What to Do When Someone Publicly Criticizes Your Baking Business

Running a business is filled with rewards and challenges. We all want our customers to be happy, but sometimes it doesn’t work out. Sometimes we have to deal with difficult customers.  What to do when someone publicly criticizes your baking business is something you need to think about before it happens.

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a muffin in a brown tulip style wrapper on a white saucer on the middle of a chess board
Photo by Kaffee Meister on Unsplash

You can’t please everyone all the time.

When you start a business and put yourself “out there,” you are going to have criticism and/or an unhappy customer. It’s not fun when people are unhappy with our business, but it happens from time to time.

Even if you are careful and always do your best, it will happen.

I know it’s scary to think about, but you can mitigate the damage by having a plan before someone criticizes your baking business.

Make a plan and plan to succeed

Planning ahead for what may come is the best practice. Thinking about your own experiences with other companies and how they resolved issues is a good start. When were you happiest with your service? When were you least satisfied and why?

This will help you design your own “Customer Service Policy.” Even if you are a solopreneur in a tiny kitchen with toddlers crying in the background… YES, you need this.

A policy is a rule that you have agreed to follow before you were all worked up. A policy is logical and covers your bases in a professional way. It’s a very good thing.

In fact, I wrote a whole post on how to craft one here.

Unhappy Happy Customers

If you can turn an unhappy customer into a happy one, they can become one of your biggest fans. Taking the time to problem solve instead of falling into reactive emotions is a game changer. Everyone wants to be listened to and treated respectfully.

You won’t be able to reach this level of happy with all of your critics, but you can convert a few with a little bit of pre-planning and strategy.

Visualize the worst case scenario

So, what do you do? You just checked your Facebook Page or Google Business Page and you have a 1 Star Review! They wrote:

“The pie was too sweet and the filling didn’t set!”


“The cake was dry and they expected more from all of your other good reviews!”


Nothing… they wrote nothing, they just left one star and said NOTHING.

The room is spinning, your heart is thumping, you may feel like crying or yelling at this point. Maybe hiding in a hole?

Never reply when you’re sad mad or mad mad.

Here is what you do, you breathe. Walk away from that screen and put some distance between yourself and those words.

What do you do now that you walked away? Keep breathing. Vent if you have to, to your inner circle, NOT on social media. It’s okay to be mad. 

The most productive thing to do when you calm down is to reflect on the comment.

What was the complaint? Is it valid?

Try to put yourself in their shoes. Empathize a little.

What’s their motivation? are they lashing out? Are they sincere?

Who are they? are they long time customers? Do you know them in real life?

DO NOT answer or reply to anything until you have a clear head and a well-written reply. (Type replies in a word document that you will copy and paste to the internet. NEVER compose responses to criticism in a live email or comment window, it’s too easy to accidentally send… Trust the voice of experience here.)

If you can call them and reach out personally, I always think that is the best way to deal with unhappy customers. It’s harder to misconstrue tone of voice or intention when you can get one on one with someone. Still, wait until you are calm and capable of handling it professionally.

Think win-win.

How can you both come out of this happy? Is that possible?

Are they really your customer? Did they buy anything from you?

Sometimes people leave random reviews and aren’t even a client. If not, I suggest writing something like:

“Hi, thanks for your review. We work really hard to make sure our clients are happy, but I can’t see a record of a purchase from you. Can you please tell me more about where you experienced my dessert?”

If they answer, then you can further the dialog. If they don’t respond, people reading the review will see that you were willing to help even if they weren’t your client!

pink rectangle graphic, "think win-win"

Then, report them using Google or Facebook policies as a defaming comment because they are not a real customer. They may or may not take down the review, but at least there will be a record of this person leaving false reviews. Sooner or later it will become an obvious pattern and their reviews will be stricken.

What if they truly are an unhappy customer?
Is it possible that something went wrong with their order?

What could have caused this problem?
Did you forget the sugar?
Did you leave the cake in the oven a little longer than usual because you were on the phone?

Think back and accept any role you may have played in this bad dessert. Then, enact your official “Customer Service Policy.”

Only show the world your pro side

If you stick to your plan, your response will be professional and within the rules of your policy.

Maybe it will look something like this:

“Hi, thanks for your review. I’m very sorry that you are unhappy with your pie. It’s our policy that if your return the uneaten portion within 24 hours, we will issue you a refund… Truly, The Baker”


“Hi, thanks for your review. I am very sorry that your custom cake was dry. We work very hard to ensure the freshness and quality of our products. I would really like to speak with you in person about the details of your cake, please give me a call during business hours ….Sincerely, The Baker”

You really want the last word in public to be your business reaching out to the unsatisfied client in a professional, willing to help way.

Even if you called them and solved the problem, go ahead and reply to the public review too. It will give you a chance to share your professional and courteous handling of negative situations.

Your business is not you

Protect your brain. I’m a people pleaser, it’s my birthright, I come from a long line of people pleasing women. Heck, I used to think that was how everyone was…. Fast forward… People pleasing isn’t a good thing. It’s when you put yourself aside to make others happy… in an unhealthy way.

Don’t do this with your business.

Again, your business is not you.

It’s a game. It’s a numbers game. You need your customers to be happy with the service your business provides so that they will refer you to their friends, family, and coworkers, and come back to buy more and so on and so forth. More happy = more people = more referrals = more business = more opportunity to choose your own course.

You can love what you do and you can take pride in your business, but don’t let it define who you are.

A dry cake doesn’t mean that you are a horrible baker or that you should get out of the game. It means they left it uncovered or you cooked it too long.

The answer to the problem is in a physical task, not self-abuse or fear.

You can improve your system of baking. Maybe get a new recipe, use simple syrup, or provide better packaging so the cake can stay moist even after its cut. Giving education packets with your cakes or on your website so people know how to best store and serve your cake may help avoid problems.

Whatever can turn any future 1-star reviews into 5-star reviews is what you need to do.

Keep moving forward

McDonald’s handles criticism like a champ. They had a whole movie about how their food KILLS people. What did they do about it? They changed, they improved, and they sell 75 burgers per second per DAY worldwide.

Bad reviews don’t kill business. Standing still, crying, and blaming the customer kills business.

So, know it’s not the end of the world. It’s not the end of your business. It’s a chance to grow and keep going.

Ready to dive into making that official customer service policy? Head over to this post.

More about Bakery Business from Sweet Bytes:

Should I Start A Bakery? 

Food Safety in Your Home Bakery

How to Charge for Desserts

How to Find the Target Market for a Bakery 

Questions or comments?

I know exactly what it’s like to be a beginning entrepreneur who just wants to do my best. It’s exciting but scary and sometimes overwhelming. The very things that put you on top of the world can bury you in orders and tasks.

Sincerely, if you have any questions or need to bounce an idea off of someone, send me an email or leave a comment and I will do my best. Collaboration leads to prosperity!

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About Mikel Ibarra

Mikel Ibarra holds a BFA in painting, is a certified cake decorator, teaches baking and cake decorating classes, and frequently combines her passions for the sake of art. Sweet Bytes is where she shares everything she knows about the art of baking and running a baking business.