How To Handle Bad Restaurant Reviews From Unhappy Customers

What to Do When Customers Give a Bad Restaurant Review

No matter how good your restaurant is, you cannot avoid a bad restaurant review. Sooner or later it happens; even to the best of us.  Nowadays, Googling a place before dining out is the norm. Not even the friendly neighbourhood cafe is spared. The restaurant industry is the most googled industry by consumers on mobile devices. This, however, also means that anyone with internet access can go online and write restaurant reviews and comments both good and bad.

Furthermore, thousands of your potential customers can read them, in turn, hurting the business in case a customer gives a bad restaurant review. As a restaurant owner, although you have limited control over what is being said about your restaurant online, you can certainly take the measures to do some damage control.

As for how to deal with negative restaurant reviews, you will not just have to train your staff to take the review but also be able to handle the criticism. What is more is that in today’s day and age, these negative reviews regarding your restaurant may not just be on your feedback forms but online on sites such as Zomato and Swiggy as well. Thus, not only do you need to understand how to deal with a bad restaurant review on the face of the customer but virtually as well where there will be a lot more customers watching how you deal with the review.

How to Deal with a Bad Restaurant Review

Moderating and responding to restaurant reviews is an essential part of online reputation management of your restaurant. To respond to negative customer feedback, keep these pointers in mind:-

  • Stay Calm: Never lose your composure even if you do not agree to the review, instead try to understand the customer’s point of view.
  • Respond Quickly: Be quick to respond to any complaint that the customer has made.
  • Encourage Positive Reviews: Don’t just respond to negative feedbacks but thank the positive ones as well.
  • Use Instant Feedback Channels: Get to a customer who has given a bad review online instantly or else the matter will escalate beyond control. For that, ensure that you have instant feedback channels in place.
  • Reply in the Public Domain: For any negative review posted online or in any other public domain, revert at that platform itself.
  • Offer Incentives: Do not lose customers over a negative restaurant review, instead offer incentives, like a complimentary dessert so that they want to give you a second chance.
  • Moderate Comments: Though this is not something you must follow as a strategy, for a short-term lapse you can consider moderating comments.
  • Be Proactive with Your Customers: Talk to your customers and encourage them to give you feedback, positive or negative. Not only will it tell you about your performance but also keep negative restaurant reviews posted online in check.

Here is how you can effectively use these tips to handle and respond to bad customer reviews for your restaurant.

1. Stay Calm

As a restaurant owner, a bad restaurant review can be unsettling. Your instinct may make you jump the gun and tell them off. However, one bad review isn’t the end of the world. After all, why would people keep coming back if there weren’t any satisfied customers? Rather than being upset, take steps to restore your restaurant’s reputation. If you find that the person is merely someone trolling, just delete the post. But if it is a valid point, then apologize, take ownership and explain what happened.

How to deal with bad restaurant review

2. Respond Quickly

Whether negative feedback comes through email, social media, telephone or in-person, it is extremely important to respond quickly. This gives the impression that you sincerely care and that they are being heard. A good rule to follow is to reply within 24-48 hours of receiving the feedback.

3. Encourage Positive Reviews

People are more likely to post a bad restaurant review as compared to a good one. Urge your regular patrons and satisfied diners to share their positive feedback online. And thank them for taking the time out to write. Encourage your customers to post positive feedback on restaurant review sites.

4. Get Instant Feedback Channels in Place

Customers generally publish negative reviews online when they have no other way to voice the problem. Get a feedback channel in place to curb the bad restaurant review online.  Train your staff to ask customers about their experience and let you know what they like and dislike or have a feedback form given after a meal. People will post an online review very rarely after they have already made their opinions known in person.

You can use a feedback management app to get detailed feedback on customer experience and also receive item wise reporting of each dish served. In this manner, you not only prevent the customer from posting a nasty review online, but you also get the insight which dish is not performing well among the customers. Use this information when you’re redesigning your menu.

Get Instant Feedback Channels in Place to avoid a bad restaurant review

5. Reply In the Public Domain

When you have a bad review or comment that could potentially harm your business, such as false or misleading information, reply in such a way that it is accessible to the public. For example, someone stating that your food has MSG can drive away health-conscious people, hence, set the record straight with a public reply to the review.

6. Offer an Incentive

A good strategy to follow to retarget customers who have had a bad experience is to offer an incentive. This should not be done to get them to change their review or revise their rating, but to change their perception and get them to revisit the restaurant. The incentive can be a discount or a free appetizer, or simply a code to identify them as a customer with concern.

7. Moderate Comments

Websites, blog sites, Facebook pages and certain review portals like Zomato, allow owners to moderate comments before publishing them. If you have the time to be proactive on social media and have a good strategy to handle negative feedback, there’s no need to disable comments. But if you can’t constantly monitor your pages, it may be wise to disable comments so you can avoid criticism from piling up and going unanswered.

8. Be Proactive with your Customers

Many times, people review a restaurant unfavourably when they feel the service was poor or that the food wasn’t as good as expected. Make sure you approach customers and ask them how their meal was and offer a new dish if they seem unsatisfied. Ensure that customers leave your restaurant happy to minimize bad reviews and encourage repeat business.

Good or bad, restaurant reviews are an opportunity to learn, grow and develop.  They also give you deep insights about your business and help you understand what your customers like or dislike about your restaurant.

A negative review can be seen as the much-needed sign to evaluate your business. While a good review highlights your strengths – you know your chef is doing a good job, and your servers are extraordinary, a negative review should propel you to take a step back and do some self-introspection. People may tend to blow things out of proportion, but that doesn’t mean you should dismiss it. Instead, carefully consider what was said. Maybe the restaurant floor was not impeccably clean, the service was not up to the mark, or the food served indeed contained a foreign element. Accept the feedback and make genuine efforts to improve.

Nitin pal Singh, Cook and Bake Academy on negative customer reviews in a restaurant

Keep a positive attitude and handle what comes your way with tact and poise. It will speak volumes about your restaurant – more than words ever could.

Rating: 4.3/5. From 6 votes.
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Nikunj is the Communications Lead at Restroworks, a global leader in cloud-based technology platforms. In his role, he oversees global marketing and branding initiatives for Restroworks across APAC, the Middle East, and the US.


  1. Very instructive, thank you
    This is my first interaction with you. I am now planning a small resturante and bar

  2. Amazing tips here. it is important to take negative reviews seriously. Especially on the internet. Offering incentives or we can say compensate is a good idea but the reason should be genuine otherwise customers can misuse this.

  3. Great write-up. I am sure going to implement it. It is one of the best articles I have read. Great tips from you. keep doing a great job.

  4. Thank you so much for this post, I am facing this problem for the last 2 months it might be more helpful for me, sometimes I also fired on my customer because of his behavior but from your article, I know what to do thank you for this extraordinary article.


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