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Respond and React to Poor Reviews of Your Truckstop with These Tips

Posted in: Truckstop Business, Marketing & Retail


Welcome to the newest post in our blog series, Darren’s Great Ideas! for Independent Operators

Respond and React to Poor Reviews of Your Truckstop with These Tips

Everyone knows that in today’s world businesses have to have a social media presence. But simply showing up isn’t enough. You have to be engaged. Someone is managing your image in cyber space, and if you are not involved in that process, it can do more harm than good. 

Taryn Brice-Rowland, NATSO’s director of technology, blogged about the importance of getting involved in Yelp and Google as it applies to your operation. While every business hopes for glowing reviews, it is possible that a poor one could appear. In conversations with members it appears that often many owners feel the negative comments are unwarranted so instead of defending the business or replying to comment, they simply don’t respond. Even worse, they may not even be aware of what is being said.

Addressing complaints can show people that you’re human and give them a solution to their problems, but to make the most of the situation, it can help to know the type of complainer. For a reminder on the five types of complainers and what to do, be sure to revist the NATSO Stop Watch magazine article on calming complainers

Travel centers are beginning to experience more and more interaction with social media and their food service performance, and knowing what to do and when is key. NATSO member Dustin Trail will be hosting an educational session at The NATSO Show in Las Vegas to share what he has been doing to improve his location’s brand appearance, recognition and footprint on Google and Yelp.

Recently, Al Hebert, the Gas Station Gourmet guru and a past speaker at The NATSO Show, blogged about how a well-established business chose not to engage their complainers on social media and that within a short period of time, both of their locations closed down, all due to horrible Yelp reviews. As Hebert said, “If I were writing a script about bad customer service, I could not have made up some of those reviews.” 

Hebert is once again sharing his expertise with NATSO members by allowing us to repost his recent blog entry on responding and reacting to bad reviews online below.   

Social Media, The Internet & Bad Reviews
By Al Herbert

If you want the worst food of your life, this is the place to be!!” Yelp - Restaurant review

This statement doesn’t come from the road, but from the internet. Many negative reviews go unanswered. Is that a good idea?  

When you’re thinking of buying equipment. Will you read online reviews?  You probably will. Consumers want to see reviews, ratings and comments. Almost every website offers an opportunity to comment on each product sold. The comments can be devastating, especially in the food business.

One restaurant had a string of bad reviews and brutal comments. A couple stood out. This blog starts with a headline from one that I mention above. Another customer said “hamburger buns had mold on them.” And still another said, “I would not eat here for free.”  One could see there was something terribly wrong in this restaurant. I decided eat there to see if these customers were exaggerating. They were right. I was shocked at the poor service and what appeared to be totally disengaged management. 

Have you been traveling and passed a restaurant that has one or two stars? Will customers pass you by if you have a string of bad reviews? Many will. 

What do you do if you get bad reviews on Yelp, Trip Advisor or Urbanspoon?

Here are a few ideas:

  1. Take bad reviews seriously, especially if they are adding up. Look around. Are you missing something in your food service program?

  2. Contact the dissatisfied customer and post an apology on the site where the complaint is posted. Thank them for pointing out a situation for which you were unaware. This shows readers you care.

    - Include your email address and ask them to send you an email with a contact number or ask them to call you. 

    - Don't get defensive. Don't engage in a war of words. You can't come out of that looking good.  Repeat the apology and add, "I'm deeply sorry. I understand how you feel. I will try to make sure this doesn't happen again. Thank you for pointing this out to me."

  3. Offer a free meal and to "give us one more chance."

    - If they were traveling, reimburse the meal and send them a special coupon for free meal for two. If they come back with kids, comp everyone's meal. 

  4. Engage them as a coach (optional). Ask for their help: "As a manager, this slipped by me. From your perspective as a customer, how could I keep this from happening again?"

  5. At the end of the make-up process, if all has been resolved and there is a cyber hug, ask them to post the happy resolution. If you have items like jellies, barbecue sauce or pies that you can ship, send them a nice basket. 

Other NATSO resources on social media:


/// Read more Darren's Great Ideas for Independent Operators posts here.  



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About the Author

Darren Schulte

Darren Schulte

Darren Schulte serves as Vice President of Membership at NATSO. In this role, he directs recruitment, retention and customer service for truckstop and travel plaza members. He is also responsible for developing NATSO products and programs, particularly those relating to education, research and training for truckstop and travel plaza operators.

Schulte also leads NATSO's Profitable Retail Review program. A Profitable Retail Review is a custom assessment of your truckstop, including recommendations for every aspect of your facility, from actionable ideas to improve revenue to tactical ways to improve your net operating costs. Learn about NATSO's Profitable Retail Review program here.

Schulte joined NATSO with nearly three decades of experience in truckstop and travel plaza operations and merchandising. Schulte has worked for: 

  • Love's Travel Stops and Country Stores,
  • HESS Corporation, 
  • Petro Stopping Centers, and
  • TSC Global/Barjan LLC.