Restaurant Owners: This is How You Respond to a Negative Yelp Review

Written By Scott Joseph On October 9, 2014

yelp-logoPeople love to read negative reviews about restaurants. I think they get a sense of schadenfreude, a bit of a thrill at having a business taken down a notch, usually because they have experienced some of the poor service or low food quality that is related in the review.

I don’t like writing a negative review — I know there are people associated with the restaurant who may be deeply affected by what I write. But I don’t shy from writing a negative review if one is warranted. And in that writing, there needs to be details and examples that justify any harsh conclusion. I try to be careful and balanced and never mean. There may be some tongue in cheekiness in the way it’s written, but I strive to maintain complete professionalism.

That isn’t always the case with the new reality of citizen reviewers that take to sites like Yelp, Opentable and Urbanspoon. Some people see the opportunity post their thoughts about a restaurant — often anonymously — as a means to retaliate for a perceived wrong from the business. These reviews have an “I’ll show them a thing or two” tone and rarely have the details or justification for damning the business. Often they are in response to a long wait for a reservation or because a server failed to comp a meal when a steak had to be sent back. Those are details that might make it into a full review as part of a comprehensive assessment, but they rarely are reason for review alone.

But that’s the sort of thing you’ll find on the citizen review sites. Sometimes, restaurant owners will offer a polite reply to someone’s negative post; others will simply let it go. But a Kansas City restaurateur did one better with his response to a rather ridiculous review posted after a customer called to order takeout.

The restaurant, Voltaire, does not offer its food for takeout. The reasons are justified in this story posted on Eater, which has the full review that was originally posted on Yelp (but has since been removed) and the brilliant response from the owner. But the reviewer obviously had a “Let’s see who gets the last laugh” attitude while writing the review. She (we only know that it’s a woman) even pulls out one of the classic lines from “A Streetcar Named Desire”: I have a lawyer acquaintance. In this case the lawyer, she says, is her husband.

The owner’s reply takes the lawyer angle to end the argument. You can read the full accounting here.

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