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Damage Control

Damage Control

How to manage negative online reviews for delivery service

Absolutely no one is perfect. And in the world of restaurant food delivery, errors will happen often. Sometimes, no matter how minor the mistake, some customers—who suffer from what’s called itchy Twitter, Yelp, etc. fingers syndrome—will strike out, putting your business in a negative light.

How you react to the online criticism is what truly matters. What you don’t want is the reputation of an angry owner/manager who lashes out every time a customer writes a complaint on social media. Whether there’s validity in the negative post or not, the last thing you want is to be highlighted as a cautionary tale in an Eater article.

Doug Roth is a former third-generation restaurateur who is now principal at the Chicago-based Playground Hospitality. He believes “there is a little bit of margin for error (with food delivery),” however, operators should personally reach out to that dissatisfied customer to apologize.

If the complaint is about the food, and not the service, he continues, invite them in for a complimentary meal. “I would send them a certificate and invite them to dine in the restaurant, so they can see how well we can do that item,” suggests Roth, who develops culinary-focused concepts for restaurant groups and hotels throughout the country.

At Via Emilia 9, a quaint Miami Beach eatery specializing in Northern Italian fare, proprietor Valentina Imbrenda has fielded some creative complaints when dealing with delivery customers.

“We’ve had customers complain that they didn’t get their food because they fell asleep,” Imbrenda recalls. The important factor, she says, is that her restaurant resolves the situation before the customer takes it to social media.

“If someone wants to make a complaint, I’d hope they would call the restaurant and let us know rather than resorting to social media,” she continues. “Not to avoid the bad review, but because if we’re told right away, we could verify from our end what went wrong, and we could remake the dish for the customer so they won’t be disappointed.”

But once a negative review is posted, she believes it is important to immediately spring into action. “Everyone can make a mistake. I apologize and try to let them understand that it wasn’t on purpose. It was a mistake. I will send them a complimentary item of what they ordered.”

Typically, we will respond within a 24-Hour Period, we want to make sure the customer knows that they’re being heard.
– Spencer Most, Marketing Coordinator at Epic Burger

Bill Nevruz also believes that it’s important to reach out directly to customers. As the managing partner of Seasides, a delivery-only restaurant based in Chicago, he knows that his entire concept is based on keeping customers happy, and he strives for perfection.

The service delivers fried chicken, steamed lobsters and ribs, and his culinary team tested the items until the delivery service was flawless. He admits, however, that they will be subjected to the occasional online complaint.

“We like to contact people directly and help reconcile issues with them directly,” he says. “We have a pretty good track record. My team reaches out to anyone who has a bad experience. We first try to understand what the experience was so we can make it right for them.”

As the marketing coordinator at Epic Burger, Spencer Most handles social media outreach, social media content and engagement. That means that he’s constantly monitoring what people are saying about Epic Burger, which boasts eight locations in Chicago and its suburbs.

The burger chain only started delivery service last spring, and Most keeps a watchful eye especially on reviews concerning this side of the business. If there is a negative post on social media, his team immediately contacts the poster.

“Typically, we will respond within a 24-hour period,” says Most. “We want to make sure the customer knows that they’re being heard. We don’t want to wait much longer than that. We tend to like to get the general manager of that location involved as well for a more personal feeling.”

With all the national burger chains infiltrating Chicago, Epic Burger’s local edge gives it an advantage, says Most. “Because we’re local to Chicago, our brand needs that nitty gritty feel to it. We ask the time, date, situation, etc. so we can work on changing whatever that issue was.”

But it’s engagement, he adds, that helps retain customers. “As long as you keep the customer involved and let them know what is going on with it, they tend to have a better outlook. They just want their voices to be heard. It takes a lot of time for someone to write a complaint, and we certainly don’t want them to feel like their time has been wasted.”


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