The Art of Responding to review sites for restaurants and lodging.

The hardest thing a restaurant or lodging facility has to deal with is responding to online reviews. Yes reviews should be responded to, be they positive, negative or blasé. Most businesses find the hardest thing is writing a response to a negative review and not getting defensive about it.

“Our signature dish just got a bad review on Yelp!!!”   “Our best room got dinged on Tripadvisor!!!”  AGGHHHHH!!!!

The natural response is to say “Sorry you didn’t like it, we’ve had hundreds/thousands of people tell us its their favorite “fill in the blank”!!!  Perhaps you have had that, but what you are telling the reviewer is there is something wrong with them and their opinions about something. Not a good response.

Take a recent twitter post from an acquaintance on twitter asking what we thought of his online reply to a review.


“Our room was the best decorated room we had on our 4-week holiday, fresh and comfortable. The “wiew” was disappointing. You can perhaps get a glimpse of the canal on the other side of the highly trafficed road, but the location is fa from charming.Noise from the road was a problem at night-time and made sleeping hard. Breakfast was one of the best we have had, with locally produced food of high quality.”


“Thank you for your review. We are very sorry you were not completely happy with your stay. Our aim is to ensure our guests have a good night’s sleep and the room in which you stayed is triple glazed which reduces any traffic noise to a minimum when the windows are closed. This is our most popular room and 4 of the previous 5 reviews are from guests who stayed in this room.”

As the person who posted the review reading this I would think that the owner was saying I slept with the windows open and because of that it was noisy and we should have had them closed and because the other people who stayed in this room didn’t complain that there must be something wrong with me. The response was in a very nice tone but was defensive.

A suggested revamped response.

Our aim is to ensure our guests have a good night’s sleep and we have tried hard to do so by making the windows triple glazed. We are very sorry you were not completely happy with your stay and hope that if you stay with us again you will have a quieter experience. (if you insist on letting people know about something specific)


We are very sorry you didn’t have a good experience with noise at our inn, we do appreciate the nice comments about the room and the breakfast and hope to make a future stay more to your liking if possible.


We are sorry you had a bad experience at our inn, we will do the best we can to make sure your next stay is more pleasurable.

Most people posting reviews just want acknowledgment that they might have had a problem; yes they might have been having a bad hair day and are truly the only people on the face of the earth that didn’t like your cranberry chutney. They may be loopy as loons or the worst guest on the face of the earth but that doesn’t matter.  If one person complains about your signature dish and 200 people comment how much they love it, which do you think other readers will believe? Let the positive speak for itself.

Steps for responding to a negative review.

  1. Take a deep breath.
  2. Open Microsoft word or any other word processing application you like to use.
  3. Copy the review and paste it into the document.
  4. Take another deep breath.
  5. Read the review carefully, glean from it does the reviewer actually have a point that could have been fixed/avoided or is it something that can be fixed/avoided in the future.
  6. Take another deep breath
  7. Deconstruct the review. Are there positive things in it? What are the negatives?
  8. Take another deep breath.
  9. Write your response (don’t write your response right into the review site, even though some sites let you edit after the fact, the initial one usually gets emailed to the reviewer, so you are only playing catch-up to future readers.
  10. Re-read your response, re-read it again and then re-read until your sick of reading it.
  11. Deconstruct the response. Are there positive things in it? Are there negatives? If there are negatives, delete!
  12. If this is a review that really sticks in your craw, ask others that don’t have anything vested personally in it, to read it for feedback. This is very important for the bad ones. Once it hits the web, its there for all to see.
  13. In a file save the review and your response and date it. If a review is handled properly you might get the customer back in the door. Remembering who and what they had an issue with later on can turn a unhappy customer into a life long loyal one.
  14. Take another deep breath and move on.

If you are ever at a loss for how to respond, just apologize and let it go. The customer is always right in this case (even if they don’t know what a medium rare steak is supposed to look like, or thinks a certain brand of shampoo is better then the one in your amenities basket.) Your not looking to change their mind and you won’t, so think beyond that. You don’t argue with a drunk person, this is similar in philosophy. Acknowledgment is key.


About Chef Forfeng

Innkeeping Tip and Tricks: Please check out some marketing ideas for Inns and B&Bs, Blogging ideas, Facebook Tips and Social Media Tutorials
This entry was posted in Hospitality News, How tos, marketing, Observations, Restauranting, Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Art of Responding to review sites for restaurants and lodging.

  1. Roland says:

    Nice post, when you write a response it doesn’t go to the reviewer but is posted with the review. In my view the response is mainly for prospective guests to see how you deal with it hence the content would be more reassuring than a simple apology.

    • Chef Forfeng says:

      Hi Roland, on Yelp when you post a review reply it gets posted publicly and when I have left reviews I have gotten a notification that a reply has been published, I’ve always gotten a email as well on any reviews I’ve put on TA

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