The Idiot’s Guide to Handling Negative Social Media Feedback – Hospitality Legends Edition!


Like most people in the pre-internet era, the yellow and black “Dummies” books, along with their competitor the “Idiots Guides”, adorned my bookshelf. From computer programming to fishing, these guides were the ‘go to’ information sources for anything you needed to learn.

Whilst these books are still around covering a vast array of topics, I think it is fair to say that their popularity may have waned in the age of the internet and social media.

As if you needed reminding, social media in its various forms now pervades the whole of our business and personal lives. The channels are seemingly endless – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, LinkedIn, together with the many review style websites that directly address the hospitality business such as TripAdvisor,, Zagat, Yelp, Zomato and many more…

More than ever before, guests are posting their feedback on these channels, whether good, bad or indifferent, and other customers are visiting these sites before making purchase decisions. A recent study by Cornell University suggests that customers appreciate receiving responses to their negative social media reviews and also found that revenue increases as the number of management responses increases (details here).

Correctly managing and handling this social media feedback is now of course vital for businesses. Negative reviews, poorly handled, can cause untold damage to your brand and majorly impact your revenue. So how is our industry handling the demands of this form of customer interaction?

In the true sense of “idiots guide” (but not necessarily the model of the books) I present “The Idiots Guide to Handling Negative Social Media – Hospitality Legends Edition!”

Here are some of the interesting ways hotels and restaurants have chosen to deal with their negative guest and patron feedback…

The “head in the sand” approach

Still the most popular way for hotels and restaurants to deal with online complaints – ignore it and it will go away!

According to, research by TripAdvisor indicates that a large number of hotel operators still just don’t bother to respond to negative reviews.

The ”argumentative chef” approach

Pick an online fight with a restaurant critic – sure to make you feel better, but certain to send the issue viral, informing the world who had never heard of you and your restaurant of the problems at your establishment… See the movie Chef and the twitter rant of Chef Claud Bosi following a less than perfect review…

 Daily Mail

The “go f*** yourself” approach

The Pigalle restaurant in Boston – After a customer complained about her Thanksgiving meal on Facebook, the chef responded with a “go f*** yourself”. An interesting approach, certain to increase your social media reach, but not sure it would be my choice to promote the restaurant – love to hear from anyone else game to try this one

Daily Mail

The “non-apology, apology” approach

“Our restaurant served 500 guests that night, and received overwhelmingly positive feedback, but we’re sorry that your experience did not match your expectations” In other words, we think we are great, so did everyone else, so your opinion doesn’t matter!

See the “Go f*** yourself” approach above

The “say something nasty and we will fine you” approach

The Union Street Hotel in New York put a clause in the contract that it asked wedding parties to sign.  This informed them it would charge $500 for every bad review one of its guests posted online. Threaten your guests – I thought a policy like this was reserved for dictators and despots, but apparently not…

The Economist

The “blame the wife & reminisce about the war” approach

A couple arrived at a Hotel/B&B in Scotland only to find the room or property was not to their liking & expectations, so posted a review on TripAdvisor outlining their experience. The owner’s response was bizarre to say the least, as he proceeded to blame his wife and to talk at length about the comparison of the toilet to a WW2 Spitfire engine…strange indeed…

Daily Mail

The “criticise the grammar & suggest anger management” approach

A guest at the Sefton Park Hotel, near Liverpool labelled the hotel as “probably the worst hotel in Liverpool” and proceeded to express his displeasure about the hotel on TripAdvisor. In his fairly lengthy reply the hotel manager decided to criticise the grammar of the reviewer and suggested he had anger management issues, proposing he take up yoga or meditation… The hotel response went viral & was picked up by several national newspapers – they say any publicity is good publicity but I am not so sure…

The Mirror

If you come across more fine examples of the hospitality business at its best we would love to hear from you – just post a message in the comments…


Hotel Performance Impact of Socially Engaging with Consumers – Cornell University

About the Author

Tim Johns is a former Hotelier and Managing Partner with Elite Search – a leading hospitality recruitment firm. For more information about Tim and Elite Search visit and The Elite Hotelier


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