Bad Reviews of Restaurants: Are They Always Bad News?

Marketing 11 minute read 13th December 2023

Negative reviews are always the first thing you hear about. Online reviews especially spread like wildfire; all it takes is one disgruntled customer, and BAM – there goes your reputation. It is easy to see why people treat bad reviews of restaurants a bit like fire when keeping this context in mind.

After all, why would you want to touch something burning and potentially dangerous? However, responding to all feedback from customers is an essential part of customer service. There’s even a phenomenon that shows that customers who complain have more significant potential to become your most loyal customers.

Let’s just say that one bad experience for a customer doesn’t mean lifetime hatred and your reputation entirely downhill. Actually, bad feedback can be better than positive reviews. Sounds crazy, right?

In this guide, we will teach you all there is to know about dealing with bad customer reviews. We will also give you an honest breakdown of why, sometimes, bad feedback is good feedback. Are you ready to begin a journey towards more satisfied customers? And attract more potential customers? Here’s what you need to know.

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Why Do People Leave Bad Reviews?

What about the actual psychology of why people leave bad reviews? We always learn about the psychology of customer loyalty, but learning about the opposite is equally vital. As we said, many people avoid the bad and focus on the good. But the major flaw with this is that you lose the opportunity to turn the bad into better. Learning about why people leave bad reviews gives you the chance to deal with it. And that doesn’t matter whether you are a small or large business.

Does that all make sense? Great. Let’s look at why you may notice people leaving your business with terrible reviews. These are the leading four reasons you could be hearing from disgruntled customers.

  • Your products disappointed them.

The number one reason customers complain is they are disappointed in products. For restaurants, this would specifically be for food or drink dishes. For instance, they could have a grievance with pricing, quality, cooking style, or portions.

  • Your customer service disappointed them.

Next up is customer service. You’ll likely get a complaint if your staff need to remember a dish or are snappy with customers. Customer service is a big deal in hospitality.

  • Your processing or wait times disappointed them.

Similarly, waiting times are a big deal and a common cause of restaurant complaints and bad reviews. To overcome this, reduce understaffing issues and carefully analyze your number of guests. The restaurant industry has a chronic worker shortage issue, so research this and tackle issues at the root.

  • They are having a bad day.

Lastly, it could be a “them” issue. There will always be one person who’s just had a bad day and wants a safe space to rant.

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The Value of Funny Bad Reviews of Restaurants

Of course, we know the value of understanding the root causes of bad reviews. And you now know precisely why people tend to leave bad reviews. Therefore, you’ve got the chance to tackle the issues at the root. But what about the value of funny bad reviews of restaurants?

The benefit of bad reviews is existing customers know they’re ridiculous. When people leave outlandish customer reviews, it can actually be hilarious. Moreover, it allows you to re-establish your professionalism with little pressure. Everyone knows it’s ridiculous, so you are set up for success.

These are some of the ‘best’ things that negative reviews can feature. If you spot these features, you’ll likely have a ‘funny bad review’.

  • Obscenity and bad language

If you can spot these, you are ahead of the game already. Publicly using obscene language immediately presents the other party as unreasonable. This means that all you need to do is respond politely to appear to be a truthful and better party. “Your waitress is a insert obscene insult of choice” or “Your service is absolutely crap” look outrageous to loyal customers.

  • Blaring mistakes

When a customer leaves a factually incorrect review, this is perfect. You can politely correct them, preferably referring them to the correct information online. Otherwise, other future customers will see the mistake as damaging to the legitimacy of their complaint.

Responding politely and positively when dealing with really outlandish negative reviews is critical. Always offer a solution, for instance, directing them to a website, inviting them to return, or apologizing for their experience. An example of such a review might be “There were no vegetarian food options and the menu choice was abysmal”. To which you can reply, “Ma’am, this is an Argentinian steak house, might I suggest the veggie cafe next door?”.

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How To Respond to Bad Reviews

We have already touched on this, but it is the most crucial stage – so we’ll give it its section. Knowing how to respond to bad reviews is essential. The good thing is that you can use a simple process and five-step plan to react ideally to negative reviews. You can find tons of templates online, from responding to emails to responding to Google reviews. But if you are in a rush, just follow these five steps.

  1. Read the review and take time to process it. This first step is vital. Never EVER respond to a review on impulse, especially as some review platforms don’t allow editing. The issue here is not what the customer said but how you use it to build your business reputation. Take time to cool off, reply thoughtfully, and evaluate your business’s role in the fallout.
  2. Speak to any relevant members of staff. If necessary, speak to relevant staff to get an accurate picture of what happened. This will help you reply more effectively.
  3. Craft a first draft response. Now is the time to write your first draft of your response. Get everything out there, and don’t worry too much about semantics – you’ll edit it later.
  4. Make sure that your response ticks these boxes. Now, edit and ensure that you are validating the reviewer’s emotions and recognizing the underlying cause. You should include a solution – as discussed earlier – whether that’s inviting them back or directing them to information online.
  5. Proofread and post. Finally, you should complete a final proofread and then post your response. Ensure it adheres to your business ethos, values, and image.

Final Thoughts: Will Your Restaurant Suffer or Benefit?

So, will your restaurant suffer or benefit from negative reviews? That is entirely up to you and how you respond. If you answer correctly, a bad review is the best thing ever happening to your business. Review responses are just an extension of marketing. In fact, some review responses have gone viral and received coverage from national and global press. In these cases, the reviews have made restaurant owners lots of money. You never know the value that your response could bring.

To achieve rewards like this, you must respond factually, professionally, and with a bit of corporate sass. Always keep the moral high ground, but at the same time, don’t be afraid to drop the facts.

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