Why 1-star reviews can be great for your restaurant business

Love them or loathe them we have to accept that restaurant review sites are hugely influential and can drive customers into your restaurant as well as warn them to steer clear. No doubt when you get a 5-star review gushing how great your restaurant is, how amazing your food and service was you want to shout it from the roof tops! Scream “look at us we are the best and this person agrees!” Quite frankly why wouldn’t you? We all love our egos being polished from time to time and being told we are getting it right.

But, what do you do when you get a 1-star review? Your service was slow, the food inedible or my 4-year-old could have produced something better, and the waitress was rude, looked miserable and clearly couldn’t wait to go home. What do you do then? Ignore it and hope no-one notices, tell yourself what do they know, they clearly don’t work in this industry or have any idea what good food or service is.

If like many restaurant operators you prefer to ignore these sites, as it feels you have no control over them or you share the belief that although people may read them, they would have the same opinion as you and choose to find out for themselves. You need to think again!

But don’t worry the good news is that your competition is also on these very review sites, probably thinking the same as you. They like you can either choose to complain about them ignore them or turn them into a powerful marketing tool. Get ahead of your competition and start to use the review sites to boost your business. It’s not as hard as you think and these 4 easy steps will guide you along the way.


1.      Embrace

Remember the saying ‘Any publicity is good publicity’, so step up and embrace your 1-star reviews, just as much as you would your 5 stars. However, in order to do this, you need to know where people are posting about your business.

The obvious place is TripAdvisor, by far the biggest online review site, although you can also set up Google Alerts with key words to notify of any other mentions of your business. You may also have reviews enabled on your Facebook page, I would recommend you actually don’t enable this feature because if you do get a false review it is almost impossible to have it removed.

If you accept bookings with OpenTable then customers will also have the opportunity to review you here as well.

Negative reviews are not the end of the world and in fact, they can be good for your restaurant, simply because if you see a perfect 5-star rating for anything, you may become a bit sceptical. Everyone knows that restaurants are a human-based business and you are not going to get it right ALL of the time so a negative review mixed in with mostly positive reviews will bring credibility to your brand and the human touch.


2.      Respond

It is important to respond to ALL reviews. This is about consistency. So many times I see restaurants only responding to the positive reviews, it’s almost as if they are blind to the negative comments. Another thing that really is bloody annoying is the inconsistency. You will see responses to a few reviews and then no responses for weeks, then a couple more, then again no responses for others. We all know that consistency is king, so if you are going to do this set up a system and be consistent. Let’s be honest you are not going to be getting hundreds or thousands of reviews a day or even week, at best you will probably get a few, so it’s not massively time-consuming.

For positive reviews, a short thank you message will suffice.

So why should you also respond to negative reviews?

By responding to a negative review you have the opportunity to turn it into a positive. You not only have the chance to convert an unhappy customer into a potential returning customer but possibly even into a raving fan. They do say ‘Converts are the worse’, in this case, you may find that the convert goes out and tells many others of their poor experience that you made great! Instead of them just constantly mentioning how bad you were.

Even if you don’t manage to convince them to return you will show lots of other people who will see the review in the future that you are a conscience and thoughtful owner/manager. You will not only diffuse the negativity of this review, you have the opportunity to showcase your restaurant’s personality and culture. Therefore make your response humble, well thought-out and not defensive.

Your response should follow the following four steps:

1.      Say thank you – thank them for their review and feedback

2.      Acknowledge – acknowledge the issues they raise

3.      Apologise – apologise for any problems and inconvenience – DON’T give excuses

4.      Get Offline – try and move the conversation offline by asking to speak directly to them for more feedback


3.      Learn

The reason negative reviews are good for your restaurant business is they tell you that you are not perfect, they bring you down to earth and help you to fix any problems or issues you may have missed whilst you were floating on cloud 5-star reviews. Everyone makes mistakes, this is your opportunity to ensure you learn and embrace the feedback for the better.

Establish a culture in your business to discuss and acknowledge all feedback received as a team; if necessary ask other customers if they feel the feedback is justified. Make any necessary and meaningful changes based on what you learn and if appropriate tell people about these changes and why you have made them. For instance, you may say ‘We have introduced ....... based on customer feedback’. Watch what happens to customers and team members when you engage in this process, you’ll definitely like the results I guarantee.


4.      Ask for more reviews

Maybe in the past, you have been scared to ask for reviews or feedback, hopefully, now you won’t be. The more reviews you have the more presence you will have online, and it is a hell of a lot cheaper than advertising. The best way to get more positive reviews is to simply ask for them! Here are some easy ways to do this:

  • Put it on the bottom of your receipts – maybe include an incentive ‘Thank you for dining with us, please review us on www........ and we will give you 10% Off next time you visit’
  • Create a simple comment card and get your waiting staff to personally ask them to fill it in
  • If you collect customer data i.e. email address, send them an email after you know they have visited with either a link to review or a short survey


Hopefully going forward you will learn to like all the reviews you get and your business will thrive as a result.


Good luck and please share your business successes or views on my Facebook page OutSauced Consultancy

Jonathan Butler is the Author of Business Recipes for Success: Four Steps to Building a Successful Restaurant and Hospitality Business available now on Amazon

More About Jon

An award-winning chef, hotelier, restaurateur, and author Jon has over 26 years experience in the hospitality industry. Having successfully operated his own businesses as well as helped many others to grow theirs. He launched OutSauced Consultancy in 2010, and since then, has helped a number of start-ups, entrepreneurs and SME’s within the hospitality sector, become more efficient, customer oriented and profitable.

Contact me now to arrange a Business Discovery meeting or skype call

JON BUTLER - OutSauced Consultancy

+44 (0) 7775 746145

www.outsaucedconsultancy.co.uk