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Commercial HVAC, Commercial Refrigeration

5 Ways to Stop Negative Reviews of Your Restaurant


Negative reviews of your restaurant can be a frustrating problem to deal with. Especially when you have gone to the trouble to find a great chef, pay him as much as you can afford, and you know the food is good. From what you see and hear every day, people love the food. Yet there are still people writing negative reviews and giving you only a couple of stars on Yelp.

What’s going on? And how can you put a stop to it?

Here’s the problem that may be behind those negative reviews: many restaurant owners are very conscientious about the quality of the food (and rightly so), yet don’t pay as much attention to the dining atmosphere. This is a mistake, especially in New York City, where there is so much competition; it doesn’t take much for an unhappy customer to choose the restaurant around the corner next time.

The truth is, a great dining experience is not only about the food. There are many additional factors that can make or break a customer’s experience. And they are the kinds of things that it’s easy for an owner to overlook; you spend so much time there that you tend not to notice. But if you want to put a stop to those negative reviews, it pays to fix these issues once and for all.

5 Problems to Fix If You Want to Stop Negative Reviews

The temperature in your restaurant is one issue that can drive diners away in a hurry, and lead to those negative reviews that are plaguing you. If it’s icy cold, people just don’t want to eat dinner with their coats on. A dining room that’s too warm is no picnic either, and can be uncomfortable enough to make diners lose their appetites.

This probably does not come as a surprise to you. Certainly you’ve tried turning the thermostat up or down. Yet the complaints and negative reviews persist. That’s probably because you are dealing with a temperature variance problem, where some parts of your space are too warm while others are too cold. And the problem may be compounded by staff and even customers tampering with the thermostat setting.

What To Do: First of all, install a programmable thermostat that you can lock to prevent tampering. Then deal with the temperature variance problem. Have you done renovations or inherited your space from another tenant without updating your HVAC system? Your heating and air conditioning may not be properly designed for the layout and usage of your space, causing those temperature variance problems (and ultimately, those negative reviews). Have your system evaluated by an HVAC professional for advice; it’s possible that simple ductwork changes can make a big difference in the comfort level in your restaurant.

Even if the temperature is ok, people will not be happy when a large HVAC vent is blowing directly on their table while they try to eat. Or when gusts of wind blow their napkins off the table every time someone opens the restaurant door. Nobody wants to eat in a wind tunnel. But how can you fix this problem and stop the negative reviews?

What To Do: The wind gust problem is caused by negative air pressure in your dining room, which is probably created by inadequate ventilation in your kitchen. You may need a supplemental HVAC system to provide what’s called “makeup” air to replace the air that’s sucked out by your kitchen exhaust system. You might also have an issue with improperly placed air conditioning registers. Both problems can be fixed by consulting with an HVAC company that’s experienced at designing systems for restaurants.

This one is a biggie, and is a common cause of negative reviews. Diners can lose their appetites in a hurry when nasty odors from the kitchen garbage or even the restrooms find their way into the dining room. Yet this is an issue that is likely to go unnoticed by owners and managers, since we acclimate to odors very quickly when we spend a lot of time in a space.

What To Do: Remember that air pressure problem we just mentioned? That can also be the cause of your odor problems and negative reviews. When your ventilation system is not correctly designed, odors can migrate to places where you don’t want them. Again, an HVAC consultation can fix this once and for all.

Related article: Your HVAC System Could be the Cause of Your Smelly Building

There are two types of noise that diners complain and write negative reviews about: the mechanical noise from HVAC systems, and the loud conversations from the surrounding tables. These problems are actually interrelated. Older HVAC systems can be very noisy and distracting. Yet many restaurants have upgraded to newer, quieter systems such as VRF systems, and uncovered a new issue. Now that the “white noise” of the HVAC system is removed, people can easily overhear conversations from nearby diners, which is generally undesirable as well.

What To Do: Replacing your old, noisy HVAC system is a great start, but correctly designing your new system is a must. An HVAC company that’s experienced in working with restaurants will include acoustical design in the plan. That means properly placing vents and registers, and even installing acoustical panels to absorb sound.

Related article: 4 Reasons You Need HVAC Design for Your Air Conditioning Install

Even if people are happy with the taste of your food, you might have underlying food storage issues that are causing people to be less than happy once they get home. If your refrigeration equipment is not reliably keeping food at safe temperatures, you could be making people sick. If that happens, negative reviews might be the least of your problems.

What To Do: Refrigeration maintenance is a must to prevent negative reviews of your restaurant, or worse, a downgrade of your NYC health grade. Regularly inspecting, cleaning and tuning up your equipment keeps it working reliably and keeps your food safe.

Related article: 6 Ways You’re Jeopardizing Your Restaurant’s NYC Health Grade

A refrigeration maintenance plan pays for itself in energy savings, preventing breakdowns, as well as increased customer satisfaction. Not to mention stopping those negative reviews. Learn more about it from our free guide to Refrigeration Preventive Maintenance Contracts: How to Find the Right One for Your Food Service Operation.

Get Your Free Guide to Refrigeration Maintenance Contracts, Today!