How to handle negative reviews

May 30, 2017 • 8 minutes

Kate Palanchuk
Kate Palanchuk
Content Marketer at Poster POS. Kate digs deep into the layers of new technologies and trends in the restaurant business to provide the best content for the blog readers.

If your location is popular and you have pages in social networks, a profile in TripAdvisor, Yelp, Google MyBusiness and similar resources, you're bound to have reviews and comments. Working proactively with reviews your restaurant gets on different online platforms can turn one of the best restaurant marketing ideas that you decided to implement. Unfortunately, not all of them will be flattering, but the unpleasant ones need your prompt attention.

Negative feedback can be not only on social networks, so we'll tell you about the other sources of «hooks» from disgruntled guests and competitors. Let's look how you should react and respond to them.

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Be sure to visit city portals and websites with various ratings and writers' reviews. They may suggest adding you to a selection of interesting locations, occasionally without your permission. It's great to find yourself among the top restaurants or bars with your cuisine or concept, but it's advisable to be aware of when this happens. It shouldn't be a surprise to you.

If you promote a location on various thematic portals and restaurant sites or simply on poster sites in a Where to Go section, don't forget to browse those publications and respond to comments. The article may be published weeks after your interview or press release, by which time you might not remember that someone had approached you. A restaurateur always has plenty to take care of, so be sure to mark those dates and check publications. Usually the first few days the topic will be relevant, with live commentaries and reviews. Later, you can simply subscribe to this topic to see new reviews or add it to your favorites if there is no such option. Make it a rule to Google-search the name of your brand or location once a week and filter out the view of publications by date.

Where the negative reviews come from

Even the most successful locations get negative reviews. If a guest doesn't like something, he or she is almost certain to write about it in your page on Facebook or leave a stinging comment on restaurant Instagram. However, only a few guests may leave positive reviews. Those may be your frequents or participants of your restaurant loyalty programs. After all, if everything is good, why bother? That's a problem.

Even occasional negative reviews will stand out among the positive comments. They can influence a potential visitor's decision to go to your place or not. To avoid this, you should encourage your guests to leave positive feedback and comments. Generally, they won't want to write something. Whether due to modesty or forgetfulness, a lack of time and just laziness, all this can be solved by motivation. Create a reward for a good review. It could be a coupon, a discount, participation in a drawing, free coffee or dessert. Check if the POS system for restaurants you use allows you to manage such programs conveniently.

If a disgruntled customer comes to your page and sees only negative reviews, it's further proof that the customer is right and that other people didn't like the place, either.

Conclusion: Be sure the positive comments are authentic. Genuine positivity will prevail.

Fake reviews don't solve this problem, because they're immediately revealed. It's better to motivate real clients than to see 100 identical comments from people in other cities and even other countries. This can only cause more negativity in your social network. The removal of unwanted comments isn't an option, either. We'll talk about that below.

Reputation management in social networks

Negative reviews can be irritating and upsetting. It doesn't matter whether you're just starting your business or already have enough experience in restaurant work. However, it's worth remembering that you can always turn them into an excellent tool to attract new loyal visitors.

Customer care is one of the most important ingredients in loyalty to a location. The ability to respond competently to reviews will help you create lasting loyalty.

How to work with negative reviews?

1. Respond quickly! You can like a positive comment even a day later, but you must not miss a negative review or, even worse, a question or a service claim. It's simply unacceptable to fail in that regard. So, it's always best to answer within 24 hours.

2. Don't ignore negative reviews. You might prefer to close your eyes and imagine there is no negative feedback, but that won't get rid of it. You should offer a solution to the problem in order to show that you can do something to help.

3. Continuously monitor your pages on the social networks so that you can quickly take control of a nasty situation before it's too late. Make it a habit to regularly review the pages. That way, you can spot the negative reviews and grasp the opinions of your audience and regular customers.

4. Don't argue with or insult your customers. Use only politeness and tactfulness. Even if you have a friendly communication style in a cafe, without a polite form of address, you should never forget to show the proper attitude to your clients.

5. Don't remove the negative comments or reviews. If so, you'll only show that you're willing to ignore your customers' opinions, and most likely it will bring an extra portion of new negative comments. The only exception might be irrelevant and otherwise useless posts, obvious trolling and spam.

Let's talk about trolling: If it seems to you that some negative feedback is written only for the purpose of annoying you or someone on the staff, it's better to leave it unanswered. First, be sure to ask your staff and find out the facts. Perhaps you're mistaken and the complaints aren't groundless.

Attempts to resolve the conflict or grasp the essence of the claim will make it even worse, because such people aren't interested in real solutions to their problems. If you have an active audience, they'll answer to provocative comments and get into disputes. Later, you can remove all the discussion in the event of a conflict or, vice versa, use it as a PR move.

6. Don't avoid publicity. Everybody makes mistakes, and anything can happen, including poor customer service, no free tables, a wrong order, etc. These things can't be avoided. So, in any case, you, your marketer or PR manager will have to respond via the social networks. You should take full responsibility and respond to any negative feedback you get. Public recognition helps other visitors understand that you're ready to take responsibility. Make it clear that you value their opinion and the time spent at your establishment.

Responding to negative feedback

Guests don't write negative comments without reason. At least, they need to find your location on a social network and justify their claims in a comment or message. If they decide to write something negative, it means they really don't like something and want to be heard.

What you should do when answering a negative review:

Emphasize the fact that you appreciate the feedback.

Apologize and suggest a solution. An apology is an integral part of a proper answer.

Address the customer by name. Everyone likes to be addressed personally, even on a social network, so you won't have any problem in that regard. However, in comments to articles and ratings, you'll have to think carefully.

Report a solution to the problem, particularly if it's related to service and staff performance. People like to know that the necessary measures are being taken.

Consider all possible solutions to the problem and show how important the customer is to you.

Keep this in mind: Even if you respond to negative reviews quickly and politely, it has no effect if you don't do your best to resolve the issue.

Did you fail to fix the problem right away? Offer the client a chance to discuss it through personal correspondence or by phone. This will provide an opportunity to study the conflict in detail and find the most effective solution.


Be prepared to face negative reviews even if you keep the high plank of quality service and offer a delicious menu. There is always a possibility that someone won’t be completely happy. As the owner, you're responsible for the work of your location and feedback from your guests, whether it's positive or negative. So, by accepting this as a fact and handling conflicts in an appropriate way, you'll earn respect. A constructive response to feedback will enhance your reputation and that of your business.

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