Unhappy restaurant guest

As a restaurateur, there’s nothing worse than finding a negative review of your business online. It may be the first you’ve received all year, but it still cuts deep and the temptation to react whilst in this emotional state can turn a frying pan fire into a full-scale inferno.

There is no silver bullet or one-size-fits-all trick to dealing with negative restaurant reviews. Every one is unique and must be dealt with as such.

In this post, we’re going to look at some tried-and-tested methods for dealing with poor online restaurant reviews.

So, before you respond to Mr Angry Guest, grab a coffee and have a read through the below…

1. Read and read again

One of the most common mistakes you can make is to read a negative review too quickly. You may miss salient points or subtle nuances that hint at the reviewer’s main grievance.

Read the review several times. What on first glance seems to be a nose-blowing rant of epic proportions could be something far more innocuous. Consider the tone and how you can turn things around.

2. Perform some research

Unless you are intimately aware of the issue reported by the guest, you need to do some research. Make a note of when the review was left and any staff members mentioned by the reviewer.

Speak to the staff who were present on the day and get their feedback and opinion on the guest’s experience and behaviour. Their side of the story will help inform your response.

3. Look up the guest

Before responding, perform some additional research on the guest. Do they regularly review restaurants and, if so, what are they saying elsewhere? Is their tone consistent?

Try and work out if they’re local or have travelled to eat at your restaurant. Look at their Twitter and Facebook profiles; what kind of person do they appear to be?

The more you know about the guest, the more you can tailor your reply to strike just the right note for their personality.

4. Don’t get personal

Mr Angry Guest may not be your favourite person at this moment in time, but react to his negative review by slinging personal insults his way and you may as well shut up shop now. Even if the reviewer has resorted to playground-style antics, don’t react in the same way.

Be the bigger person and remember that it isn’t just the reviewer reading your response – it is open to the whole world.

5. Empathise

Empathy is one of our greatest assets as human beings, so use it when responding to negative restaurant reviews.

Make the reviewer feel special by explaining that they have immediately jumped to the top of your priorities for the day. Apologise for leaving them with a perception of poor service and explain that you too would feel the same in their shoes.

6. Invite them back

Surely, the last thing you want is this guy to return and cause yet more havoc, right? Wrong! Tell Mr Angry Guest that you’re very grateful for being given the opportunity to respond and that you’d like to do just that by inviting him back for a complimentary meal.

You know you can do better than this and, even if his comments were rather unfair and his recollection of the previous visit at odds with those of your staff, he’s still the customer and still – you guessed it – right. Ask him to return so that you can demonstrate what your restaurant is all about.

Do this, and you won’t receive a poor second review.


Research suggests that 67% of internet users are influenced by online reviews. Consumer opinion is king and there have never been so many channels available for airing one’s thoughts on a business.

Negative reviews are difficult to read, but they should absolutely be viewed as opportunities. Just remember the golden rules: 1) don’t react immediately, and, 2) refer to the tips above!

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