Publish Date:
December 19, 2023

How to Respond to a Bad Restaurant Review Quickly and Effectively

Looking for tips on dealing with negative ratings? Learn how to respond to a bad restaurant review effectively on Yelp, Facebook, Google, and other online platforms.

Research shows that as of 2023, 76% of consumers read online reviews "regularly," 21% check reviews daily, and 49% trust reviews as much as their friends or family members. These statistics reflect an inescapable reality for small businesses: your restaurant’s success depends heavily on the ratings and reviews you receive. 

While you can’t stop customers from leaving bad reviews, you can minimize their potential for damage by responding with skill, speed, and care.

With a thoughtful and consistent review response strategy, you can preserve your restaurant’s image, provide a more positive experience for diners, build a loyal customer base, and lower your costs by retaining more customers.

This guide will explain how to respond to a bad restaurant review with screenshots and examples from local businesses. It will also cover six top restaurant review platforms you should be monitoring in 2024 and answer a few of your most frequently asked questions about dealing with bad restaurant reviews. 

How to respond to a bad restaurant review

It’s impossible to avoid bad restaurant reviews completely. 

However, with an effective review response strategy, you can use bad reviews to your advantage and transform them into free marketing opportunities. 

Responding courteously to constructive criticism online is a great way to showcase your team’s professionalism, highlight the positive features of your restaurant, and improve customer retention by mending damaged relationships.

 Here are six tips for responding to negative reviews effectively as a restaurant owner. 

1. Respond as soon as possible

In the era of smartphones and social media, consumers expect businesses to be hyper-responsive – especially when they have a complaint. 

Your team must meet this expectation and respond to each negative review on time. Even if it’s too late to fix the reviewer’s bad initial experience, you may still be able to repair the damage and retain the customer if you act swiftly to respond. 

2. Address the customer directly

Avoid using generic forms of address, such as “Dear Customer,” “Valued Customer,” or “Dear Reviewer,” when you respond to an online review. Instead, the best practice is to use the reviewer’s name, one of several ways to personalize each response. 

If the reviewer is listed as “Anonymous,” simply omit any name from your response. However, using email handles or usernames is OK if that’s all the reviewer has provided. 

3. Apologize to the customer 

As a restaurant owner, it’s never easy to receive a negative review. However, it’s important not to take negative reviews personally or respond with defensiveness. 

Never try to argue or dismiss the customer’s experience when responding to negative comments. Instead, focusing on making things right is more productive – and that starts with a sincere apology. 

Most businesses apologize to customers by saying “we’re sorry” or “we apologize.” However, if you’re the business owner, you can make your response and apology more personal by writing in a first-person format. Here’s an example: 

  • “Hi [ Reviewer Name ], thank you for taking the time to share your feedback. My name is [ Your Name ], and I’m the [ owner of, manager here at ] [ Business Name ]. I’d like to personally apologize for your [ negative, disappointing, frustrating ] experience.” 

For maximum impact, your apology should be accompanied by action; otherwise, your response won’t be helpful to the customer. We’ll discuss that more in steps six and seven; but first, let’s look at the importance of personalization in restaurant review responses. 

4. Use specific details in your response

You can personalize your response by incorporating details from the original review into your reply. 

Here are a few examples of ways to personalize responses to bad reviews of a bar, restaurant, or other food service establishment:  

  • Using the reviewer’s name 
  • Including your restaurant’s name and/or location 
  • Mentioning a relevant point from the reviewer, such as pricing, customer service, reservation and scheduling issues, allergy and food safety concerns, or the quality of your ingredients 
  • Mentioning other details from the review, like “your lunch break,” “your family’s dinner,” “your chicken sandwich,” “our gluten-free items,” or other details that show you read the review carefully 

But what if there are no details to work with? For example, what if the reviewer only rated your business and didn’t leave a comment? In that case, you can still personalize your reply by: 

  • Using the reviewer’s name
  • Encouraging reviewers who leave low ratings to contact you so that you can learn more
  • Varying your choice of words, like “We hope you’ll be back again soon!” instead of “We’re looking forward to your next visit!” 

5. Thank the customer

You can make a positive impression on potential customers by thanking your reviewers for their feedback, even when their comments or star ratings are negative. 

By thanking customers for negative feedback, rather than trying to argue with them, it shows that you take customer satisfaction seriously and are open to making improvements. 

Remember to change the way you thank customers in each response so that your replies to reviewers do not become too repetitive. 

6. Offer additional help and support 

Earlier, we touched on the importance of apologizing when you respond to bad restaurant reviews. However, as we pointed out, an apology on its own isn’t adequate; it needs to be backed up by some sort of resolution or action. 

You can offer a discount or free meal, encourage the reviewer to follow up with more details, and/or invite the customer to contact you for further assistance. 

These are just three examples of simple ways to offer meaningful customer support when you respond to bad restaurant reviews. 

Remember: 76% of consumers read online reviews regularly, including countless potential customers. Publicly responding to complaints in a helpful, solution-oriented manner reassures potential customers that your restaurant sincerely values its patrons and listens to their feedback. 

6 examples of good responses to bad restaurant reviews

Below, we’ve compiled a few examples of handling bad restaurant reviews effectively, featuring screenshots of some of the best responses from local businesses. You can draw inspiration from these examples and use them to write your responses more easily. 

Here are six ways to respond to negative restaurant reviews on Google, Yelp, and other online platforms.

Example #1 

a bad restaurant review example 1
responding to bad restaurant reviews example 1

Reasons for the bad review: Dissatisfaction with customer service and some of the restaurant's food 

Why the response is effective: 

  • Uses the reviewer’s name 
  • Thanks the reviewer 
  • Focuses on the positive (“ensure you have a great experience”) 
  • References action being taken (“doing everything we can to address this”) 
  • Invites the customer to return 
  • Includes an element of personalization (“you and your husband”) 

Example #2

a bad restaurant review example 2
responding to bad restaurant reviews example 2

Reasons for the bad review: Dissatisfaction with pricing and food quality 

Why the response is effective: 

  • Addresses the reviewer by name 
  • Empathizes with the customer (“We greatly care about your experience”) 
  • Apologizes for the customer’s poor experience 
  • Emphasizes the restaurant’s commitment to “delivering the 5-star experience you deserve.”
  • Provides a solution for the reviewer (“Please let a manager know so that we can make it right”) 
  • Invites the customer to return to the restaurant 

Example #3

a bad restaurant review example 3
responding to bad restaurant reviews example 3

Reasons for the bad review: Dissatisfaction with pricing and food quality 

Why the response is effective: 

  • Addresses the reviewer by name
  • Calls out positive points and plans to take action (“we’ll work harder”) 
  • Thanks the reviewer for their feedback
  • Encourages the reviewer to return to the restaurant 

Example #4

a bad restaurant review example 4
responding to bad restaurant reviews example 4

Reasons for the bad review: Dissatisfaction with pricing, portion sizes, and charges for side items like toppings 

Why the response is effective: 

  • Uses the customer’s name
  • References details from the review (“additional cost for some condiments”) 
  • Apologizes for the negative experience 
  • Invites the reviewer to contact the restaurant 
  • Emphasizes the restaurant’s willingness to provide a solution and deliver better service (“we’ll do everything we can to resolve the situation”) 

Example #5

a bad restaurant review example 5
responding to bad restaurant reviews example 5

Reasons for the bad review: Incorrect order, dissatisfaction with customer service, lack of follow-up support from the restaurant 

Why the response is effective: 

  • Uses the customer’s name
  • Offers a brief but sincere apology 
  • References details from the review (“order wasn’t correct and your concerns weren’t addressed promptly”) 
  • References the restaurant’s commitment to “superior customer service” 
  • Invites the customer to contact the restaurant for further assistance

Example #6

a bad restaurant reviews example 6
responding to bad restaurant reviews example 6

Reasons for the bad review: Lack of menus, dissatisfaction with pricing and food quality 

Why the response is effective: 

  • Uses the reviewer’s username
  • Apologizes for the negative experience (“I am so sorry to hear”) 
  • Encourages the customer to contact the restaurant for follow-up assistance (“please reach out to our team”) 
  • Shows that the restaurant is willing to assist and support dissatisfied customers (“so we can work toward a resolution”) 
  • Conveys the importance of customer satisfaction to the business (“We strive for 5-star service”) 

Top 6 review platforms you should be active on

When you receive bad reviews on a restaurant industry review platform, you need to reply swiftly using the tips we discussed in this guide. 

But where should you look for those reviews in the first place? 

Here are six examples of general review sites and restaurant industry platforms to monitor for restaurant reviews: 

  1. Google Business Profile (GBP) 
  2. Yelp 
  3. Facebook 
  4. OpenTable 
  5. Tripadvisor 
  6. GrubHub Marketplace 

1. Google Business Profile

Google Business Profile has an entire guide devoted specifically to restaurants, which we recommend checking out if you want to optimize your listing. The guide explains how to add your restaurant to Google Maps, how to update your menu online, how to accept orders online via your Google Business Profile, and more. 

2. Yelp  

When people are looking for local restaurants, they often turn to Yelp to read reviews and compare ratings. 

By monitoring and analyzing their Yelp reviews, restaurants can learn what aspects of their business are working well – and where improvements might be needed. This feedback can be used to enhance the dining experience, improve service quality, and make necessary adjustments to meet customer expectations.

3. Facebook

Don’t forget to respond to negative reviews on social media platforms like Facebook, where users can rate and recommend businesses like local restaurants. In one study by MenuTiger, “Nearly 75% of customers used Facebook to choose a restaurant based on comments, pictures, and reviews from other patrons.” 

4. OpenTable

OpenTable describes itself as a “real-time online reservation network” that allows users to “make online reservations, read restaurant reviews from diners, and earn points towards free meals.” 

Read about why being active on OpenTable is important and how your restaurant can benefit from the platform. 

5. Trip Advisor 

TripAdvisor, which boasts “over a billion reviews and contributions,” is dedicated to restaurant, vacation rental, and hotel reviews, making it a must-watch review platform for any company in these industries. 

Learn how to manage reviews on TripAdvisor, or explore TripAdvisor’s comprehensive guide for restaurant owners

6. Grubhub Marketplace 

GrubHub is a website and mobile app where users can order delivery or pick-up, rate and review restaurants, and unlock exclusive offers. 

Learn more about GrubHub for restaurants to get started using the platform and responding to customers. 

How to easily manage restaurant reviews on all platforms

Between booking tables, paying vendors, training your staff, and creating new dishes, you simply don’t have time to spare managing online reviews. 

ResponseScribe offers a solution by responding to your reviews for you, empowering your team to provide better service without more labor or training. 

We monitor more than 50 platforms for restaurant reviews, ensuring you never miss a new review, no matter how many ratings you receive. 

You can opt to receive alerts and notifications whenever responses are published or take a hands-off approach with full automation. 

Designed for bars and restaurants, our service provides AI-generated responses, human-powered responses, and hybrid review response plans that combine human expertise with AI efficiency. 

Choose the plan that fits your restaurant, with freedom to change plans at any time. 

Every response is tailored to the reviewer and aligned with your brand messaging, ensuring quality and consistency across every platform. All responses are generated in under 24 hours, with AI delivering the fastest speeds by responding within minutes.  

Learn why Burger King, Chick-fil-A, Denny’s, Sizzler, Jersey Mike’s Subs, and thousands of other brands trust ResponseScribe for fast and effective restaurant review management. 

Compare pricing and start effortlessly responding to customers on 50+ review platforms.  

Try our review response service for restaurants for free   

ResponseScribe makes it easy for restaurants, bars, bakeries, coffeeshops, fast food chains, and other food service businesses to manage their online reviews across more than 50 platforms, including Google, OpenTable, Tripadvisor, Yelp, and more. 

Our service ensures that reviewers receive personalized responses within hours of rating your restaurant, enabling you to build stronger customer relationships – without the headache or inefficiency of writing your own responses. 

Explore ResponseScribe with a free trial to see if we’re right for your restaurant. Get started today. 

FAQs

How do you respond to a bad review at a restaurant?

Here are the key steps to follow when you respond to a bad restaurant review: reply as soon as possible, use the customer’s name, thank them for the customer feedback, apologize for the poor service or dining experience, emphasize that you’re working to improve, and invite the reviewer to contact you for further resolution of their issue. Just remember that each response should be personalized and unique, so aim for variety in your word choice and avoid recycling the same replies.

How do you politely respond to a bad review?

It’s not just polite, but essential to respond quickly when you receive a negative review – ideally, within hours. A polite response should also use the reviewer’s name (if provided), thank the reviewer for their feedback, apologize for the negative issue, and last but not least, encourage the reviewer to reach out for support. It’s courteous to include contact information in your response, like the phone number or email address of your customer service department, so the reviewer does not have to find this information themselves.

How do you respond to a food critic?

You should treat a restaurant critic like any other customer who reviews your establishment poorly: thank them for sharing their comments, apologize for the issue referenced in the review, and emphasize your commitment to ensuring that diners receive an incredible experience. However, it’s wise to avoid offering discounts to professional critics, as you might with a “regular” dissatisfied customer, since it could be interpreted as an attempt at ratings manipulation.

How do you respond to a customer review on food?

The answer depends, at least in part, on whether you’re responding to positive restaurant reviews or bad restaurant reviews. When responding to negative reviews, you need to apologize for the bad experience and say what you’re doing to address it. When responding to positive reviews, use a cheerful tone and invite the reviewer to return. Regardless of the review you’re replying to, always address the reviewer by name, use brand-aligned language, and personalize your response. 

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