You’re Not Alone: Everyone Gets Negative Reviews

No doubt about it: negative reviews can make you feel like it’s the end of your business. But you’re not alone — and one review won't make or break your bottom line. We took a look at Tripadvisor reviews from restaurants across the U.S., U.K., France, Spain, Italy, Germany, The Netherlands, and Portugal to find out how common negative reviews really are — and what you can do about it.

Negative Reviews Happen to Everyone

When you’re running a restaurant, you know that you won’t please everyone. And while your goal may be to provide the best experience you can, sometimes things just happen — a server calls out at the last minute so you’re understaffed, the oven breaks, a bar patron makes a scene. It’s a fact of life in a restaurant that you won’t be able to control everything.

First, know that nearly everyone receives one negative review at some point. Even restaurants with Michelin stars or top rankings have a dissatisfied customer every once in a while. In fact, 61% of restaurants have at least one negative review.*

%

Restaurants with at least one negative review

One Review Isn’t Everything

Negative reviews can make you feel like it’s the end of your business, but most customers are savvy enough to know that one review doesn’t tell the whole story. On average, diners read between one and five reviews of a given restaurant before making their decision. And 53% of respondents said they would book a restaurant even if it has one or two negative reviews.**

The Average Restaurant Rating Is Positive

When we looked deeper, we found that the average restaurant typically sees seven positive (four- or five-bubble) reviews for every negative review they receive. When we ask reviewers why they leave a review, they consistently tell us that it’s for positive reasons — more than four out of five Tripadvisor users want to share a good experience they’ve had with the community.

Why have you written a review in the past year?
  • I wanted to share a good experience with other travelers 87% 87%
  • I get good advice from reviews and I want to give back 75% 75%
  • I wanted to make the restaurant aware of their strengths 64% 64%

And the average worldwide restaurant ranking is 4.2 out of 5.

What to Do When You Receive a Negative Review

When you receive a negative review, the first step is to stay calm. It happens — take a breather and gather your thoughts before you respond to the review. Responding to reviews is free and easy for claimed owners on Tripadvisor. Claim your listing here if you haven’t already to get started.

When you’re ready, craft your response. 65% of Tripadvisor users told us that a thoughtful Management Response improves their overall impression of your restaurant. It’s your way to extend your hospitality online, just as you would respond when something happens in your restaurant. We pulled together real responses from owners around the world to show you what to keep in mind:

Start with a Thank You

As difficult as it may be to hear, you can use that feedback to make your restaurant better, and take it as an opportunity to show your customers that you care.

“Thank you for taking the time to review our restaurant. I am sorry to hear that you were disappointed with your experience. I will pass your comments on to the Management and Owners. Please consider allowing us to serve you again in the future.”

Add a Personal Touch

Most of the time, a negative reviewer just wants to be heard. Acknowledge what went wrong and be honest about what steps you’ll take to improve. It shows you’ve actually read their feedback and that you care about the customer experience. Since you get the last word, it’s always best to keep it positive, courteous, and professional, like this owner:

“Our new food and drink menus have been running for a couple of weeks now and we’ve had great feedback about our new additions. I’m sorry if your sandwich wasn’t to your liking — we’re always looking for feedback, so thank you. We’d love to welcome you back to restore your faith in us.”

Add a Personal Touch

Most of the time, a negative reviewer just wants to be heard. Acknowledge what went wrong and be honest about what steps you’ll take to improve. It shows you’ve actually read their feedback and that you care about the customer experience. Since you get the last word, it’s always best to keep it positive, courteous, and professional, like this owner:

“Our new food and drink menus have been running for a couple of weeks now and we’ve had great feedback about our new additions. I’m sorry if your sandwich wasn’t to your liking — we’re always looking for feedback, so thank you. We’d love to welcome you back to restore your faith in us.”

Ask Them for Another Chance

Finally, conclude your response by asking them to give you another chance. You can offer explanations about what happened to make their service less than stellar, but keep it brief — you don’t want it to look like you’re not taking their complaints seriously. Close by inviting them to return to try you again and make it up to them.

“I’m sorry you didn’t have an enjoyable experience. I don’t want anyone to leave the pub feeling like you have. Unfortunately, we have had some staffing difficulties within our kitchen, coupled with added demand for food from the event downtown, and it had an impact on our service. I’d like to discuss this further with you and see if I can make it better. Please feel free to give us a call and I do hope you’ll try us again another night.”

For a full round-up of our tips on how to respond to negative reviews, click here.

See all your reviews in one place with Tripadvisor Review Hub

Review responses have been lightly edited for clarity and length.

*Methodology: Tripadvisor independent analysis from Q4 2019, on open restaurants across 7 markets to determine the average number of negative reviews (United States, United Kingdom, France, Spain, Germany, Netherlands, and Portugal).

**Methodology: The Power of Reviews project surveyed 23,292 Tripadvisor users across 12 markets (Australia, China, France, German-speaking, India, Italy, Japan, Singapore, Spain, Taiwan, United Kingdom, United States) between May and June 2019. The survey targeted users who had visited the site in the last 12 months. The sample is made up of Tripadvisor users who had opted into a survey panel and were invited to participate in the research via an email link directing them to an online survey platform. Ipsos MORI were involved in questionnaire design and data analysis. Results are weighted to represent the residency profile of Tripadvisor users across participating markets.

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Last Updated: 5 March 2020
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