Would you critique your mom’s cooking? Write a negative review on a note and pass it to her? Probably not.
After all, she spent time making you a nice meal, and that would be incredibly rude. The same courtesy, however, doesn’t really apply when it comes to restaurants. Reviews are standard practice, and sometimes they come with criticism.
And criticism is uncomfortable.
Especially when it’s in the form of an online review from a customer about your food, service, or overall restaurant that you’ve poured so much time and effort to perfect. Sometimes, it’s good to learn from—but sometimes it is just flat-out wrong.
Sometimes negative reviews are an opportunity to reassess your business and they can offer healthy criticism. We offer some tips on how to handle negative reviews here. And there is always a chance to encourage positive reviews to outweigh the negative ones!
While some bad reviews are par for the course, there are others that are truly unfair and in that case, you have options. In fact, you can sometimes take steps to remove negative restaurant reviews from popular platforms like Facebook, Zomato, Yelp, and Google.
When Should Restaurant Owners Remove Negative Reviews?
First, let’s elaborate on when it’s worth the effort to remove a review. After all, you can’t please everyone and no restaurant have a 100% perfect rating. Here are 5 circumstances when it may be appropriate to remove a negative review:
1. The review is defamatory
If the review contains false information that could damage your reputation, you may have ground to have it removed. An example of a defamatory review would be if someone wrote that your restaurant had rats, served a dish poorly that’s not on your menu, or spread rumours about the staff that never happened when this wasn’t the case.
Here’s an example of one that had no basis for its claim:
2. The review violates the platform’s terms of service
Most platforms have specific rules about what can and can’t be posted. If the negative review violates these rules, you can have it removed. For example, Yelp doesn’t allow reviews that are “libellous, defamatory, abusive, harassing, threatening, or obscene.” If a review meets these criteria, you can flag it for removal.
3. The review is written by a competitor
It’s not uncommon for businesses to write false reviews to harm their competitors. If you suspect a competitor wrote a negative review, you can report it to the platform. A way to know if a competitor wrote the review is if they mention their business in the review or if the first and last name is the same as another restaurant owner.
4. The review is promotional in nature
Some businesses will also try to post promotional material as a review. For example, they may write a positive review about their own business or a negative review about a competitor. If you suspect that a review is promotional in nature, you can report it to the platform.
It’s unlikely, but it really does happen. Here’s an example of one below:
5. The review doxxes you or your employees
Doxxing is the act of publishing someone’s personal information online without their consent. So, if a review contains personal data like your home address, phone number, or personal email address, you can have it removed for security purposes.
If you come across a negative review that falls into one of the above categories, then you should absolutely be removing them to protect your staff.
How to Remove Negative Reviews?
Now, for the question of the day: How can I remove a negative review, and is it even possible?
Removing a negative review is never easy, but contrary to popular belief, it is still possible. Major review sites like Zomato, Google, Yelp, and Facebook all have their own guidelines for removing reviews.
Here’s a quick breakdown of how to remove bad reviews on each platform:
Zomato’s Review Policy
First, you can reach out to the user themselves to sole the issue. If there is a simple misunderstanding, they can delete the review on their own profile. But you shouldn’t expect them to do it or offer incentives since Zomato doesn’t allow that.
To keep reviews civil, Zomato does have Foodie Code of Conduct—which owners and reviewers must abide by. While you can’t remove a review simply for being negative, you might have a chance at getting it taken down if the review breaks any of the platform’s guidelines or their Terms of Service such as:
- Reviews cannot be irrelevant, inappropriate or clearly spam
- Reviews cannot be derogatory, abusive, or hateful
- Reviews cannot be promotional
Here are the steps for reporting a review on Zomato:
- Read the Code of Conduct to determine if the review is breaking the rules.
- Take a screenshot of the review and any other evidence.
- Report the users who broke the rules to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Google’s Review Policy
If you want to remove a negative review on Google, your best bet is to reach out to the customer directly and resolve the issue offline. Then, once you resolve the issue, ask the customer to remove the review.
But if a review includes inappropriate content, conflicts of interest, or off-topic comments, Google will remove them. The platform also removes reviews that doxxes you and your employees, infringe on copyrights, and advertise for other businesses.
Here are the steps for reporting a review on Google:
- Find the inappropriate review that you want to report
- Click the three dots next to the review
- Select “Flag as inappropriate”
- Fill out the “Report a policy violation” page. It will ask for your email address and the violation of the review.
- Google will undergo a review process of the report and decide whether or not to take it down
Yelp’s Review Policy
Yelp is known for being a bit more strict when it comes to removing negative reviews. It’s also been criticized in the past for its stance on the matter which can harm small businesses in particular. So, the platform only removes reviews that violate its content guidelines, which include:
- Fake reviews
- Hate speech
- Promotional material
- Defamatory comments or including personal information about employees
If you encounter reviews that fall into these categories, you should report them right away. You can do this by contacting Yelp administrators and requesting a review. For anything else, there isn’t as much you can do about it.
- Log into your business’ Yelp account
- Find the review you want to remove
- Click the three dots and select Report Review
- Yelp administrators will evaluate the review against its Content Guidelines
Facebook’s Review Policy
Finally, you most likely have a Facebook page for your restaurants. So, if you encounter a review that doesn’t meet the Facebook Community Standards, you can report it for removal.
- Go to your business’s Facebook page and look for the review in question
- Click the V-shaped symbol located in the upper right corner
- Select “Report Post”
- Follow the prompts
No business owner enjoys reading negative reviews, but they are a part of doing business. The best way to deal with them is to take the high road and try to resolve the issues offline. However, if the review is breaking that platform’s rules, then there are absolutely ways you can have it removed.
Keep in mind that it’s never a guarantee that the platform’s administrator will remove the review. As such, it’s best to encourage new guests—and even loyal ones—to write good reviews to make up for the rough ones.
Looking for ways to improve your restaurant operations and ensure that your customer always has the best experience? Contact us today and see what we can do to help your restaurant be better.