Ask Jonathon Hospitality Advice Column

Ciao Jonathon,

Can you give me some pointers on responding to negative guest reviews?


Feeling Feisty

Ciao Feisty,

Responding to negative guest reviews is a kind of ‘rite of passage’ for hotel and restaurant managers. Responding to negative reviews helps managers learn from service failures, show past and potential guests you care, and attempt to clear up misunderstandings. The worst kind of negative review – and unfortunately the most common – are those complaints that could have been avoided or remedied if the guest had communicated them during his or her stay. Unfortunately there is little you can do as a hotel or restaurant manager after the fact, but acknowledging a service failure and showing follow up is the next best thing.

In general, I recommend taking the following steps when responding to a negative guest review:

  • Apologize for the poor experience
  • Clarify what happened or explain the reasoning behind the way something is
  • Follow up with what was done to ensure the service failure wouldn’t happen again (e.g. extra training for staff, changed suppliers, etc.)
  • Invite the guest back and ensure (s)he won’t have the same poor experience the next time (s)he visits
  • Sign the reply

*It’s also very important to make note of the review in the guest’s profile (if it’s possible to identify the guest that left the review). This way, when (s)he returns, there is a record of the episode and staff can be extra attentive to avoid the same mistake.

Responding to negative reviews can be very frustrating for hotel and restaurant managers, especially when it was the guest’s fault for the poor experience. Indeed sometimes inviting the guest back isn’t necessary. Some guests just aren’t right for every property. Similarly sometimes it is appropriate for the manager to explain that the hotel or restaurant staff acted according to quality standards and the poor experience wasn’t the result of any flaws in service. There are eloquent ways to express this in a reply without being confrontational or aggressive, which is never appropriate from the business side.


“Ask Jonathon” is a Hospitality Advice Column by Jonathon Dominic Spada, founder of SAYHELLO Creative, a hospitality consulting and creative agency based in California and Rome, Italy.

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