How A Negative Review Almost Tanked Noodles & Company

If you're a fan of pasta and all types of noodle dishes, then you'll want to head right over to the casual dining restaurant Noodles & Company. Dedicated to classic Italian pasta dishes, an array of Mac and Cheese options, and international-inspired noodle entrees, the restaurant offers something for everyone. Obviously, noodles are the foundation and inspiration for this chain. 

Aaron Kennedy, the founder and CEO, was inspired to open a restaurant focused on all types of noodles in 1995, when he opened his first Noodles & Company location in Denver, Colorado. Today, there are 452 locations throughout the United States, according to the official website. However, in 1996 Kennedy decided to launch another site in Madison, Wisconsin, that would unexpectedly change many things. A newspaper restaurant review would cause a big raucous that would force Kennedy to rethink everything about his concept and how he manages the restaurant. Most restaurants dream of having a review written about them in the newspaper because it's free publicity and a wonderful way to get more people interested in visiting. But only if that review is positive. This one, unfortunately, almost tanked the business.

How the company navigated a negative review

When a journalist from Wisconsin State Journal published a review about the restaurant's food, preparation, and management, it was anything but flattering. According to Inc., the reporter began the article by congratulating the idea. "If ever there was a killer idea for a fast-food chain — a real beat-the-band, hands-down, gold-medal, go-for-the-gusto winner — Noodles & Co. is it," he wrote. Sounds wonderful, right?

Except the reporter praised the idea and not the food or place itself. In fact, he highlighted where it needed to improve. "The premise of the restaurant is great. But it seldom delivers on its promise." Unsurprisingly, the review didn't draw in new customers, and revenue dropped significantly over the following months. Kennedy knew he had to do something, or he'd lose the business and his great idea. So he took the criticism to heart and spent two days with an advising team in Chicago where they sampled various noodle dishes, studied how restaurants prepared orders, and then returned to the Madison restaurant to investigate the issues mentioned in the review (via Funding Universe). Although Noodles & Company could have easily tanked, it thrives because of Kennedy's persistence, perseverance, and willingness to improve.