Did bad customer service shut down this cafe?

I was on Yelp for my hometown, scrolling through recent restaurant reviews. I stumbled upon one for a cafe I had never heard of. I won’t name it here, because they were bought out by new owners some years ago and it seems like they are turning it around.

It only took me a few seconds to realize why this cafe was likely sold. There are multiple Yelp reviews complaining of the owner’s rude attitude towards customer and employees. On TripAdvisor, it seems that all reviews posted during this time were deleted, and only reviews under the new ownership are left up. This leads me to believe that the reviews were most likely negative.

grain comment


This is the first review I happened to read, mainly because I saw an owner’s┬áresponse below it. I come to find that the owner’s┬áresponse is worse than the 1 star review it is responding to. The exclamation points, the all caps, the accusations of racism, and threatening to go to court (I’m not sure you can over an issue like this). If this is the owner’s response to a 1 star review, I worry what he had to say to customers if they complained in the restaurant.

It is worrisome and hurts the customer service part of my heart to see a response like this. As a kid you hear “If you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything at all”. I think the owner should have taken this advice. I believe his response did much more harm than good for his cafe.

Here’s how I would have responded:

“Hi (Name),

I want to thank you for taking the time to leave us your feedback. I am very distraught at the horrible experience you had with us. This is not something we ever want to see and we take full responsibility for it. Let me address some of the issues you mentioned. First, the poor quality food is totally on us. I hope you will accept an invitation to come back and we will provide you with proper tasting dishes on the house. As for the iced tea, this is something we will look into fixing. I never really noticed the small difference in size, but I will start looking into ordering larger cups so we can offer two distinct sizes. For the refills, I must admit that we do charge for refills as iced tea is generally more expensive for us to make than fountain drinks which we offer free refills of. I apologize that you felt you were pushed out of the restaurant. I hope you will accept our explanations and our sincerest efforts to fix this situation. Please call me at 444-4444, let me know about your Yelp review, and we can go about treating you and a friend to a meal that we can be proud to serve. Thank you again for your honest feedback.”

This message took me about 4 minutes to write. And look at the difference in tone! Had I left this negative review and received a response like this from the owner, I would give them a second chance. Offering a free meal to a customer is a no-brainer. This one meal can salvage a long-term relationship with this customer and possibly their friends and family. The cost of the meal, let’s say $10, is much less than the potential lifetime value of this customer if they continue to dine with you, let’s say $100.

It pains me to see owners and managers get defensive at negative customer reviews. Customers want sympathy! They want to be heard! They just spent good money at your place to have a nice time, something went wrong, and they want you to do something. Listen, accept responsibility, and respond sincerely.

The original reviewer ended up writing a new review responding to the owner’s comments. This all could have been avoided with some honest, sincere dialogue from the owner.

grain response

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