Why negative restaurant reviews might actually be a good thing

3 min read

There’s nothing that makes a restaurateur’s blood run cold than the sight of a negative review.
Scathing words from some punk who thinks they’re a restaurant critic. Swanning into the business you built with your own hands and tearing it to shreds with no regard for your livelihood.
To any restaurateurs reading this article, we suggest you sit down, take a few deep breaths, and read this next sentence carefully. Negative restaurant reviews can actually be good for your business. No, don’t laugh. We mean it.
This article written by Rodney Gin of SiteJabber, makes some excellent points about how negative restaurants reviews can actually benefit your business. Here are the main (and very sensible) points he makes.

They improve conversion rates

Businesses with 10-30 percent negative reviews receive more than 10 times more leads than businesses with nearly all five-star reviews, according to Gin. Other studies have shown that 68 percent of consumers trust reviews more when they see both good and bad reviews.
Gin believes this is because customers want to understand “worst-case scenarios” before dining at a restaurant. If they feel they can live with the worst case scenario, i.e. slow service on a busy night, customer a little disappointed with their starter, they may decide to go for it anyway.

They show you’re not faking it

Ever seen hundreds of five star Trip Advisor reviews appear for a recently opened restaurant and thought to yourself, “yeah right?” Today’s digital native restaurant diners are savvy. They know restaurants are perfectly capable of buying Facebook likes and asking their friends to post Trip Advisor reviews, and if something appears to be too good to be true it usually is. If the odd negative review appears alongside the positive one, it humanises your business and assures your customers the positive reviews are legitimate.

They show off your customer service

Rather than a nail in your coffin, negative restaurant reviews can be an opportunity to show off how great you are. A quick response to a customer complaint apologising for the mishap and inviting the customer back with a discount, shows you take complaints seriously and care about your customers. And who doesn’t love to feel cared about?

They educate future customers

We recently saw an excellent response from an Edinburgh restaurant to a negative Trip Advisor review. The customer was unhappy because they phoned to book a table, were told there was availability, and when revealed they had a deal voucher, was told there was no availability. The unhappy customer left a scathing review blasting the restaurant to smithereens. The restaurant posted a detailed reply, informing the customer (and any future customers who were checking out the restaurant’s Trip Advisor reviews) that half their restaurant is reserved for deal vouchers, the other half for walk in customers, and that if the entire restaurant was allocated to deal vouchers they would be forced to turn away full paying customers. They also pointed out the customer phoned to reserve less than a day in advance and if you have a deal voucher you really need to book further in advance as availability is limited. The response was a fair, concise explanation as to why the restaurant’s voucher policy works the way it does. It is highly unlikely it would deter future customer from dining there and it would also inform them availability is limited if they have a deal voucher.

They are a goldmine of information

Traditionally, large corporations have spent a lot of money on customer survey and feedback forms. Negative restaurant reviews can fulfil the exact same purpose. When reading a negative review of your business, put your ego aside for a second. Does the reviewer have a point? Could this area of your restaurant be improved? If you search to the bottom of your heart and can 100% honestly say no, fair enough, disregard the reviewer as an idiot. But if you think they may have a point, utilise it, and make the changes needed for your restaurant to be the best it can be.


Okay, no restaurateur likes to see their business get criticised on a public forum.
simpleERB can help you manage your negative restaurant reviews, and learn from the constructive criticism, without the review being splashed all over the review sites.

Our system allows reviews and ratings from diners to go directly to the restaurant, allowing negative feedback to be dealt with in house instead of on Trip Advisor (and if the feedback is positive, simpleERB also has a feature that allows diners to post their rave review on Trip Advisor and Yelp).

Referring to the points made above, consider this quote from the Dalai Lama: “One’s enemy is the best teacher.”

And if all else fails, consider this other Dalai Lama quote instead: “Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”