How to deal with a negative online review

By: Grant King, HospitalityHub Writer
28 October, 2016

It’s enough to make you cry. There you are slaving day and night to build a popular, profitable business and some stranger writes a few harsh words that can undo everything. And sadly it’s true.

Gone are the days when restaurant critics were the only customers to fear; anyone can now play judge and jury with your food, service and ambience. And anyone can undermine all your hard work and do lasting damage. So how do you deal with a negative online critique?

Take bad reviews seriously

Let’s face it; the kinds of people who take the time to publicly quibble about your restaurant may not be the sort of customers you want back. But their quibble won’t go away no matter how petty or suspiciously motivated it may be. On the other hand, a genuinely bad experience can send even the mildest customer into an online offensive. Either way, you have a problem on your hands.

Your prospects believe online reviews

If you’re looking for advice on a restaurant, who better to trust than a past customer? And whether you like it not, that’s who your prospects are trusting; an independent, supposedly unbiased diner review is nowadays good enough for most. And if your restaurant has bad reviews associated with it, you’ll lose customers unless you do something positive about it.

Act fast

Act fast, but stay calm. Take the time to cool off if you have to; the last thing you want is a kneejerk reaction that lands more flies in your soup. Research the criticism thoroughly. Talk to all staff involved and get their side of the story. Once you have all the facts, decide on your response, if you respond at all.

Review the review

If the bad review is a vitriolic rant bordering on the crazy side, you may be wise to ignore it; others will see that too, especially if it’s by a serial complainer. You can also have it removed if it contravenes any site rules. If, however, there is a valid complaint, there is a valid reason to respond.  

Be polite and to the point

Stay professional and face the issue head on with an online apology (if necessary) and a plan to rectify the situation. If it makes sense, offer the writer of the bad review a free meal or some other relevant sweetener. Whatever you do create a friendly public dialogue with the reviewer that portrays you as responsible and courteous. You can, of course, respond privately if there is any chance of inflaming the issue further in a public arena. Whatever you do be respectful of the complaint.