No restaurant should get one star during Covid-19. Two stars, maybe. But given that the whole hospitality industry is on the brink of collapse, staff are coming back to work after months of uncertainty, some empathy should be extended. Yelp has even called for “patience and empathy” during this time when reviewing restaurants.
Companies have kept people employed, are trying to keep you safe, and give guests a fantastic time that might remind them of the normalcy that we’ve all long lost.
So the idea of complaints has lost its lustre.
It’s been a tough year, especially for hospitality. Complaints about restaurants seem all the less important in the face of the pandemic. But they still have the ability to end a business, as many have been.
As the restaurant industry is put at risk, you need to use every tool at your disposal. That includes finding how complaints, even the weird and ridiculous, ones can be useful.
So let’s have a good laugh at some ridiculous reviews and some great ways restaurants have responded.
Sometimes the customer is just wrong. Not in any malicious way, just factually. Their review misrepresents what occurred, as one review and the owners’ witty response shows. The customers complained that the restaurant took over an hour and a half for their food, blaming the waitress.
This is not what happened. Why lie? Who knows. But the owners used this as an opportunity to tell the real story.
With footage from their security cameras. The owner proceeds to tell them what happened, with timestamps as evidence.
Their food arrived on time; they wolfed it down, complained about it (despite finishing it) so that the restaurant removed it and then did not pay a service charge. All during a busy Saturday lunch.
But this comeback isn’t just funny. It also highlights how negative reviews can be used by the restaurant. It shows that this business cares enough to check why these guests had a bad time, even if it was a lie. It shows they care about their staff and are open to criticism. As long as you, the future customer reading this review and response, don’t behave like these people.
Complaints can highlight patterns of issues that the customers have, and consistent heroes in the staff who make it better. For one party of guests, the food was overpriced, portions too small, and cooked badly, but they still remember one busboy sneaking them some delicious cheese sticks.
If a restaurant gets reviews like this, maybe it’s time to look into changing the menu or where you source the food. Definitely promote that busboy.
It’s not just one person reviewing but a web of people. If everyone has the same bad experience, maybe it’s time for some training so that your staff can make it a fun one.
During Covid-19, reviews can be particularly devastating for restaurants, with a tenth of restaurants closing due to the pandemic.
But these complaints can be a bonding experience between staff.
One restaurant received a complaint, calling their cashier a “Hipster window boy.” Mean!
But did the business make the man change his look? No! It printed him a t-shirt with “Hipster Window Boy” for him to wear at work.
Having a guest complain about you but then having the restaurant defend you builds a real sense of community and is just the kind thing to do.
There’s even an Instagram page now called HipsterWindowBoy where people can honour restaurant workers during the pandemic.
Some complaints come in the form of weird requests. Guests who have had a bad experience in the past and now don’t want to repeat it. One such guest was a couple who ordered scallops and salmon. The weird part is that they did not want the salmon to taste like salmon. Because they did not like the taste of salmon.
Sorry. Let me repeat that if you thought I made a mistake. They did not want the salmon to taste like salmon because they do not like the taste of salmon. If your brain hurts, don’t worry, that just means it’s working.
So how did the restaurant deal with this? The chef asked everyone for their advice and, in the end, just drenched in sauce. Which the customers loved. Weird request. But in the end, they were happy. At the end of the day that’s all that matters.
Sometimes the customer is just right. A disgruntled party decided to complain in a unique way. With Ketchup. The staff found the message scrawled out in ketchup and underlined in mustard: “We waited 30 minutes, no service.” Probably caused a real mess, but it gets the message across.
This is ultimately what all complaints are. Guests are trying to get your attention. Writing in big, bold red letters what’s going wrong. This is why they go so extreme with language, as the sky has fallen, in their one-star review. Guests want their complaints to be unforgettable to the owners.
And sometimes they should be. I am certain that after this ketchup complaint, staff were trained to serve the guests quickly.
Ultimately reviews and complaints are your restaurant’s reputation. They are the reality of what the customer is experiencing. Ridiculous reviews and complaints, weird requests are just the means by which the customers can talk to you. Sometimes they’re shouting, and sometimes they’re lying, and sometimes they’re telling you exactly what you need to hear.
But the only thing important is that you listen and how you choose to respond.