Focus Friday: Humanizing your restaurant to respond to bad reviews

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Today’s Focus Friday is dedicated to all the restaurantpreneurs (restaurant entrepreneurs) in the industry. This post was inspired by a tweet I had read a few days ago, Don Power from Sprout Social shared an interesting tweet from @FrankieJgrande about a bad restaurant review.

In his tweet, Frankie wrote about the bad food and services that he received from the Pigalle New York. The tweet was then retweeted many times by Frankie’s followers and more people were asking him what had happened. If you were a restaurant owner, you could either do nothing and suffer the consequences (of course we wouldn’t want to do that now, do we?) or you could apologize sincerely and honestly. Now the latter sounds like a better reaction. In this post, I’ll include some case studies from real businesses and how they are responding to customers through different channels like Twitter, Youtube, and Yelp. I have also included a special video at the end of the post.

Case Study 1: Responding to tweets through twitter

In my opinion, one of the many Twitter accounts that stand out is @Boloco. They have an active account that responds to all their tweets with humor as well as helping their customers to solve their problems. Boloco is actively monitoring Twitter feeds for key terms like their name, “boloco”.

Recently, someone posted that she felt like vomiting after eating at Boloco. In the same hour, they responded to her tweet. If you think that their speed, as a business account, in responding to their customer is the only impressive aspect here, let me show you the conversation

By apologizing and offering to help, Boloco has not only made a customer feel happy but have gotten their customer to still put their trust in them. Boloco may not be able to change what has happened to their customers in the past, but they sure know how to fix it. Here is the last respond from @daggums

So I have decided to put @Boloco twitter account to the test. I tweeted them, congratulating them for their amazing job on twitter as well as letting them know that I’ll include them in today’s post and asking them if they have anything they want to say to the readers. Here is what they have to say

Amazing! Now if only they were in Asia *hints*


Case Study 2: Respond to tweets through videos

Thomas Marzano shared what he had learned from @Ramon_DeLeon on his recent post at iStrategy. In the blog post, Thomas shared a video of @Ramon_DeLeon who apologized to @interactiveAmy, a customer of whom they have messed the order, by posting a video.


According to Ramon,

I cannot make money selling pizzas for One Dollar, but I can make money off the conversation it generates.”

Certainly some wise words from someone who understands the power of social media and what it brings to their business.


Case Study 3: Responding to comments on Yelp

If you’re a restaurant owner, don’t forget to check Yelp to respond to the reviews there. With over 15 million reviews on Yelp, you ought to be there and maintain your restaurant’s presence. Here is an example from Samovar, a tea lounge in San Francisco.

Here is the responce


Case Study 4: Thanking your customers

Outside of these bad reviews topic, you can also thank the people that come into your restaurant.  Here is one by the internationally acclaimed Wolfgang Puck


Hopefully this short Focus Friday post opens your eyes on how you can use social channels to help your customers. Are there any businesses or case studies that you would like to share with us? Feel free to comment below. The comment box is meant for you.

photo credit by isforinsects



  • Marianne Worley

    These are incredibly valuable stories Aaron. Great reminders of how you can turn a poor customer experience into a strong connection with a little caring and effort.

    I read about @Ramon_Deleon in @Unmarketing’s book. I found his story so compelling that I decided to follow him and send him a tweet. He responded quickly and sent me a link to one of his speaking engagements, which was great to watch.

    I love these case studies. Keep ’em coming!

  • Marianne Worley

    These are incredibly valuable stories Aaron. Great reminders of how you can turn a poor customer experience into a strong connection with a little caring and effort.

    I read about @Ramon_Deleon in @Unmarketing’s book. I found his story so compelling that I decided to follow him and send him a tweet. He responded quickly and sent me a link to one of his speaking engagements, which was great to watch.

    I love these case studies. Keep ’em coming!

  • Yash Ved

    Really interesting post Aaron! Keep up the good work :)

  • Aaron Lee

    Thanks Yash, thanks for the comment here and on facebook.

  • Aaron Lee

    Hi Marianne,

    Thank you for commenting on this post and my other blog post. Appreciate it a lot. Indeed its a great story for others to learn, especially the one by Bocolo. They are doing an amazing job with they way they are responding to customers.

    I have not read Unmarketing book yet, we didn’t have it when I wanted to buy it. Now I am waiting for the paperback or v2 instead. :)

    Glad you love the case studies! thanks for the comment again.


  • Pamela Hazelton

    All great examples. It frustrates me when restaurants don’t even respond. I will sometimes ask what’s on special that night, or where the “fresh catch” came from and get no reply. Do they realize that just cost them a sale?

  • Dawn

    Just found you on twitter and have been reading your blog. Love it! So informational, helpful, and interesting. Glad I found you :)

  • Aaron Lee

    Hi Pamela,

    I agree with you, they don’t realize that they are losing sale by not responding.

    That is what happened with me too. I wanted to buy something from Singapore, i asked them for the price to ship and they didnt respond. So I didn’t buy.

  • Aaron Lee

    Thank you Dawn, glad you enjoyed the read.

  • Linda

    Hey Aaron!

    What a great idea for a post, and for some damn good free advertising for the businesses profiled. I love the idea of video–and how could you trash Domino’s after a response like that;).

    Social media has truly changed customer service and word of mouth, or word of bird–hehe!

    Maybe someone could offer grammar help to @daggums…

  • awriter

    Recent restaurant complaint via social media was met with direct message calling me a liar. So I won’t be going back. But I tell anyone who will listen about it.

  • Aaron Lee

    Sorry to hear about that
    That is why businesses losing business and potential sales.

  • Aaron Lee

    Hi Linda,

    Thanks, hopefully those businesses will get more business after this lol.. Are you planning to trash dominos? 😛

    Indeed social media has changed customer service, too bad not all businesses are doing them properly though, Pigalle is one of them.

    As for daggums, I will leave that to you :)

  • Kiera Pedley

    Oh if only my local cinemas read your blog Aaron – the proprietor there claimed that Social Media is “Rubbish” and that my (Unlistened to complaint) would go nowhere.

    Imagine the amazing service they could have provided if they just did what Bolocos did!

  • Leo Widrich

    Great case studies, really shows me once again how powerful Social Media is for ANY business, no matter online or offline.

    Especially the human and down to earth manner of boloco is amazing.

    Great post dude, I will be back for more!

  • Leo Widrich

    Really? What happened Kiera? Would love to hear your story :)

  • krabil57

    Aaron, thanks for sharing. These are great examples of how to maximize the power of social media. Problems are opportunities waiting to happen. These businesses understood that concept. How could you NOT wow your customers with response like this?

  • Bill Lakin

    Very happy to have found you. Looking forward to reading more. Any thoughts on smart phone apps for restaurants?

  • Aaron Lee

    I have not tried them because in Malaysia there is very little of them that we can actually use.

  • Aaron Lee

    Hello, you’re welcome.

    Indeed how can they not wow customer with responds like this. Its simple and doesn’t take a lot of time. :)

  • Aaron Lee

    Hi Leo!

    Thank you for commenting and sharing this post on twitter. Appreciate it a lot. Cheers!
    Indeed boloco is amazing, love their humor and reply on twitter

  • Jean Parks

    I know increasing numbers of companies are beginning to get social media but I had no clue that that so many were really diving in 100% Domino’s just won themselves back a customer with their video, after seeing this, I’ll be giving them another chance.

    Thanks Aaron for once again bringing content that was a pleasure to experience!

  • Jean Parks

    Aaron is a rock star, what’s amazing is not only his high levels of smartness but also the amount of warmth and true personality he has.. his charm is epic!

  • Aaron Lee

    Aww thank you so much for the nice compliment, I am just being me! If i am able to charm you. I am soooo HAPPY :)

  • Aaron Lee

    Hello Jean,

    Glad to see you back here again, thank you so much for the continuous support. Owe you a big hug for that.

    Indeed domino’s are diving in incredibly and Ramon (the guy in the video) showed everyone how it should be done. So glad they just won themselves another customer lol..

    Now if anything happen to your order, you know you can look them up! Haha!

    Can’t say much for dominos in Malaysia. They just opened in my hometown.


  • Mariana B Magness

    Awesome. By keeping the conversation going, listening and fixing mistakes we can grow and improve.

  • Pamela Hazelton


    That’s a bit different and although you should get a reply, many merchants get requests to ship overseas every day from actual scammers. I’m not sure how you word your email, but generic ones usually raise red flags to merchants who have been jerked by foreign “customers”.

    I’m not justifying the lack of response. Just letting you know that your email may be getting grouped with shady ones.

  • Aaron Lee

    Indeed Mariana, it part of learning :)

  • Aaron Lee

    Hi Pamela,

    That is interesting, have never thought about that. Anyway the company do ship to overseas. I just needed to know how much it would ship from Singapore to Malaysia since its 3 hours by car ride. Quite possible, i did use their contact form and sent them a tweet though. Since i prefer to contact through social networking sites.

    But you raise a good point. I have heard company banning certain countries that have a high scammers “hit list”

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  • Kameel Vohra

    This is exactly what I’d like to see some of my local restaurants doing!

  • Kameel Vohra

    This is exactly what I’d like to see some of my local restaurants doing!

  • Aaron Lee

    Hopefully that is what is going to happen. Otherwise you can educated them and do consultation. If so I wanna be your partner :)

  • Giuseppe

    Giuseppe, I have been in the restaurant bussines for forty years, take complaints seriously, act on them promptly, ask yourself why has this happened? the problem may have started in the kitchen, why? maybe bad supervission, attitude or competance, solution, act stright away on the prime problem, and supervise all dishes. Complaints, can be a blessing, if they are found early, and fixed imeiatelly.

  • doniza

    I love these case studies. Keep it up

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  • Eric Troy

    Here is some advice for restaurant owners as a customer, based on Aarron’s examples here.

    1. Yes, do respond and reach out to the customer. But remember, do NOT hound the customer if they do not respond. That will make matters worse. Fix the problems they brought up but if they decide not to respond to you, move on. If they do not respond to your outreach, a friendly message a few weeks later explaining to them how you fixed the issues would probably be welcomed. Then leave the ball in their park.

    2. Do NOT make excuses, like the examples of the Tea restaurant above. Customers do not want to hear your excuses and explanations, they just want you to fix the problems.

    3. When it comes to food, never use the old “people have different tastes” tactic. You know it is BS. Bad is bad and good is good. The problem here is paying too much attention to either no reaction, or good reactions. It’s only the bad reactions that count, because they show you where you need to grow. If ONE person says the food is bad…it’s bad, assume that it is bad. Fix it.

    4. Excuse given about inconsistent quality of supply…BS. If you can’t get a consistent product, change the product or take the item off the menu. Poor excuse.

    5. Consistency is everything. A great experience one time and a bad experience the next can be worse than an average experience every time. So, if you cannot do it the same every time, with the utmost attention to detail and quality, don’t do it.

    6. And one more thing. If you serve beer, make sure the draft is cold enough, the taps are clean, and the glasses are VERY clean! Pet peeve of mine.

    7. No, a live band will not fix your bad food, service, and atmosphere.

    8. Be one thing. Be a bar, if you’re a bar. Be a restaurant if you’re a restaurant.

    9. Do not EVER seat people in some weird out of the way place just because you needed to stuff one more table in there. Nobody wants to be seated right in front of the swinging kitchen doors and, especially, nobody wants to be seated right near the bathrooms.

    10. Make every customer feel like the only reason you even bothered to open the doors that day is for them.

    I have also noticed another way that restaurants try to recover from many bad reviews. Changing their name…at least slightly. It won’t work. The reviews wil not go away and your customers know who you are. If you change your name in order to make people think you’ve revamped and improved everything, but you haven’t, you’ll only piss your customers off and you are guaranteed to fail. Moral, the worse sin is treating your customers like they are stupid. Sure, change your name, but only after you change your restaurant for the better. Nobody is fooled because you decide to call yourself a “cantina” instead of a cafe.

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