opinion pubs

How to Handle a Bad Review

Bernard Cribbins in Fawlty Towers: The Hotel Inspectors.

If your pub gets slagged off online by a cocky journalist or blogger, there are various ways of handling it. We’d recommend one of the following:

  1. Do nothing at all. The bad review will probably fade away like a fart in a supermarket. If it doesn’t, then (if you do your job well) it will soon be lost in a sea of positive reviews anyway.
  2. Acknowledge the complaints in a comment, or in a blog post of your own. Take it on the chin — don’t try to be defensive. Respond in a way which shows how customer-focused, mature, good-humoured and just plain lovely you are (even if you’re not), thus casting the blogger/journalist in the role of mean-spirited bastard putting the boot into a sweet little puppy.

We would definitely not advise kicking off on Twitter in petulant fashion. This draws attention to a bad review which most people would never have noticed (a variation on the Streisand effect).

One bad review, assuming we ever stumbled across it, wouldn’t put us off visiting a pub, but evidence of a bad-tempered publican might.

UPDATE: someone kicked off petulantly in response to this drawing attention to a review we wrote several years ago which has now become this week’s most read post. Amazing.

15 replies on “How to Handle a Bad Review”

Pithily to the point. It never ceases to amaze me that those criticised don’t take the opportunity to answer back in the blog where the adverse comment was made. I would welcome it for sure. In fact, I’m going to add that to my blog.

It also amazes me what a rotten offer you get in lots of places. Failure to point that out is doing no-one a favour.

Anyone who puts anything on sale should be aware of the fact that there will be people who will not like it, who will think it’s shit and some of them will go and tell the world about it. Not matter how much work, sacrifice, blood-sweat-tears, passion and love you may have put on it, if you are not willing to accept and learn to live with that fact, don’t even bother to start a business.

Indeed, the more defensive someone is about a bad review, the more I feel the bad review is deserved.

This does put me somewhat in mind of the recent to-do over bad reviews on ‘good reads’ and authors’ reactions to them – my view is much the same as in the reviews are for the readers rather than the authors, so pub/beer reviews are for the drinkers/consumers and not the landlords/brewers – by all means yes they may read and learn, or respond appropriately – but sulking on twitter just makes you look a big asshat.

Would be nice to be credited with intelligence in interpreting reviews, too: the review of Our Mutual Friend we read on the Google Play store which dismissed at as long, boring and with too many words isn’t great literary criticism, but will actually be helpful to people who share the tastes and viewpoint of the author.

I’d like to tack a bit onto the first one.

We had a terrible review of one of our best pubs. In our opinion it was reverse snobbery of the worst kind – the pub had a Michelin star and is nationally revered – someone wanted to take it down a peg or two.

I – as the PR – did absolutely nothing.

The following weeks there were a whole host of letters from customers pointing out both the waspish nature of the review, the fact that we should be proud to have such a successful place on our doorstep and correcting many of the factual errors in the review. The paper defended itself the following week and the public weighed in again. Finally, they (the paper) relented and apologised.

Exactly. Either there’s no problem, in which case good will out, or there is a problem, and it needs to be acted on.

P.S. Is it just my schadenfreude or are bad reviews often more entertaining to read/write?

No, you’re definitely right on that, it’s a point that Jay Rayner’s made too, a well written bad review is definitely more fun than a good one.

We don’t like reading really snarky reviews. Honest, sensitively written bad reviews we can handle, but snark… nah.

(Blimey, alright Giles Brandreth — we’ve been using the internet for fifteen years and ‘snark’ is part of our everyday vocab!)

Snark revels in the nastiness — rudeness for its own sake, as a rhetorical exercise, which is really all about the wit of the writer rather than the place/thing they’re reviewing. Did someone mention AA Gill? We like to feel that a writer regrets having to slag a place/person/product off, if they have to do it at all.

The purpose of the record and gig reviews in the NME used to be to show how clever the reviewer was rather than to tell you anything about the music. It was extraordinarily sophisticated use of English with neologisms and similes all over the place. I am pretty sure the NME (if it’s still going) is just as wanky today, probably much more so.

“Snarky” is a word I grew up with back home in Australia – 80s. Mum used it, presumably it comes from her background too. Hardly a new word! Across the width of the planet though – isn’t English wonderful? 🙂

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