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Buzztime - Business Bar Trivia by Buzztime

It’s happening. An angry customer is slamming you on Facebook. What do you do? Don’t panic. Use this proven 7A Formula for how to respond to negative reviews. You can win back their hearts and even gain new customers in the process. We put together FAQs based on real questions from bar and restaurant owners…

Q) Should I Even Bother Figuring Out How to Respond to Negative Reviews?

A) Yes, Here are 3 Studies That Show the Benefits

1) Negative Reviews CAN Be Deleted…By the Customer!

This one is flat out awesome. One study shows that if you respond online to a customer’s negative feedback, 33% will change their tune and leave a positive review. Better yet? 34% of the complainers may remove their initial negative review.

2) Differentiate Your Business From the Competition

When it comes to how to respond to negative reviews: actually respond! 7 in 10 guest complaints directed towards a business on Twitter never get a response. Be the 3 in 10 that do, and you’ll stand out.

3) All The Feels

Want guests to feel the love? How to respond to negative reviews is just as important as remembering why you’re doing it: to show guests you care. 86% of guests surveyed by Martiz Research said they would like or LOVE a response to a complaint.

Q) How to Respond to Negative Reviews if I Don’t Know They Exist?

A) Automate the Process!

Time is of the essence when deciding how to respond to negative reviews! Set up automatic alerts that notify you when your business’s name appears online using www.google.com/alerts. Then, you can put the 7A Formula for How to Respond to Negative Reviews into play (see below).

Both Yelp and Facebook will notify you immediately as long as you have activated alerts and “push notifications” on your smartphone.

Check out these reviews of the best reputation management software to help monitor your brand mentions online!

Q) How Can I Learn How to Respond to Negative Reviews Rationally?

A) Red-Flag Your Fight or Flight Reactions

Listen, we all take it personally when someone criticizes us. When you’re faced with how to respond to negative reviews, you either feel furious – or frightened that your business will take a nose dive.

In fact, science has proven that when we feel threatened we do one of 2 things: fight or flight. Here’s how to know if you’re taking a “fight or flight” approach in how to respond to negative reviews:

Red Flags: Signs of a Fight Reaction

  • Shaming the Guest or pointing out their character flaws (this is especially tempting when you can Google them or look them up on Facebook). Warning: this can be considered slander – and be cause for a lawsuit. Not to mention, you’ll look bad.
  • Being Overly Defensive is actually a sign that you’re taking the fight response in how to respond to negative reviews. Yes, upset guests want a reason why the negative experience occurred but only after you first acknowledge their anger! (See the 7A Formula for tips on how to best acknowledge the guest.)

Red Flags: Signs of a Flight Reaction

  • Ignoring the Review is a telltale sign of flight – and magical thinking. The review won’t go away by running from it and ignoring it. Don’t let more than 24 hours go before responding!
  • Blocking on Facebook is another tempting tactic when you’re freaked out by an angry guest and trying to decide how to respond to negative reviews. This can backfire, enraging the guest even more. It’s the online equivalent of putting your hands over your ears during an argument – it’s disrespectful and doesn’t solve the problem.

Q) Tell Me How to Respond to Negative Reviews the Right Way!

A) Use Our Exclusive 7A Formula for How to Respond to Negative Reviews


Get personal in how to respond to negative reviews. Attribute every response you make to someone within your organization. Plus, always use the customer’s first name. Studies show that using someone’s first name activates the reward center in their brain!


This means only someone “at the top” should be the point person in deciding how to respond to negative reviews. You want more than one person. Think of a disaster alert system, there is always back up. Designate 3 authorities (owners, managers, experience staff) who can be on call when that negative review hits. Then, train them in the 7A Formula!


This is a tough one. Even if the customer tells a big fat lie – like you served them raw chicken when it was clearly cooked – you must acknowledge the truth. The truth is that the customer is in pain. Acknowledge their feelings. This is an important factor in how to respond to negative reviews. This isn’t admitting you’re guilty. It’s showing that you care. Then, you can gently present your side of the story. (If you did serve raw chicken? Proceed to the next step…)

Example: “Hi Megan, I’m so very sorry you felt disappointed in your experience with us. When we smoke our chicken, the spices and marinade leave a pink layer that some customers mistake for being undercooked. In fact, we’re going to add a note about that to our menu.”


If you’ve made a mistake, admit it. Fess up. Don’t be defensive about it. However, you can subtly downplay the severity of the complaint through word choice. How to respond to negative reviews means paying attention to every word. That “raw” chicken is now “undercooked” – which sounds better to you?

Example: “I talked with our cook and your server, and you are absolutely right – you were served undercooked chicken. We aim for perfection for every guest and 99% of the time we achieve it – I apologize we missed the mark for you.”


Show the guest you take their complaint seriously. Tell them how you are going to act on their review by making a change. We know the focus here is on how to respond to negative reviews, but don’t forget: it’s also about taking the complaint into consideration. To look on the bright side, this guest is helping you improve your operations! Thank the guest – that’s how to respond to negative reviews the right way.

Example: “Based on your review, I’ve set up a training session tomorrow for our staff to review prep times for our dishes. We already undergo food safety training, but to ensure this doesn’t happen again – I’ve added this extra training. Thank you for alerting us to our mistake. It will help us serve even better food.”


When planning how to respond to negative reviews, think: how can I treat the guest to VIP treatment when they return? Don’t put an offer online, ask that they call you or check in with the hostess – then provide them with a gift card or complimentary appetizer.

Example: “I’d love the chance to show you how we’ve improved based on your feedback. Could you please call me? Or, please identify yourself to the hostess when you return!”


End with a think you – it’s how to respond to negative reviews the right way. Also, let the customer have the last word by ending with a question.

Example: “Megan, thank you again for sharing feedback. Are there any other ideas you have?”

Q) I Used the 7A Formula, But I Still Have 5 Negative Facebook and Yelp Reviews. Help!

A) Use the Power of Positive Reviews

So far, we’ve focused on how to respond to negative reviews – but don’t forget the power of positive reviews.

On Facebook, Yelp, and Google, reviewers can select the reviews of others that they find “most helpful.” Those reviews are then put at the top of the review list. We know, if only how to respond to negative reviews meant discovering a secret “hide this review” button!

However, all review platforms allow sorting by “most recent” – and that’s where you have some amount of control. In fact, 69% of guests say that only reviews from the past 2-3 months are relevant!

So, start seeking positive reviews NOW…

First, A Red Flag: Never Incentivize Reviews

So, you’ve mastered how to respond to negative reviews, don’t blow it with fake or bribed positive reviews. Yelp, Google, and Facebook are cracking down on fake reviews or reviews that were incentivized. You cannot provide a gift card in exchange for a positive review.

3 Quick Ways to Get Positive Reviews

  • Instruct servers to ask guests how their meal was, if the guest is happy, servers should say: “That’s so great! Our owner would love to hear that – he reads every review. Would you mind leaving a quick review for us? We’re on Facebook, Yelp, and Google.”
  • The “authority” who in your business who determines how to respond to negative reviews, should ALSO respond to every positive review! Guests feel special when the owner or manager responds and will be more inclined to leave more positive reviews.
  • Post a simple sign on the back of your exit door as well as in the bathroom stalls that says, “Loved your visit? We’d love a review!” Then put the logos for Yelp, Facebook, and Google. Also, use attractive digital signage on your own TVs to remind guests to leave reviews.

We hope you feel empowered in how to respond to negative reviews. One final study to put it all in perspective: 68% of customers only trust reviews when they see both good and bad ones…so you always need a few less-than-perfect reviews.
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