Three Types of Bad Reviews and How to Respond to Them

Bad reviews can come from anywhere and stay on the internet for thousands of potential customers to see. 

Some reviews point out small, one-off incidents and others touch on systematic problems. To help ease some of the frustration that follows receiving a negative review, look at it this way. All negative reviews hold valuable information about how your restaurant can improve.

Why Respond to Bad Reviews?

Not responding to negative reviews tells potential customers that you don't care about your reputation and your customers. Acknowledge peccadillos both large and small and thank the customer for their feedback. This shows that you have class and a willingness to improve and respect the customer's time. Mitigate damage to your reputation by responding to reviews with humility and gratitude.

What if You Disagree with the Review?

Sometimes a negative review comes completely out of left-field. It might seem too picky, unfair, or fake. You can petition to have reviews that violate community guidelines expunged. Visit the “help” section of the review site in question to learn more about how to remove these types of reviews. Don’t respond to these them until you’ve learned whether the site will remove the review.

How to Craft an Appropriate Response

As a rule of thumb, the longer or more heated the negative review, the more effort you should put into damage control. Short, one-to-two sentence reviews likely stem from a small problem that will need little effort to address. Long reviews that cover several paragraphs may need more attention.

We’ve sorted negative reviews by length and "heat" of their content into the following categories: mild, medium, and spicy. Here are some examples of negative reviews in each category and how to respond to them.

Mild Reviews

A mild review is short and between one-to-three sentences. Mild reviews tend to complain about issues outside of your control, like the weather, long wait times, or slow food delivery. These reviews do little damage to your restaurant and are the simplest to respond to.

Start by using the reviewer’s name and apologize. Include contact information so the reviewer can get in touch with management if they would like to follow up. An explanation about why the problem was unpreventable can help deter similar complaints in the future.

Example: “The wait for a table was super long. We waited almost 45 minutes before deciding to find another place to eat.”

Response: “Hey [customer name], thank you for your feedback. We’re sorry to hear about your negative experience. Like many restaurants, staff shortages might mean experiencing longer-than-usual wait times. Call us before your next visit and our staff will let you know what wait times are looking like. Thanks again and have a great day!”

Medium reviews

Preventable disturbances like poor service can elicit medium reviews. More heated than mild reviews, medium reviews need direct follow-up from management. 

With medium reviews, a simple apology won’t suffice. Respond to the reviewer after you've resolved the matter. Show that you’ve taken direct action to address the complaint. This will assure the reviewer and prospective customers that the issue was one-and-done. When an issue is systemic, medium reviews tend to add up and tank ratings.

Invite the review writer to contact you if they have any more questions or if you want more information about their experience.

Example: “The food was great, but the management was appalling. The manager reprimanded her staff in front of customers, making everyone feel uncomfortable. We’d like to go back again for the food, but we’re unsure if the issue will be resolved.”

Response: “Hey [customer name], thank you for letting us know about your experience. At [restaurant name], we have a zero tolerance policy for staff harassment. We would like to take direct action to address the issue as soon as possible and your feedback would be much appreciated. Please contact us. Thanks so much, and have a great day!”

Spicy Reviews

You know a spicy review when you see one. Unlike mild and medium reviews, spicy reviews tend to cover a laundry list of complaints. These could stem from poor weather to systemic problems at your restaurant. How you handle spicy reviews says a lot about your restaurant to potential customers. 

Start by investigating each preventable complaint and see what needs to change. Afterwards, make amends with the customer who brought them to your attention. Thank them by name and offer your contact information. If they respond, send them a custom gift card with a friendly message. This will encourage the customer to come back and see how you've implemented changes. 

Example: “If I could give zero stars I would! I had a birthday party reserved for tonight for my 12-year-old son – they called me today, CANCELING MY RESERVATION. I'm left with a 12 year old who's birthday has been ruined and a whole party I have to disappoint! Plus, it’s raining! What else am I supposed to do with these kids? 

Response: “Hey [customer name]! Thank you so much for letting us know and we’re so sorry about your poor experience. Canceling a reservation so abruptly is rare, and I would be interested to learn more about your experience so we can make sure it doesn’t happen again. Please send me an email or call so we can get the ball rolling to correct this. Thank you.!”

Dealing with Bad Reviews is Good Business

Bad reviews can make many business owners want to throw their computers in a trash can. However, bad reviews that point to preventable issues hold valuable data about how your restaurant can improve. Dealing with reviews that cover non preventable issues can also show potential customers that you have class. Treat all reviews with the same levels of customer service you provide in your restaurant, and they will leave a positive impression on your business.  

Assign a staff member to check reviews daily. Don’t forget to respond to positive reviews as well! A simple “thank you” and short message shows potential customers that you pay attention to the good as often as the bad.

While bad reviews are inevitable, how you handle them is up to you. Responding doesn’t always guarantee a corrected response. But it will show other customers that you always aim to do your best.