Online Experts Weigh In: How to Respond to Negative Online Reviews

Online experts provide 8 actionable steps you can take to manage negative online reviews

Step 1: ask yourself if the review is valid

Most often than not, people leave negative reviews because they had a disappointing experience, however there are the cases that someone is just angry and has had a bad day and wants to take it out on you or people leave fake reviews. Before you make any move, make sure that the review is valid.

Step 2: ignore unsubstantiated reviews 

If you truly believe that someone has left an unsubstantiated review or a fake review it’s best to ignore it. Joe Goldstein, an SEO expert and director of operations at Contractor Calls  explains, “Customers shopping around for a place to eat won’t take it very seriously, and it’s faster to forget about it and bury it under a pile of good reviews.”

Step 3: don’t take it personal 

Restaurants owners and staff can often feel like their establishment is their baby. Most chefs and restaurant owners dedicate their lives to their craft, so it’s hard not to take it personal when someone has a bad experience or doesn’t like the food. It’s hard not to get emotional or upset, but try your best not to take it personal. Mistakes happen, nothing is always going to go perfect and person writing the review doesn’t know you and how hard you work to make your customers happy.

Step 4: wait 24 hours to respond

If you’re feeling really hurt, emotional or enraged about a particular review, Marcus Guiliano, owner of Aroma Thyme Bistro and restaurant consultant recommends waiting before you respond, ” Responding the moment a negative review comes across our email is probably the wrong time to fire back.” You want to respond to any review from a calm and collected mind space, so just give yourself some time to get there. Before you respond Guiliano recommends asking yourself this question, what is the outcome of responding, do I want them to come back in and give another shot and hopefully put a good review the second time or do want to prove to them that you are right and possibly have more reviews written from them on other platforms?

Step 5: make the guest feel heard 

Jason Feifer, the editor-in-chief of Entrepreneur magazine, explains in, The Importance of Making Sure Customers Feel Heard, “Customers want to be heard, perhaps more than they want anything else. Customer service is listening, but at scale.” People can get loud and aggressive when they fear they wont get heard.  So the best way to mitigate a guest’s fears or anger is through making sure that they feel heard and understood. That doesn’t mean you have to agree to apologize every time, it simply means you have to make them feel like you’re truly listening to them. Dustin Ferguson, founder of Nuance Nelly , a marketing agency that helps businesses  with their online presence, employs this strategy, When replying to a negative review for any restaurant I focus on trying to make the customer truly feel like their opinions will actually be heard and then I ensure them that fixes will come to resolve the issue. More often than not, they will go back and not only remove the bad review, but they will also becoming a raving fan and write about how great the business is for taking action. 

Step 6: give them a way to contact you

If a reviewer is particularly distraught and has a valid concern, give them a way to contact you so that you can hear about their experience and you can address the problem, Marcus Guiliano explains, ” I like to leave my phone number on personal message to them and have them call me. I can usually fix anything if I have a chance to talk to them.  I start the conversation out with,  I wouldn’t be in business if I did this on purpose.  Let me figure out how I can make this better. I’d like to listen to your whole experience. This will help me train my staff better.’ ”

Step 7: acknowledge your mistakes

Janet Gianetti is the co-founder of MrMealDelivery, a review site for meal delivery services, therefore she understands the review process both from the side of the business owner and the customer. From her experience of reading, reviewing and moderating online reviews she has a few insights, if the recipient of a bad review is a well-run and honest businesses that maybe had a communication/serving error one night of the week, then most often than not, that business strives for perfection and tries to learn from their mistakes. If that is the type of restaurant you want to run, then reach out to customer and find the most effective way to resolve the problem. By listening to the customer openly, you might find that they have very insightful ideas on how to improve your food or your operations, therefore try to acknowledge that there might have been a mistake- it’s the only way to get better.

Step 6: entice them to come back 

If you feel that your restaurant or staff had an off moment and you want to rectify it, you can offer something to the customer so that they can come back and get a better experience. When dealing with his client’s disappointed customers, Ferguson takes this approach: “In addition, getting them to come back in, often with a free meal on the house, it is on the business to actually implement the changes and go above and beyond in the future, especially when that customer comes back. More often than not, they will go back and not only remove the bad review, but they will also becoming a raving fan and write about how great the business is for taking action.”

Step 7: document your correspondence 

Since Gianatti and her team at Mr Meal Delivery have lots of experience moderating reviews, one of the biggest things they recommend is that you document the entire correspondence with a customer, showing that you are trying to resolve the issue in a constructive manner. If you’re tried to resolve the issue with no avail, then you can contact the review platform directly, providing screenshots of your efforts. “Since there are are so many fake reviews out there, if a business owner shows their efforts in resolving or addressing the review, we will review the case and sometimes end up removing unsubstantiated reviews in which business owners did their best to improve. The key is simple: try to do the right thing, document it, and then reach out directly to the platform that is publishing the reviews for some editorial assistance.”

Step 8: Learn From Your Mistakes 

If you take feedback seriously and you see that the diner made a good point, take the feedback as a way to improve your operations. Remember that your restaurant business is about progress, so make the necessary changes you need to make in order to progress and grow.

Our Contributors: 

Dustyn is the founder of Nuance Nelly, a marketing agency that helps businesses achieve omnipresence online to reach their ideal customers that aligns with their brand image.




website | twitter 

Joe Goldstein is the Director of SEO and Operations for Contractor Calls, an online marketing agency that works with contractors and home service companies from coast to coast





Janet is the globe-trotting foodie and Co-Founder of startup Mr. Meal Delivery, a review aggregator of local and national meal delivery services. When she’s not testing out various pre-made meals she can be found cooking, reading about cooking or eating



website | facebooktwitter instagram 


Chef Marcus Guiliano is an award-winning chef, green restaurateur & real food activist. Devoting his career to a whole food, whole life approach, Chef Marcus marries healthy food with ethically and socially responsible sustainable business practices. Marcus is a wine & craft beer expert specializing is small independent brands. Chef Marcus & Aroma Thyme has been featured on CNN, Dr OZ, New York Post, New York Times, TEDx Longdock, Best Chef’s America, Sierra Club Magazine, Huffington Post, International Wine Masters, Bottom Line Publications, Smithsonian (Online) and Organic Spa Magazine. The Colorado Dept of Agriculture stated, “Marcus Guiliano is the Willie Nelson of Farm to Table”. Recently, named Chef Marcus as one of The “5 Food Activists Helping To Make Big Changes.” Chef Marcus has launched activist/watchdog oriented sites including:, & the controversial

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

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