How to Manage Negative Reviews

Lunchbox Editorial
In today’s digital world a negative review is the singular worst thing someone can do to your business and you and your employee’s livelihoods’. Ensuring that the upset customer of today, whether that be online or in-person, is listened to, understood, and recovered, is paramount to the success of every hospitality business. Following the LEARN method of guest, recovery is an excellent way we can recover those guests that feel hard done by, and the greatest part of the LEARN method is that it can be applied in face-to-face situations and online!

isten – When a guest faces you with a problem do not interrupt them; doing so is very likely to frustrate them further. Put down what you’re doing, push other thoughts from your head and pay attention; also, consider taking notes. This is the crucial first step to excellent guest recovery. Listen!

If they’re complaining online then this part is quite easy. You have a written statement to respond to the next four elements of the LEARN recovery method.

mpathize – After absorbing all the guest has to say you can respond. Begin your response by empathizing with the guest. Let them know that you’ve understood them -repeating their main grievances back to them reassures them of this- and that you see things from their perspective.

When doing this online, repeating what the guest has written can seem patronizing, avoid this and stick to empathizing with their points, without rewriting them out in full, and letting them know that you understand where they’re coming from.

pologize – Anyone who is anyone who is complaining wants an apology. A sincere and heartfelt apology is a necessity on the way to recovering a guest, both online and in person. However, make sure that you empathize before you apologize. An immediate apology tells the guest they’ve not been listened to and can upset them further; often irreversibly.

Do not attempt to use excuses when apologizing, the guest will see them as a copout and will see straight through them. Own up to your mistakes and the guest before you will know that you are sincere and is more likely to continue trusting you.

ecover – A guest is complaining because they’ve encountered something that has upset them. Once you have listened and understood, empathized, and apologized you’re ready to offer the guest the best assistance you can.

Every guest is unique. Use your previous experience with customers to assess the situation and deem what recovery is best suited for this guest and do whatever you believe to be adequate and within your power to resolve the situation for this specific guest.

Online this is a little more difficult. If you’re going to offer out a gift card or free drinks to people who complain online others will catch on and complain just to get the free stuff. Unfortunately, that’s some people. Instead, ask the guest to reach out to you through one of your communication channels so you can talk further with them and resolve this issue.

urture – Once the problem has been resolved then the relationship with that guest should be maintained. If they’re in your location, and it’s applicable, check back with them personally. Make sure you’re there when they leave so that you can see the whole process through; quite often you’ll get a thank you and a warm smile when they leave, signaling that you reacted perfectly!  Make a mental note of their face and their name so that you can greet them like a friend when they return at a later date.

If the problem has stemmed from an online order you should be keen to strike up a conversation with the person when they return to your location. Whilst, if they order online again, your interaction may only be brief, showing your empathy for their situation and your passion for your work will go a long way to seeing that they return again.


The digital world is, at the same time, the greatest and worst thing that has happened to restaurants. Ensuring that when the worst thing -i.e. a bad review- happens to you online you’re prompt to respond in exactly the right way can save your business from a lot more harm! Not only do you nurture the complaining party back to your location but you also show future guests that you genuinely care about your guests and want to, above all, ensure people enjoy their time and feel appreciated.

Using a customer review solution like Tattle, will not only save you time in managing your customer reviews but provide invaluable insight into trends within your restaurants. Here at Lunchbox, we give our clients the option of integrating Tattle’s intelligent review platform into our digital ordering system! Head to Tattle to check them out, or head over to lunchbox.io and request a demo of all our services, including this one, today!


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