What To Do If You Get A Bad Review For Your Pub

reviews, run a pub, pub tenancy
Written by: Pub Partners Team
Date added: Mon, 18/12/2017 - 10:00

In recent years online reviews have become very important for pub operators. No more so than when a new pub tenant takes over a pub or following a refurbishment and re-launch. Before booking a table for a meal or suggesting a night out to friends, many customers will head to websites like TripAdvisor, Google or Facebook to see what other people think of your pub.

Pub operators increasingly rely on good reviews to attract new customers to their pubs. If you’ve just opened a pub, following a refit or having taken on the tenancy, it’s important to get some good reviews that you can use to encourage more people to visit your pub. However, online reviews can be good and bad, and you have very little control over what people say about your pub.

This can be extremely frustrating when someone leaves a poor review that could have been prevented. For example, if a customer leaves a review complaining about the table they were seated at for a meal, but never asked staff to be seated elsewhere. Or if someone mixes your pub up with another that shares the same name.

Dos And Don’ts For Handling Bad Pub Reviews

Of course, sometimes a bad review is justified and unfortunately these are most common when a new operator has just taken over. Those early days can attract reviews from existing customers who don’t like the changes a new licensee has made, and reviews that reflect the ‘teething problems’ that many new businesses experience.

How you deal with them can really turnaround the situation, and result in more positive reviews in the future. To help, here are our Dos and Don’ts for handling bad pub reviews:

Do listen. Generally people don’t go out of their way to leave a bad review. Apart from a few exceptions, if someone takes the time to leave a review it suggests that they really feel aggrieved. Therefore, whether you agree with the review or not, give them your attention and listen (or read) what they have to say.

Don’t take it personally. Difficult to do, particularly if the language used is a bit strong or aggressive, but try to be professional and read between the lines to identify the reason the customer is complaining. Sometimes reviewers are really only complaining about one thing but in the heat of the moment list everything that they can think of, so try to understand what the main issue is – without taking it personally - so you can focus on that.

Do take on board criticism. Although it might not be easy to read, criticism is actually a good thing because it tells you what you need to do to improve your pub and it also helps you manage customer expectations. For example if a customer leaves a poor review saying that your burgers weren’t homemade, check that you’re not making any false claims and also consider whether in future you should offer a signature pub burger. Criticism can be a great market research opportunity!

Don’t respond angrily to reviews. Whatever the customer has said in their review, rise above it and keep your cool! An angry response, even when seemingly justified, never looks good when you’re running a business. If you’re too upset to respond immediately, have a cooling off period and then revisit the review.

Do respond. Don’t ignore bad reviews; in fact use them as an opportunity to turn things around. Many people visiting review sites are intrigued to find out what a business owner says in reply to a bad review, so this presents you with a great opportunity to resolve an issue amicably and demonstrate some fantastic customer service.

Don’t neglect your staff. Often a poor review reflects on the work your staff do, whether behind the bar, in the kitchen or waiting tables. Therefore it’s important that they are aware of any comments about their service, and you give them the support they need. Complaints about things that are out of their control need to be addressed quickly because these will have an impact on their morale. Complaints about things they can control need to be addressed with staff training.

Do highlight the positives. Where possible find the positives in a poor review and reiterate these when responding. For example, “Thank you for taking the time to share your experience at our pub, I’m so pleased to hear that you enjoyed your meal and thought the food was great. However, I am sorry that you found that service at the bar was not as good as it should be. I apologise for this and have put measures in place to improve our customer service. I hope you will come back soon and enjoy another evening with us, we look forward to welcoming your back.” Make sure that your staff also hear about the positives and are thanked for their hard work.

Don’t get caught up in an online debate. With most poor reviews an apology and an intention to do better - but at the same time focusing on the positives - is enough to placate the reviewer. However, in some cases the reviewer may want more; such as compensation or perhaps they’re feeling argumentative. In these situations it is best to move the conversation offline and resolve any issues privately.

Do avoid bad reviews! Sometimes there are simple things that can be done to prevent a bad review being posted. Simply asking customers if you “can do anything more for them”, is a great way to find out if customers are happy and resolve any issues before they turn into a complaint. Of course, the way you deal with complaints and issues is very important; in fact many online reviews are a result of complaints being handled badly not the complaint itself. Often customers will give a pub a good review if you handle complaints well, and ensure that the customer leaves happy.

Don’t forget to ask for reviews! A great way to ‘bury’ the bad reviews is to ask for reviews from customers you feel will leave a positive review. If 90% of your reviews are 5 star, those occasional 1 star reviews because of a ‘tricky’ customer or particular problem on the day, will soon be forgotten. You can encourage customers to leave positive reviews by promoting the good ones on social media, by providing a link to TripAdvisor in a follow up email, and through word of mouth. Make sure your staff know to ask customers to leave a review, for example as they leave your pub having obviously enjoyed their visit.

Are you planning to take on a pub tenancy or lease? If you need support finding the right pub and putting in place everything you need to run a successful business, sign up for our email series here. We will send you a short series of informative emails that cover many of the subjects you will be thinking about when planning a pub business, as well as links to useful resources to get your started. Sign up here and give your pub business a head start.