How to write a restaurant review

Tutorials
January 31, 2015

like Yelp and Urbanspoon, I felt the need to write a tutorial on how to properly write one from my point of view. I was a hostess in a restaurant for a few years so I know how the business works and I know the type of information that restaurants can actually use to better their service and restaurant because every restaurant deserves the opportunity to improve.

There is a right and a wrong way to write a restaurant review. You need to make sure that you include certain things and exclude others — I call it the Inclusion/Exclusion Rule. The key to writing a good review is to remain completely truthful, somewhat objective and attentively detailed — it doesn’t have to be long to be good.
 
 
Most people have one of three mindsets when they decide to write a review of a restaurant:
#1 : To flaunt about their absolutely amazing experience
#2 : To warn people to never, ever eat there, no matter what
#3 : To give constructive criticism for the employees

Notice the prepositional phrases I underlined above with The 3 Mindsets. You’ll want to stick with writing your review in the mindset of #3.


#1 : “The Flaunter” Explained

If you write a review in the mindset of #1, it isn’t exactly a bad thing. It’s a great thing when you experience a purely positive visit to a restaurant and the employees will definitely want to hear about it. However, the problem(s) can lie with the negatives. The lack thereof, rather. Some people either don’t mention, dismiss or ignore them — maybe there were none, maybe the good outweighed the bad or maybe their friend works there. Who knows?

I’ve written plenty of reviews that had no negatives (i.e. many of my product reviews); however, I’m always truthful and include as many details as I can gather. If there were no negatives, that’s okay! If there were, though, mention them! I absolutely believe that positive things can outweigh negative ones and, if you experienced this during your visit, great, but don’t dismiss those negatives as if they didn’t occur or exist. If anything, include details. How do the positives outweigh the negatives? How did the restaurant staff make up for the negatives? We aren’t inside your head so we don’t know if you consider amazing food to outweigh bad service or vise versa. Don’t ignore the negatives, either, even if you have a friend or family member that works there. Be honest! Being honest can only help restaurants.

The moral of the story : Don’t overpower your review with positives and then leave out, dismiss or ignore the negatives. The negatives are important, too. People learn from the not-so-good things, possibly more than we learn from the positives.


#2 : “The Warner” Explained

If you write a review in the mindset of #2, you likely had a bad experience at the restaurant you visited. It is perfectly okay to express the bad aspects of your experience but there’s a courteous way to do it. Leave your emotions and insults at the door and try to stay objective. Outline the negative things that you experienced and tell us why they made your negative list.

Be descriptive. You didn’t like the food. Why? Was it too greasy, under-cooked or unseasoned? You didn’t like the service. Why? Did you have to wait forever to be seated or to receive your drinks or food? You didn’t like the atmosphere. Why? Was it too loud or was there an unpleasant or lingering odor?

If you ever have a negative experience in a restaurant, always request to speak to a manager. How did their management attempt to better your experience? Tell your audience what happened and how he or she made it right. If a member of their management doesn’t try to make your experience right, they aren’t doing their job — go above their head. Never be afraid to ask for the name of a manager’s supervisor or the owner of the restaurant. If the manager (or whoever you end up speaking to, whether it be a supervisor or owner) genuinely tries to help make it right, that should tell you that they care.

If you have any type of insult that you would like to associate an employee with, do not publicize it in your review because it will make only you look bad. Instead, just express how you felt (or currently feel). For example, saying “our server acted as if our being there was an inconvenience and was rude throughout our dining experience” or “I felt like I wasn’t appreciated as a customer” is a lot better (and more helpful to the restaurant) than saying “our server was a complete moron and should be fired.” If you feel like you need to, you can always contact a manager of the restaurant privately with any “extra” concerns that you didn’t mention in your review, whether it be via phone call or email.

Even though you had a bad experience, you still may have liked certain aspects. Be sure to include them in your review.

Please also keep in mind that, sometimes, you might have had unreasonable or unrealistic expectations. If you go to a restaurant on a Saturday night, you can’t realistically expect to be seated immediately or in a few minutes.

Tip: Always be sure that you know your server’s name. If you don’t have a good memory or you know that you’ll forget his or her name, try and keep your receipt because your server’s name should always be on there. If it isn’t, their employee or identification number will — you can use them to identify your server.

The moral of the story : It is okay to express your negative experience but be sure that you keep your composure when expressing it. Include any positives you experienced, if any, despite your bad experience and leave your emotions and insults at the door. Always request to speak to a manager. There’s no excuse for the manager not trying to make up for your bad experience.


#3 : “The Giver” Explained

This is the ideal way to write a review. Reviews like this normally contain a good balance of the positives and negatives as well as the details of their experience at the restaurant they visited.

When you mention the positives, tell us why you liked those things. If you enjoyed the food, tell us what you ordered and why you liked them. If you feel as though you got value for your money, that’s important to mention. If the service was great, tell us your server’s name and why you enjoyed having him or her as a server. If you liked the atmosphere, tell us what you liked about it. Was it kid-friendly? Did you like the music and decor of the restaurant?

When it comes to the negatives, be honest but also make your criticism constructive. If you didn’t enjoy the food or the price of the food, include what you ordered, why you disliked it and/or why you felt as though you didn’t get what you paid for. If you weren’t happy with the service, tell us why it didn’t meet your expectations and any problems you had. In regard to your server, I wouldn’t put his or her name in your review — I do advise mentioning to their management, though. If you didn’t like the atmosphere or wasn’t comfortable, explain why.

The reasons why restaurants like hearing the positives and negatives is for two reasons:
1.) they want to continue doing what you like
2.) they want to stop doing (or fix) what you didn’t like

Giving the restaurant details on what you liked and didn’t like can help them improve, which is something that all restaurants want and appreciate.

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