How to Handle a Bad Restaurant Review

It's easy, as a chef, to let a bad restaurant review ruin your week. When diners leave their negative opinions on social media or review sites, their comments can easily get under your skin. It doesn't matter if they are from no-name bigmouths or restaurant critics who write for major publications, bad reviews can rock your ego, and they can make you question the very basis of why you chose to pursue your craft.

But don't fret. If you made it this far in one of the most demanding and creative careers out there, there's no reason that you can't bounce back from a negative review. Here are some tips:

Don't Panic

The first thing you need to do after reading a bad review is to simply not freak out. That might sound hard, but bad restaurant reviews are not the end—in fact, they're far from it. Realize that how you decide to respond is totally up to you. You're in control of your restaurant, not the critics. However, bad reviews are often more than just finicky people acting entitled and complaining about your business. They can be the warnings or even wake-up calls you need to see in order to realize that there's a problem at your restaurant that needs to be addressed.

Figure Out What Caused the Bad Reviews

After you compose yourself (as best as you can), figure out exactly why you got negative feedback. Was it the food? The service? One employee in particular? Once you pinpoint the source of the issue, you can plan your response. Overreacting can cause a lasting negative effect on your existing staff relationships, so after you figure out the cause of the negative review, take some time to cool off if need be.

Respond in the Right Way

Before responding, you may need to call a staff meeting to discuss the problems addressed in the review. You may have to retrain your line cooks or staff members, or you might have to have some tough conversions with your front-of-the-house staff about their knowledge of dishes and wines. You may even have to fire someone.

Some chefs are fiery, and they respond to bad reviews with attitude and flair. Other chefs are more fearful of taking a defiant stance in the face of criticism, and may not respond at all. However, the course of action that many experts suggest is to respond to the reviewer directly. Take time to craft a thoughtful, sincere response that addresses the complaint directly. Don't make excuses; rather, let the offended party know that you're aware of their feelings and that you'd like a chance to make things right. This will ensure that you take the high road, show vulnerability, and prove that you're willing to learn from your mistakes—whatever they may be.

Learn from Your Critics

If you opt to use bad reviews as a learning experience, they can serve as a catalyst for positive change in your operations. Not every chef has the bigger-picture mentality needed to see through the clouds of negativity when bad restaurant reviews surface. But by swallowing your pride and making necessary adjustments based on the feedback you've received, you'll show that you have the resilience, patience, and determination to bounce back from criticism thrown your way. And if a top-notch restaurant critic did pen the bad review in question, marketers do say that "all publicity is good publicity," so you might just be in luck.