Having a bad dining experience at a restaurant – sucks. What sucks even more is being an owner or employee at a restaurant and discovering that a negative review has been left about the establishment that you pour your heart and soul into week in week out. 

I’m not telling anybody not to leave negative reviews, I’m just going to attempt to shed some light on the situation from the point of view of the people who the reviews impact the most.

For you it’s 5 minutes out of your day that you spend tapping away at your keyboard and letting hundreds (if not thousands) of people know how you had “the WORST meal EVER”, and how Sally didn’t bring you water after you asked “3 TIMES!!!!!” and letting the world know that you “will NEVER EVER be back!!!!!” – you click ‘post’ and carry on with your day, perhaps totally unaware of the emotional and financial impact that your review may have on the people that it’s aimed at. Negative reviews have the potential to be soul crushing for the people on the receiving end, they’ve probably worked extremely long hours in very stressful conditions and have probably done a great job and been able to provide a great experience for 99% of their customers. A chef might send out 400 meals in a day under very rushed and stressful conditions, if just 1 of those 400 meals is less than perfect there is a chance that the poor chef will be persecuted in the form of a bad review online. How many other occupations exist where one mistake that you make at work will be posted online for thousands of people to read about?

The hospitality industry is a tough one – high stress, low profit margins, a nation-wide shortage of qualified or experienced staff and far more establishments than there are customers to fill them. The stress within our industry is widely documented, check out this instagram post written recently by esteemed chef Ben Shewry where he reflects on his career in the kitchen and the toll that it takes.

This isn’t an article to try to make people feel sorry for the chefs and others in the industry, I just often wonder when I read a negative review if the person writing it would have a change of heart if they knew the amount of hard work and stress that’s involved in running a restaurant (and yes things sometimes do go wrong). Hospitality professionals are a tough bunch, most negative reviews are brushed off like water off a duck’s back (and any actual constructive criticism noted). Sometimes however a negative review really can be the straw that broke the camel’s back. A negative review when you’re exhausted from working long hard hours really can compound the stress so much more and lead to many sleepless nights, agonising over what you could’ve done to avoid that review. Owner/operators of venues also have the added anxiety of wondering about the financial implications of negative reviews (in an industry where margins are very tight as it is).

There are far more effective and constructive ways of providing feedback at a restaurant than writing an online review. It is amazing the amount of people who will fail to mention that there is any problem whilst at the restaurant but then go home and absolutely crucify the establishment on social media. Yourself and the restaurant have a common goal which is for you to have an enjoyable experience, if something isn’t up to scratch let them know! Something can be done – a new meal made, a refund given, a sincere apology – none of this can happen however if the first time they hear of a problem is via an online review.

So please, before writing that scathing review – ask yourself a few questions:-

  • Have you ever made a mistake at work? Was the mistake broadcasted in the form of a review for thousands of people to read?
  • Did you give the restaurant ample opportunity to rectify the problem at the time?
  • Is a review the most constructive way to voice your concerns? or could you call the restaurant and speak to a manager?

  • Does the punishment fit the crime? (the crime being whatever happened that deemed it an unsatisfactory experience – the punishment possibly being prolonged emotional and financial strain for numerous people)

I hope that I’ve been able to give you a glimpse into what can happen after a negative review comes through from the point of view of us on the other side and maybe it will make a couple of people think twice before unleashing that savage review.

– Johnny Devil

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