Simmer Knowledge


How Restaurants Can Respond and Thrive on Yelp

FIRST AND FOREMOST: People on Yelp can be a little crazy, just straight up. There's no point in sugar coating it... most Yelpers are either total snobs or almost-normal people ranting psychotically after a bad experience. You'll be reading some thoughtful critiques, but you will definitely also come across your share of insane babbling. 

Real life example:

In this example, we'll use a prominent fast-casual Mexican spot here in New York City.
The reviewer has some sort of weird issue with the way the employees apply guacamole to her tacos. She's completely wrong about why they do that hand motion (not to mention super annoying) but we still need to kill her with kindness. 

"The staff are experts at skimping customers! They do this weird splatter motion when assembling. They scoop up some food (let's say guacamole) with a spoon with one hand.. they they bang their wrist with the other hand. In effect, each order gets just a splatter of guacamole. It's VERY awkward to watch."

This review goes on - but we'll stop there and analyze a bit.

First thing is to address her main complaints without being defensive. Our responses need to be thoughtful and kind.... this person just spent money at our establishment, and she's pissed off. 

First, we thank the customer for taking the time to write a review. Next - address their complaint. If their complaint is valid, apologize profusely and assure the customer that you will be personally investigating the incident. If they're complaining about something idiotic, like this girl here, then we provide a quick explanation. Finally, thank the customer for any compliments they gave us and wish them a good day.

Hey Ismat, 
Thank you so much for taking the time to pen this honest review. We really appreciate your valuable feedback. 
Let me first assure you that our staff isn't trying to skimp you with that movement... the splatter maneuver is actually designed to get as much guac onto your taco as possible. The efficiency of this motion assures that our guests receive their food quickly, so you don't have to wait. I'd also like to thank you for the kind words about our Carne Asada... it means a lot and we really appreciate the compliment. 
I hope you come back to DT again soon! Have a great day + thanks again,
Leo K.

NOTE: Always remember to check your response for spelling and grammar errors. We cannot edit these posts once they've been sent, so you only have one shot to get it right. 

When to gift card and when to not:

More and more, restaurants aren't giving into irate customers on Yelp.  It's become part of doing business.  Restaurants secretively have a budget for comps - it's built into a lot of numbers before hand...but handing them out because someone doesn't like the way we handle our guacamole isn't every happening.

We didn't offer that girl a gift card, because we don't think her experience merits one. However - if a customer receives appalling service, an incorrect order, or experiences something gross (bugs or hair in the food, etc.) then we immediately offer them a gift we want to keep their business.

Public or private:

Chicken or the egg? Tomato or tomatoe? You get it...  Replying is a must, as we have proof that up to as much as 25% of reviews are changed after they've received a nice follow-up response. The question remains, should your response be public or private?  We recommend private for 90% of reviews.  The 10% that warrant a pubic response fall under the following two areas: 1 - slander (saying something completely wrong about the business) 2 - true statement, embarrassing (maybe a customer found a hair in the food and decided to tell the world, you have to publicly apologize for this).  Most of the time private responses are best, but sometimes it's important to go ahead, bite the bullet and do it publicly - just be CAREFUL and walk a fine line, you never know when a customer is ready to snap and go on a tirade against your business.

Other options:

While Yelp is never going to go away - there are ways to get some of these bad reviews offline and into your hands before the world sees you get a 1-star review because of your guacamole technique.  Good old fashioned comment cards are as good as options as ever AND there are some new pleyers in the field (pardon our pun)...PLEY being one.  PLEY (Yelp backwards) is giving restaurants the option to control their feedback and own it - privately and direct.

At the end of the day - we all know how much Yelp can make or break our business. But why give in?  If you're just too busy to handle this by yourself, there are options available.  You can rely on a company like Reputation Defender or a more restaurant-focused option, Simmer Media Group to handle your reputation. 

The most important thing to remember is a) someone must reply, and b) Yelp can directly affect your bottom line - so it's time to start paying attention.

Ryan Cuvelier