How to Handle Negative Reviews for Your Restaurant

Negative reviews can jeopardize your restaurant’s reputation. When properly handled, these negative reviews are opportunities to become a better restaurateur.

6 Effective Ways to Turn Negative Reviews into Positive Experiences

Many consider food an art form, that’s why it’s called culinary arts. And if the one thing all art forms have in common is that they are judged.When it comes to restaurants, people don’t judge the food alone, but also the place and service.

In the restaurant industry, culinary arts is a business—a business that involves providing prompt service, an ambience, and most importantly, delicious food. As a restaurateur, you do your best to nail these down  to make a memorable dining experience. Now and then, however, a dissatisfied customer (or food critic) gives a bad review.

As renowned celebrity chef and restaurateur, Gordon Ramsay has said, “Don’t take it personally, just take it seriously.”  Over the years, Gordon Ramsay has faced his fair share of negative reviews. Instead of being defeated, he considered their feedback, acted on them, and refined his restaurants until he achieved his current level of success.

The key to being a successful restaurateur is learning how to turn an unhappy customer into one of your biggest advocates. In this article, we’ll talk about the importance of bad reviews, why they matter, and give some easy steps you can take to prevent them.


What is the importance of a negative review?

It’s easy to assume that negative reviews are an insult to your ability to manage a restaurant. But,  that’s not necessarily the case. Anything can cause a bad review, from an annoyed server to a mistake in the kitchen. 

Instead of reacting defensively, you can use negative reviews as a tool to identify which aspects of your restaurant need change or improvement.

It’s important to note that not all negative reviews are expressed the same way. If a negative review is done constructively, the person’s insight is helpful and is expressed with compassion. If a negative review is done destructively, the person might just be the type who wants to complain.

Writing a review on a typewriter

Regardless of why your guest left a negative review, you should read them and look for the helpful insights within them. The most important thing when dealing with negative reviews is to have the right attitude.

At the end of the day, reviews are an important part of your business. Others’ opinions have a strong sway in the minds of your future guests. The stats prove it:

The bottom line is that reviews have a major influence on how attractive restaurants are for diners. The better a restaurant is rated, the more successful it will likely be.


A restaurant is full of happy diners


How to handle a negative review:

The best reaction is a proactive one. Take control of the situation instead of letting the situation take control of you. As we said already, having the right attitude is important when it comes to dealing with negative feedback. 

Here’s a list of tips you can consider to properly handle negative feedback:


1. Read the review with an open mind.

Take the feedback with an open mind and humility. Before dismissing it, check how much truth there is in their feedback. Think back to your restaurant and see if there is room for improvement or if it was just a misunderstanding with this particular customer.

Discern whether the feedback is of any value. Sometimes, people could just be having an off day, and that influences how they react to things. If it’s an online review, you can’t read their body language. Instead, try asking your staff if they interacted with that particular customer to get a clearer picture of what happened. Regardless of how valid their complaints are, you should always try your best to address their concerns.

A thorough review of customer feedback allows you to see inconsistencies in your service, and decide if general changes and improvements are necessary.


2. Respond quickly, but don’t be hasty.

A prompt response shows you’re quick to take action to improve the experience your restaurant provides. Ideally, you should respond within 24 to 48 hours after receiving a negative review. A quick but thoughtful response will also show you’re actively listening and taking in feedback from your customers.

Think thoroughly of what you’ll say for the best response. Something to keep in mind is your restaurant’s foundations, such as mission vision, values, and brand identity. Ideally, your reply should be aligned with your restaurant’s foundations. You always want to address negative reviews in a way that holds true to your restaurant.


3. Don’t be emotional, be professional.

People who write negative reviews may express their opinions in an insulting and hurtful manner. When responding, do not be emotional. You must understand that negative reviews come with the territory of running a restaurant.

Be professional. Put the customer first, empathize with them, and be thankful for their feedback. If you apologize and show your willingness to improve their experience, most likely, you’ll be met with a positive attitude. Being professional paves the way for a better exchange and improves the chances of them coming back to your restaurant to try again. 


Writing down a list

4. Offer them a solution.

Apart from taking in feedback, you must act on it. Offer a real, tangible solution to address the negative review. You can do this by inviting the dissatisfied customer back to show them how you’re addressing their feedback. 

Giving them a new dining experience gives you  an opportunity to change their mind and give your restaurant a second chance. 


5. Be transparent with your staff.

Everyone in your restaurant  fulfills different responsibilities, but even so, your staff members are a team. By that, we mean that they depend  on one another. Be transparent with your whole team about all the reviews, so they can improve their roles in the customer’s experience.  

If the review is caused by one team member specifically, it might be worth pulling them aside to address the issue privately. If it’s a problem caused by multiple people, then bringing it up at a team meeting is more appropriate. 


6. Always be positive.

Whether it’s responding to a negative review or communicating with your staff, always be positive. By reacting negatively, the situation only escalates and can only make it worse. Remember: A positive attitude is vital if you want a positive outcome.

By keeping these 6 tips in mind, you can properly handle negative reviews and make the most out of them and improve your restaurant services. 


Bouncing Back from Negative Feedback

It may be hard to stomach, but negative reviews are a hurdle that most—if not all—restaurants will have to deal with. Instead of seeing them as an insult, see them as a learning opportunity.  Although negative, these reviews provide feedback  that you can use for growth and betterment. 

By constantly integrating their feedback and improving your policies, your restaurant will only get better. Ultimately, that is what leads to more success.


Looking for ways to further improve and grow your restaurant business? Contact us today, and let’s work together to reach your goals!