Real Responses to Unexpected Reviews

Negative reviews happen to everyone, but sometimes you may encounter one that is so unusual that it can be hard to know how to respond. Get inspired by owner responses to a few unexpected reviews.

You may get a review that is unusual, surprising, or maybe not quite how you remember the story. While TripAdvisor won't be able to fact check elements of a review that describe that person's experience, such as what they ate, or which table they were seated at, you can respond to the review and leave diners with a positive feeling about your restaurant's hospitality.

It can be tricky to respond to reviews like these — here are some examples of real unexpected reviews and how owners actually responded to them.

Compromised Cooking

A report of food poisoning can be one of the scariest reviews you can get on TripAdvisor. Food-related illnesses are a serious issue. Whether or not you agree with what the reviewer said, it’s your responsibility as an owner to respond — if not for the reviewer, then for your business. Responding is a great way to assuage the fears of future diners considering your restaurant.

When we got back to our hotel, I felt a bit odd but put it down to eating a big meal. Both my husband and I woke up at 3-4am with food poisoning, which can only be because of our meal at your restaurant. We then went on to be ill for 6 or 7 days and had to visit the doctor as it wasn't getting any better. We hardly left our hotel room. What a great way to spoil our honeymoon!!!

Here is how the restaurant responded:

What a dreadful experience! I am very sorry about what happened to you and your husband. I have instituted policies to attempt to guard against such problems. The kitchen is open to viewing by our patrons and is spotlessly clean.Staff are required to wear surgical gloves when handling food and are required to wash their hands before commencing their shifts and after their breaks. Fresh food is bought daily from the market, frozen items are never refrozen, and prepared food is disposed of if not used on the day it is prepared.

I want to do my best to get to the bottom of what happened and I would be grateful if you could let me know which date you visited, whether it was for lunch or dinner, and what you both ordered and ate. Once I have the above information, I will review what happened and see what can be done to improve our procedures. I again repeat how sorry I am for your dreadful experience. I will be reviewing all our policies in an endeavor to work out what went wrong and ensure that it doesn’t occur in the future.

Notice how the owner not only validates the review but also highlights the elements of his restaurant that he feels best shows how they take precautions and preventive actions. The owner also asks for further information in order to “get to the bottom” of exactly what happened, emphasizing his investment in the issue. Expressing that the issue has been addressed is a great way to ease any concerns about a repeat – an invaluable thing to show other guests who may be reading the review.

The Poorly Behaved Guest

The health and safety of your staff and guests should always be one of your top priorities, but sometimes it may be hard to know what decision to make, especially when it involves responding to the bad behavior of a customer. Take the following review for example:

The food was good, and for the most part the service was good too, until a very drunk, loud customer started cursing, making an ear piercing call whistle and obnoxiously banging his hand on the table. As the small space is open to the kitchen, I’m sure the staff could clearly hear him. They didn’t ask him to lower his voice, or to at least stop cursing or whistling for their attention, even after the very noticeable discomfort of other patrons. We asked if they could do something about the particular situation but nothing was done; instead, they kept feeding him drinks. Our server offered a shabby apology and nothing else. To say the least, we are NOT visiting again.

In a situation like the one above, whatever decision the owner could have made would have resulted in at least one person being upset. Look at how he handled the disturbing review:

Thank you for your review. The waiters came to me and told me what was happening and the chef and I talked to him subtly because we did not want to aggravate the situation. We sincerely apologize for your bad experience and hope you reconsider visiting us again. This was an extraordinary situation that had never happened before in our short time of operation (less than one year at that time). As we always strive for delivering the best service, we naturally learn from past experiences, and I have already ordered a sign to put on the front door to warn customers about our policy regarding what we consider inappropriate behavior and about our right to ask somebody to leave the restaurant because of bad behavior.

The owner starts off by thanking the reviewer for the feedback, then mentions that he attempted to get involved by “talk[ing] to him subtly”, which assures the reviewer and anyone reading the response that he is actively aware of what goes on in his restaurant and acts when appropriate. He follows with a comment about how unusual that situation is in his restaurant – a good way to ease the fear of this occurrence by current and future guests. The owner’s response shows that he is a responsible owner that has taken this experience to heart, learned from it, and is taking action to prevent future mishaps by creating a new policy.

Stroller Struggles

Your restaurant may bring in all types of guests — families, couples, tourists, locals — and it can be challenging to juggle every kind of person at your restaurant. Whether or not your restaurant is "family friendly," you may be dealing with guests with very young children. Remember that these guests don’t want to be an inconvenience, but sometimes, incidents happen, as you can see in this example:

Dined for lunch on 5pm, good meal but not so good service. Requested table with space for a stroller, we arrived and were seated waiting for our friend and her baby. Friend arrived with stroller and straight away staff came over and said we needed a high chair as we were blocking a passageway, but the baby was 2 months old and not able to sit at a high chair - she’s too little. We said no and then had to get all belongings together to be moved to another area, informed gentleman of our initial request by which he seemed shocked, did apologize but then didn't seem to care. Never felt so much of an inconvenience as we did today. Disappointed.

It's important if your restaurant is "family friendly" that you've trained your team on a plan for accommodating guests with families. But sometimes things happen. If you do get a review like this one, acknowledge the concern and show action like the response below:

Thank you for taking the time to review our restaurant. We are sorry to hear about your recent experience and can only apologize. Your comments have been passed to our management team who will be looking into the issue to ensure this does not happen in the future. With our restaurant being particularly busy throughout the week, our staff do their best to ensure they can accommodate all our guests without inconveniencing others. For over 25 years, all our restaurants have welcomed family members of all ages and strive to make suitable provisions for each family member where possible to ensure each of our customers has an enjoyable experience. We are sorry that on this occasion you felt that our staff did not deal with your request as you would have liked and we hope that this one occasion will not prevent you from returning to dine with us in the future.

The action in this response is saying that they have passed on the concern to their management team and are “looking into the issue.” This shows a genuine interest in their guests’ current and future dining experiences while reiterating the pride they have of their “family friendly” status.

While this response was an acceptable approach, we would encourage you to consider making your responses hospitable and as sincere as possible. Here is how we would tweak it:

Name, we are so very sorry to hear about your experience last week. We take great pride in being able to comfortably and safely seat all of our guests regardless of age. Unfortunately our performance fell short of your expectations and our personal standards when accommodating the needs of your friend and her stroller. We will absolutely look into this matter and properly train our team regarding infants and young children. Again we would like to apologize for the way our team handled this situation but we hope that you will come back so we can give you a true “Our Restaurant” experience.

Your professionalism showcases your good hospitality, so put your frustrations aside and consider this as an opportunity to show that you are invested in perfecting the guest experience at your restaurant. Remember that negative reviews happen, and that you are not alone. And while you can’t change the past, you can always impact the present with a strong response to a negative review.

Learn more about responding to negative reviews like these ones

Reviews and responses have been edited for length and clarity.

Autor publikacji:

Bailey Ottley

Bailey Ottley

Restaurant Marketing Enthusiast

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Learn more about responding to negative reviews like these ones

Ostatnia aktualizacja: 3 sierpnia 2019

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