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Trendinista: Restaurants adapt to public comment cards

Trendinista: Restaurants adapt to public comment cards

• One chef-owner apologized after an online spat turned ugly • Four tips for responding to negative online comments • Comedic nature will win over future readers

It’s no secret how stressful working in the kitchen of a restaurant can be. Take into account how passionate chefs are about their dishes, and it’s easy to see how unsatisfied and outspoken guests can cause chefs to lose their temper.

Time and again we’ve seen chefs lose their cool after guests raised their voice with a complaint. In Cleveland, it recently got one chef-owner in some real hot water when an online conversation with an unsatisfied guest turned ugly. As the comments and conversations move online and into a wider public eye, it’s important for chefs and restaurant owners to learn to keep their cool. While negative comments can be taken personally, chefs need to develop thick skin and use the feedback to their advantage. Even if the negative feedback is unwarranted, it might serve as a glimpse into the perception of a restaurant.

Vivian Wagner, owner of V Creative Enterprises, recently shared with American Express Open Forum four tips for responding to negative online comments. It serves as a good reminder of how to view online reviews and commentary in a positive light, despite how negatively they may come off.

1. Respond appropriately. Reading a negative comment about your business, your employees, or your products or services can make you want to justify yourself and claim that the commenter is just plain wrong. While these are natural reactions, they won’t help your brand or your social media presence. Don’t blame the commenter for a false or misleading comment, and never take a comment personally and write something emotional or accusatory in return. 

2. Be brief. You don’t want to reveal too much in your response to a negative comment. Social media is a public space, and airing dirty laundry isn’t going to help your business or your customers. Keeping it brief will help avoid problems down the line, and it will also encourage the customer to contact you directly to resolve the problem.

3. Consider comments as free research. The comments you receive on social media are a kind of consumer research, and it can help both you and your business to look at them this way. Keep a record of comments as you respond to them, and make a note of any suggestions, tips, questions or problems people mention. After all, your customers might be giving you some valuable information that you’d normally have to dig to receive.

4. Remember that everyone’s reading your responses. Probably the most important reason to respond to comments—both negative and positive—is that everyone else is reading them. Responding to negative comments is a chance for you to demonstrate how caring, thoughtful and engaged your business is.

Lastly, if you simply can’t resist poking some light-hearted jabs in return, mix in some comedy. Kansas City’s Voltaire recently did just that, and while the response doesn’t meet all the suggested requirements above, it’s comedic nature will win over future readers and perhaps garner some good publicity along the way.

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