Business owners who actively monitor their reputations are making a mistake when offering free food to people who leave bad reviews on Yelp and other local business sites. The knee-jerk reaction for many businesses who receive a bad review is to offer free food / services as a strategy to try and make up for the original visit and if possible get someone to remove or upgrade their review to improve their reputation.
However I think that offering free food / services is the worst thing you can do if you’re failing to address systemic problems within your business.
To date I’ve written more than 20 reviews on everything from plumbers to pizza and burgers. Most of my reviews are in the 3-5 star range but on a few occasions I’ve had to give a one or two star review and I’ve had business owners follow up on about half of those reviews.
But the problem is the response always follows this almost template like format:
Sorry you had a bad time. We try to treat all of our customers well and I’m sorry to hear you weren’t satisfied when you visited. I hope you reconsider (business name) and the next time you come in, the order is on the house.
Blah blah blah
The problem I have is that there is never any acknowledgement that they read and understand why I gave them a poor review in the first place.
If I give you low marks because the food is woefully overcooked … tell me that you plan to speak with the kitchen manager about making sure that burnt food doesn’t go out.
If I give you low marks because service took forever … tell me that you will look into it. Service is the most complicated component because it can be a combination of individual attitude, number of tables someone has to cover, communication between kitchen and server or a slow kitchen that can’t put out food in a timely manner. Avoiding poor service complaints is the easiest way a business can fail.
Don’t avoid addressing systemic problems by offering free food. A broken system will remain broken unless you fix it and treating me to a free meal won’t do anything to help future customers.