lifestyle magazine

Dodging Bullets: 3 tips for handling negative reviews

04/03/2018

Article written by Lyn Siew

A chef-friend of mine recently opened his first cafe, and sent me this message:

“Hi, Lyn, all is well until we received a 1* rating on Facebook on our kitchen inefficiency during our opening day. Must admit, it hurts. Read another a few days later, said our food wasn’t good enough. How can I not take it personally? It hurts me as it has brought my entire ratings down.” Surely it does. If you ever take anything or anybody seriously, surely any downside will hurt.

How to deal with negative reviews?

There is so much to learn from diners’ feedbacks that I have often joked about publishing online reviews into a retrospective print.

I have received everything from semi death threats, as astonishing as the ugliness of my outlet that my interior designer ought to be shot, that our food is so subpar to a food cart that it’s surprisingly that we are still in business, to ridiculing the lack of English proficiency from my team, to the threat of reporting my business to the ministry of trade due to not meeting a customer’s fine dining expectations.

As a restaurant owner, I can wholehearted admit that we are not perfect. We fucked up. I can also wholeheartedly apologize for being an utter failure for not meeting your expectations. I should shoot myself. I hear your anguish and I am truly sorry. Emotions aside, a business still runs as a business. We can only learn, improve and take the positive out of any situation no matter how catastrophic. Here are my tips for handling negative reviews:

how to handle negative reviews

Not everyone is your customer

Rule numero uno in Hospitality? Please everyone. A restaupreneur mentor who operates a successful chain in London often reminded me that pleasing every Tom, Dick and Harry is for the weak; simple because it is IMPOSSIBILE. We are a society of diversity – every individual is built on different tastes, preferences and expectations. We would be Gods if we could win every heart!

Hence, know your demographic. Who do you want in your restaurant? Target those. If you are operating a vegetarian eatery, keep the vegetarians happy. Don’t run after Bangers and Mash fanatics. It’s really that simple.

No one is perfect

We live in a democratic cyber age whereby anyone, with or without merit, are able to label themselves as food critics. There are those kind ones who care about humanity, and will provide your business with constructive feedbacks in confidence. Tip: Restaurateurs tend take these more seriously than a crazy public rant, and will provide you with compensation if necessary because we are truly appreciative towards your empathy and sanity.

As much as an imperfect restaurant can learn from constructive criticisms in their strive for perfection, let’s face it, there will always be trolls. Trolls who are little obsessed with a singular bad dining experience that they would take time to troll, and troll, and troll until they are heard. They will get all their friends to write you bad reviews. Just like a bad breakup, you kind of wish that they would just move on. And then there are also competitors who will disguise themselves as Micky, Goofy and a Babushka to take you down. These are the real creeps.

progress

Show that you are making progress

I call this passive reactionary action. No matter your haters, there is nothing more annoying than shouting out to the world that you do take your work seriously by constantly innovating and progressing. I believe in the laws of the world, that if we subscribe to a simple law of hard work by focussing on the right criticisms, you will succeed. Believe in your product. Take the positive from the negative. Unless it’s the Michelin or World’s Top 50, don’t be consumed by social media ratings.

And when you succeed, there will be envy. And when there is envy, there will be competition.

We can’t make everyone love us. Even religions can’t, so don’t take heart. Learn. You may think: How are such pissy remarks even fair towards your team who have worked blood, sweat and tears over long hours? There are so many of us out there, working our arses off because we truly need the jobs to pay our bills – just to be trashed.

The restaurant business is not merely a job. This is a lifestyle. And it’s real, bad ass one.

lyn siew

Based in Kuala Lumpur and having previously lived and worked across 8 countries, Lyn Siew is the owner of an award winning Contemporary Chinese Hybrid Restaurant, Ruyi & Lyn, and a Western eatery Monte’s by the Red Herring. She is currently incubating a local startup project for culinary students, and building an online platform for the global food community. Relationship status? Married to food and champagne.
Follow her daily eating and drinking adventures on Instagram!