It has never been more important to have a positive online presence than it is now. People are statistically likely to look up your business online before visiting, sometimes even if they’re regulars. They’re checking menu items, ordering, and hours of operation. For potential customers, they’re also checking to see if other people think your food is worth eating.

Unfortunately, angry customers are more likely to leave a review than happy customers. They’re hurt, upset, frustrated or offended, and they want to be comforted and feel validated. They want their wrongs addressed. And we can’t really blame them; most of us do the same when we’ve had a bad experience.

However, as a restaurant owner, this can get detrimental to your business really fast. Even if only one of your customers in any given week is angry, their online reviews are often more viewed. They’re more detailed. They garner more attention, and suddenly, the reputation of your otherwise fantastic establishment has tanked. What can you do?

Well, first, be sure to publicly apologize that your customer had a bad experience, on the same medium they are sharing their terrible experience, and do it quickly. It is good for those reading reviews to see your genuine response of concern. It helps others know that you understand that something went wrong and would like to fix it. This builds confidence and trust in your business in spite of the negative things that are posted.

Second, remind your staff that they should go above and beyond to create unique, positive experiences for everyone that comes through the doors. Make it memorable, and do what you can to put a smile on their faces, and they will be much more likely to want to post about it. Remember, their expectations are that they will have a delicious meal in a clean environment with great service, so you have to do more than that. Don’t just meet their expectations or you’re going to find yourself looking at an average review. Exceed expectations.

Third, solicit good reviews and attention. Of course, you don’t want to be obnoxiously sending emails every day asking for their opinion, as you’ll just make customers angry regardless of what kind of experience they had. What you need to do is make it really, really easy to leave a review. If it’s barely an inconvenience, people are more likely to share their good experiences. This sounds complicated, but really could involve something as simple as a QR code at the table or at the doors on the way out with a link straight to the review page on your website. Maybe your table tent can showcase a contest that involves them taking a selfie at the table and posting it on Instagram with a hashtag that will enter them into a contest for a gift certificate. Just be sure they know it’s easy, it’s painless, and it can benefit them in some way. There are also restaurant-specific reputation management software options that integrate with POS and other systems to encourage customers to leave a review. Once these are automated, it can make a huge difference to your business.

People are using their phones to find a place to eat more than ever; make sure you’re online and available when they search!