How to handle bad TripAdvisor reviews

Working as trusted advisor to Pub, Hotel and Restaurant owners, I get to see everything ‘good and bad’ but one thing that even many of the most professional and diligent business owners screw up on is, How to handle bad TripAdvisor Reviews.

In this article, you’ll find

  • examples of how not to handle bad TripAdvisor reviews
  • the right way to handle negative TripAdvisor reviews
  • what it costs your business if you get it wrong
  • how profitable it can be, if you get it right

If you are a Pub, Hotel or Restaurant owner and you care about your brand, you’ll know how important on-line reviews can be to your business.

Positive on-line reviews can bring you loads of new customers.  However, no business can expect to maintain a 100% positive profile all of the time.

This is because people’s expectations are different and every business will inevitably screw up from time to time.

So the question is, how do you handle bad reviews on TripAdvisor and the other on-line review portals?

Firstly, here’s how NOT to handle bad TripAdvisor reviews.

These are actual on-line reviews and the response given by the owner of what is a ‘relatively up-market food led pub’:


We booked a company Xmas lunch at XXXXXXXXX several weeks ago and were told that we could either chose from the standard menu on the day or pre-order from the festive menu. We chose to pre-order and 4 days before the reservation I called to confirm. My call was answered by the most sarcastic and demeaning man I’ve ever….

Owners Response

A very interesting review. I am sorry if you thought me scarcastic and demeaning. My attempt to break the ice didn’t work – you have my apologies. I guess having worked in the business for over 30 years, I’m not always going to get it right. I love what I do and the people I serve. Its a shame w

What message is this sending out to the world?

The customer complained that the owner was a sarcastic person

and the owner then proved that he is indeed a ‘sarcastic person’

by being sarcastic! 

The owner is in effect advert  that…  This is A PLACE TO AVOID!

Another complainant

Was recommended to try this place, but was very disappointed. Portions were very small and expensive. The fish I had was nearly £20 and was just about visible on the plate. I asked it to come with Chips instead of fries, which it did , but the rest of the plate was filled out with salad to make it seem… that it was a full plate. The cheese for desert was very expensive at nearly £9, but the 4 cheeses were so small, it was nearly worth not bothering. The service was bad as well. Plates were dished up from the right, by leaning over the other diners, instead of coming around from the left. I recommend that you avoid this place if you want a good meal

Owners response

Thank you for your review. I was saddened to read its contents. I would make the following observations: Halibut is not a cheap fish and is priced accordingly. You were not obliged to choose it . You ate all your meal and passed no comment. Cheese is one of the most costly cost items on a menu. Our portions are… not mean. All are artisan cheeses made locally; not plastic cheese from a supermarket. I would remind you are dining in a pub and not a restaurant. Rules about serving from left or right do not apply here! Having looked at your reviews it would appear not many places match your expectations. I trust you have more luck elsewhere.

Response breakdown

“You were not obliged to choose it”  Holy Cow, did he actually say that!

“Rules about serving from left or right do not apply here” Because we can’t be bothered to train our staff properly, despite charging our customers Gastro Food Prices

I trust you have more luck elsewhere.  I’d say there is a very good chance that this customer WILL have more luck elsewhere.  Same as anyone else reading this on-line review!!!

What an idiotic response to an actual paying customer!

So what message is this guy sending out to his disgruntled customers

#1    I am irritated at having to deal with you morons

#2    I don’t care about you, I care about me

#3    We’re not going to change anything because as far as we’re concerned, we’re great and your and idiot

#4    It annoys the hell out of me that all you disgruntled customers are warning other people how bad our products and services are.  We would rather keep this quiet

#5    It is your responsibility to complain to me directly about our poor service and food, even though complaining is a big obstacle for a lot of people

So how should this pub/restaurant owner have responded to these disgruntled customers

Obviously, no one likes criticism, especially about something they’ve worked hard to build – like a business. Which is why it’s so easy to let your emotions get the better of you and go shooting off from the hips to try to put these ‘unreasonable customers’ in their place.

But wait…

Think before acting

A few complaints can be a marketing godsend!


It’s true.  When people go on-line to check out your Pub, Restaurant or Hotel, a few negative reviews can give credibility to all the positive reviews.

It makes it real.  People are suspicious when they see nothing but great reviews.

And guess which reviews are going to be read the most?  That’s right, the negative ones.

So this is where you can use this extra attention to really shine and ‘stand out’ well above your competitors.

Handling bad customer complaints, in bad reviews, is where you show what your business is really about

“If I was running a business that was so good, that I had no bad reviews, I would give myself a few just to show how much I care about my business and my customers”.

Why it’s worth handling bad TripAdvisor reviews well

#1    It makes you look professional (rather than a dick)

#2    It makes potential customers feel comfortable that they will also be treated well in the event that there is a problem

#3    It’s actually endearing for future customers to see a business owner being humble, admitting screw-ups and going to lengths to put things right

#4    The person who complained is statistically likely to become one of your best customers and an advocate for your business, if handled properly – Highly profitable to you.

#5    It cost you nothing to be professional

#6    It will cost you a fortune in lost sales if you respond emotionally and shoot your mouth off before thinking.

If you were criticised a lot as a child and you’ve brought some kind of an ‘auto emotional response’ to any criticism forward into adulthood.  Put a buffer between your emotional response and what you upload on-line.

Writhe your response down on paper or on your PC and hold it for a day.

Then take another look at it when you’ve calmed down.

Only upload it, when you are sure that it will make the complainant feel good!

The problem for the guy in the examples above is this…  If he doesn’t work on himself first, he’ll never get to the next stage in business.

The leaders in the hospitality sector all have one thing in common.

They only exist to give their customers a better experience than they can get anywhere else.

Arrogance and ‘over sensitivity’ are traits that are too expensive for any successful entrepreneur to have!

Now assuming you’re a restaurateur, pub owner or hotelier who’s on top of your ‘internal game’ and can take criticism for what it is…

… which on most cases, is a failure in your business operation (in some small area) that needs to be addressed,

this might be a better way to respond…

The right way to handle negative TripAdvisor reviews

Dear xxx

I am so sorry that we have let you down in this way.  It is unacceptable.  What I am going to do about it is review the size of our portions to ensure that this problem never arises again.  In the meantime, if you would like to contact me directly on 00000000, I would like to invite you to return as my guest and see at first hand, the changes I have made as the result of your feedback.

This is what you then do…

Review the size of your portions to make sure that customers get good value when visiting your establishment.

If your customers are not getting good value, your business model is wrong in any case!

Good value does not mean cheap.  It means ‘good value’ i.e. an experience that exceeds the downside of having to pay for it.

A Lamborghini is good value to the people who buy them because it delivers unbelievable performance, style and prestige.  Don’t charge Lamborghini prices and put a Ford Focus on the plate!  Customers won’t like that.

The point is, if you actually address the problem which caused the complaint, you will get more customers because there will be fewer complaints circulating on the internet for everyone to see!

What would it cost to give this disgruntled customer a full three course meal FREE of charge?


… It would have cost absolutely nothing!!!  In fact, it would have given this Pub Owner potentially a few thousand pounds in additional profit.

This is because, disgruntled customers that are handled in the right way, statistically tend to become much more loyal customers compared to even your most enthusiastic supporters.

Which means… they would come back time and time again over many years.

On top of this, a positive customer caring response would be on-line for the world to see.

What would that do for business? 

When people see complaints handled properly they tend to trust the business owner and the brand.  And when more people trust the brand, more people book and become paying customers.

I hope you found this article useful.

Good luck with your ongoing success.