How to handle a negative review

Posted on 03 june 2018

In modern hospitality, a bad review can cause the downfall of a small business.

Review sites such as Yelp and Zomato are the first point of call for many would-be customers looking to rate a restaurant before booking. So, how does your venue measure up?

If you've copped a negative review, don't worry - you're not alone.

Sadly, even if you go above and beyond to keep your customers happy, there will always be one dissatisfied customer who will leave you a bad review: that is inevitable. And whilst you can’t change that, you can work on your response.

So, here are our top five tips to handling a negative review.

Decide to keep or delete

Depending on where the review was left, you may have the ability to delete the comment. If it was left on your social media pages, you are able to erase their comment from your wall, image, or discussion thread. However, if it was left on a central review site such as Zomato, there isn’t much you can do.

If you do have the ability to delete the comment, think about it first. Deleting a negative review can often invite more online abuse from the troll, particularly mentioning that you deleted their comment. Most people just want to be heard and acknowledged - not deleted.

However, if the comment uses obscene language or is a downright lie, delete it from your social pages immediately - there is nothing to be gained keeping it there.

Contact the person

A bad review means a bad experience at your venue. And a bad experience at your venue usually means a fault in your product or service. So, contact the reviewer and ask for more information. What did they eat? Who served them? How could you improve your service?

If the reviewer refuses to speak with you, chances are they are on online troll simply looking for attention. These people should be ignored - if they were serious about their bad review, it would be in their interests to discuss it further with you.

If speaking with the reviewer reveals that your venue did indeed make a mistake, it’s up to you if you wish to reimburse them or not. Some venues offer a discounted or free meal, whilst others will refund their money. The choice is yours.

Discuss with your team

‘Constructive criticism’ is not just corporate mumbo-jumbo: there is a real lesson in every mistake. Sit down with your team, and talk through the negative review. If there was a genuine incident, chances are that someone will know about it and be able to shed more light on the situation.

Talking it through with your team also gives them the chance to offer their advice on how to handle the review. As your crew on the ground, they will often have great suggestions on how to improve on your product or service, ones that you might not have considered.

Create an action plan

After speaking with your staff, work with your management team (depending on the size of your venue) to formulate an action plan that will hopefully prevent the situation from happening again.

For example, if the complaint was in regards to the cleanliness of your venue, review your cleaning schedule. Or, if the food was substandard, introduce new cross checks in the kitchen before serving.

Be practical in your action plan - creating whole new systems because of one bad review isn’t always economical, but taking extra care is.

Move on

This is the biggest tip when dealing with a negative review: move on! Ignoring the hordes of happy customers to focus on the one unhappy one will create a bad vibe within your venue to both staff and customers.

You can’t please everyone, all the time. There will always be that one customer who does not like the food, or the service, or the noise, or the music. Everyone has different tastes and desires, and whilst most will just make the decision not to return, others feel compelled to complain. It’s just the way it is. But resolve yourself to accept the criticism, and move on.

Online reviews are extremely important to the modern hospitality business, so encourage your regulars to jump online and leave you a great review! It will work to moderate the negative ones that you may receive.

And remember, always take a review with a pinch of salt. Only you can really know your business.