the root of the negative review, do take some time to cool down if it is necessary.

Depending of the severity of the incident, you might want to investigate further to see if any other staff members noticed the situation unfolding.

3. Interview Witnesses / Bystanders

Once step 2 is done, it’s best to then browse through the restaurant’s staff schedule to find out who else was on the job at the time of incident, and then identify the staff members who witnessed it. 

Make it clear that you’re not searching for inconsistencies or finding faults; rather, you are attempting to get a clearer picture and understanding of the incident.

After identifying the witnesses, inquire if they remember the incident and, if so, what particular details could they recall regarding the circumstances leading up to it.

4. Respond in the Right Way

Depending on the information your investigation uncovered, you will have a few options of responding.

Take time crafting thoughtful, sincere responses that addresses the complaint directly.

A popular option is to reply on the social media site where the complaint was made. Although the offended party may not remove the complaint, it’s an opportunity for you to do some damage control.

Don’t make excuses; rather, let the offended party know that you’re aware of their feelings and that you’d like a chance to make things right. Then, communicate any changes or improvements you have made or will make as a result of their feedback.

It’s never easy to deal with and respond to a negative review, especially if a staff member was specifically named.

Unfortunately, in certain severe cases, it may require the dismissal of staff members. Before taking such a big move, double-check the facts with colleagues and surveillance videos to ensure the information is accurate.

You may, however, use strategic planning and investigation to turn the negative situation around so that your restaurant is viewed in a better light and your services continue to improve.

When done correctly, a well-crafted response will help a brand save face with the complainant and show potential customers your commitment to improve the experience.

Good luck & all the best!

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