February 6, 2023

How Should Restaurants Tackle Negative Reviews?

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Key Takeaways

  1. Don’t ignore bad reviews. Instead, think of them as an opportunity to improve, grow, or at least display your brand’s professionalism.
  2. Don’t respond in anger or try to defend yourself. It’s important to remain calm, collected and objective.
  3. Aim for a high response rate, regardless of whether the review is positive or negative.
  4. Prompt your happy customers to leave more positive reviews, which will eventually counterbalance the effect of any bad reviews.
  5. Train your wait staff to address any issues in person, before they surface online.

Online reviews have changed the way restaurants operate their business. Having a bad review online is like having a brick thrown through your restaurant window — you’ll have to replace the glass and clean up the mess if you don’t want to lose business. Luckily, now there are ways of controlling bad online reviews.

We are part of a service industry that is always being reviewed in the most public forum — the Internet. No matter what business you’re in, your customers or clients will have something to say about you. Whether they’re happy with your product and service or they have a few negative comments, it’s important to manage your online reviews.

1. Don’t ignore bad reviews.

 When it comes to handling bad reviews, it’s important to remember that the internet is forever.

One of the biggest mistakes restaurants make when dealing with negative reviews is that they don’t respond at all. This can be very damaging to your business and reputation. If you choose not to respond, it will look like you have something to hide or that you don’t care about your customers’ opinions.

On the contrary, celebrate their feedback! Bad reviews are an opportunity for improvement. Thank them for taking the time out of their day to give you feedback, and ask what they liked about your business so that you can work on improving those attributes next time around.

2. Don’t respond in anger.

 Take a step back and look at the situation objectively. Is this review fair? Does it seem like the customer had a valid reason for their complaint? If so, try responding by apologizing for the experience and offering some form of compensation.

If there are indeed recurring issues with your restaurant, you should take them seriously and address them immediately. If a customer has an issue with the food or service, ask them what went wrong and how they would like you to fix it. For example, if someone says the steak was tough, just ask them if they’d like another one cooked differently next time or if they want to speak with a manager about getting some sort of discount on their meal. Try not to get defensive—just apologize sincerely and offer solutions that will satisfy both parties.

But even if you don’t find the review fair and objective, don’t get defensive! No matter how much someone may seem like they’re attacking your restaurant or serving staff, do not take things personally — it’s just one person’s opinion at the end of the day. Any angry emotions will only make matters worse and make people less likely to visit again in the future.

3. Aim for a high response rate.

Respond quickly—this shows customers that you care about them and their opinion. In general, we recommend a 24 hour response window.

For standard responses, try saying something like: “Thank you for reaching out! We’re sorry about this experience.” Then offer some kind of resolution if possible (for example: “We’d love to come by and see if there’s anything we can do to improve”). Then just leave it at that. No need to get into a back-and-forth debate with someone who has already made up their mind about your restaurant.

4. Get more positive reviews.

While you can’t control when someone leaves a negative review online, you can always do your best to encourage happy customers to leave positive reviews on social media, Google, Yelp or other review platforms. This way, you can counterbalance the negative reviews and improve your overall rating.

There are a few ways to prompt people to leave positive reviews. The easiest way is done through automation, where when you receive direct, private feedback using a tool like Tattle, automated follow-up emails will go out to customers based on their satisfaction level. This way, you can automatically prompt your happy customers to leave positive online reviews, or send apology notes to dissatisfed customers.

This is truly killing two birds with one stone. On the one hand, you get more positive reviews; on the other hand, you’re intercepting negative reviews with a private channel like Tattle before they ever surface online.

5. Train your staff to handle customer feedback in store.

Sometimes it’s even better when your staff can address any customer issues in person. Make sure your staff is trained on how to handle positive feedback and negative feedback from customers. They should be able to recognize when someone has a complaint and address it quickly so that the customer doesn’t get upset or leave your restaurant unhappy.

This is also a great opportunity for the servers to ask guests to leave a review while they’re still at your restaurants. One thing to note here is to make sure you have an easy way for customers to submit their feedback. QR codes that direct people to your review sites is one popular way to make the task easier for the guests. Alternatively, you can use an automatic feedback management platform like Tattle that can send survey emails 90 minutes after a transaction through an integration with your ordering system. 


Most of the time, you can minimize the possibility of getting bad reviews by providing a good service. But let’s face it, across multiple locations, dayparts and rotating wait staff, it’s nearly impossible to constantly maintain a level of perfection. Inevitably, there will be times when negative reviews surface online.

The key to handling bad reviews is to remain calm and collected, and not to stay quiet about it. Address the reviewer’s concerns and keep them updated on what happens to their issue. Let this be an opportunity for your business to grow and show your level of professionalism online. If you consistently deliver a high standard of food quality and service, over time the negative reviews’ effect will diminish. You can always win back customers and online readers by showing that you are willing to make things right and that you actually care about their experience.

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