What to do About a Bad Customer Review Online

September 17, 2015 | blog | By Mike Sullivan


Every restaurant owner has experienced it at least once – a bad online customer review. There it is on Yelp! – FoodieGuy4368 didn’t like your appetizers or your service and is telling the world about it. What do you do?

Bad Review = Good Opportunity

A bad online customer review is an ideal opportunity to connect with your patrons and flip their negative experience into a positive one. By cultivating these online relationships with your customers, you’re more likely to create brand ambassadors, which is exactly what you need as a Challenger Brand.

Listen Up

First of all, you need to start monitoring social media so that when a customer Tweets about your restaurant, posts on Facebook, TripAdvisor or Instagram, and most importantly, when someone reviews your place on Yelp!, Google or any other site, you’ll receive an alert. There are ample online monitoring tools to help you do this.

How to Respond to Reviews

When someone like FoodieGuy4368 posts a negative online review, try to respond as quickly and with as much diplomacy as possible. Even if you disagree with the online review, a polite apology with an offer of a coupon, gift certificate, etc., can go a long way to winning back customer loyalty. Keep your response upbeat and brief.

Confine your responses to the negative reviews. Thanking a 5-star reviewer or worse, offering a gift card on their next visit, smacks of payola and will chink away at your online credibility.

You can choose to make your response public or private, depending on the site and the subject. For example, restaurant owners can go to biz.Yelp.com and respond to reviews privately or publicly on a case-by-case basis.

Keep Calm and Protect Your Brand

Even if the reviewer gave you a 1-star review, it’s best not to come right out and ask them to change it. If your online interaction with the customer goes well, they might voluntarily change their review. Even if they don’t, if you respond publically to the review, other readers will see your response and can judge the interaction for themselves. Most importantly, don’t get emotional. Even if the review is mean and unfair, stay calm and cordial, so you’ll come out of the interaction like the graceful professional you are. Always remember, you’re representing your brand online. When you’re online – you ARE your brand.

Biting Back: How To Succeed As A Challenger Brand

Do Online Reviews Really Matter?

A 2012 study by economist at the University of California at Berkeley found that an increase in a restaurant’s rating by half a star on Yelp increased its chances of selling out during prime dining times from 13 percent to 34 percent. The study showed that a jump from 3.5 stars to 4 stars pushed the chances of selling out by another 19 percent.

You might think that only the Millennial generation are reading and posting reviews, but a recent consumer survey revealed that 88 percent of consumers have read reviews to determine the quality of a local business and just 12 percent don’t regularly read online reviews.

Online reviews also matter to your business because they provide a great opportunity for training, retraining and morale-boosting. Did you have a review mention a server by name and tout their outstanding work? Thank that employee for being an online hero. Did a review mention less-than-stellar service? Take the opportunity to hold a brief retraining session at the next all-staff meeting and mention the review. Good or bad, your staff can learn from the online customer reviews…and they’ve probably already read them.

Mike Sullivan

President at LOOMIS, the country’s leading challenger brand advertising agency


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