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Responding to Negative Restaurant Reviews

The art of taking criticism isn’t an easy one to master. But here’s the thing: When you work in the restaurant industry, negative feedback comes with the territory.

Whether you’re a Michelin starred restaurant or a brand new business, bad restaurant reviews are inevitable. That’s a tough pill to swallow for any restaurant owner, but what’s important to remember is that each and every positive or negative review is also an opportunity to improve.

So, instead of ignoring your critics, let’s talk about leaning into them. In this guide, we’ll explain why restaurant reviews are so important, whether or not you should respond to them and how you can flip negative feedback into a positive customer experience.

How a customer review impacts your restaurant

The first thing you need to know about online restaurant reviews is that diners are constantly reading them. In fact, more diners are doing so than ever before.

According to a BrightLocal survey, 98% of consumers read online reviews when browsing for local businesses. In 2021, 77% of them did so ‘always’ or ‘regularly’ compared to just 60% of respondents in 2020.

In other words, online reviews are becoming increasingly important to consumers — especially in the restaurant industry. More than three quarters of diners consider reviews to be either important or very important in their decision to buy from a food or drink business. 

For this reason, bad restaurant reviews need to be taken seriously. If diners are constantly reading negative feedback about your restaurant, it could hurt your business by:

  • Driving away potential customers: Reading a negative review might dissuade a customer from dining in or ordering takeout or delivery from your restaurant.
  • Damaging your reputation: Restaurant reviews are like the modern day word of mouth. The last thing you want is your business to become synonymous with a poor review. If you gain a reputation for poor customer service, it can severely limit your revenue potential.
  • Lowering brand trust: When customers aren’t confident in a business, they rarely spend their money there. A negative review has the potential to make diners question their trust in your brand if matters are left unresolved.
  • Hurting your exposure: Restaurant reviews factor into Google’s search engine algorithm. The more positive reviews you have, the more likely you’ll be displayed at the top of the results when diners search for local restaurants. Too many bad reviews, however, can have the opposite effect.

Why do customers leave bad restaurant reviews?

A diner might leave a bad review for any number of reasons, but typically they stem from poor customer service.

To help you avoid these outcomes, let’s break down some of the most common customer service complaints that could inspire a negative restaurant review:

  • Long wait times: When it comes to their food, diners don’t like to be kept waiting — especially where delivery is concerned. In fact, according to the 2022 Grubhub and Technomic report, 82% of surveyed consumers prioritize delivery speed. If orders aren’t completed or delivered in a timely manner, diners are bound to leave a poor review.
  • Problems with restaurant workers: If you read enough negative restaurant reviews, you’ll start to notice that rude or unfriendly staff are a common thread. Situations like these reflect poorly on the business, which is why they’re often cited during a bad review.
  • Messages are ignored: Sometimes diners need to get in contact with your restaurant. Maybe their order is wrong, or maybe they’d like to make a reservation — either way, it’s frustrating if they can’t get a hold of anybody from your business.
  • Complaints aren’t resolved or taken seriously: A sure-fire way to lose a loyal customer is to repeatedly ignore their feedback. Sooner or later they’ll notice that management isn’t taking their complaints seriously and share their grievances in an online review.

Should your restaurant respond to a bad review?

The short answer? Absolutely. 

At first, it might seem counterintuitive to pay any mind to a negative food critic or a bad review. But in reality, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

As a matter of fact, diners actually appreciate it when a restaurant owner responds to their online review. According to BrightLocal, nearly 90% of consumers say they would be ‘fairly’ or ‘highly’ likely to use a business that responds to all reviews, positive and negative.

Think about it: Would you rather your complaints be ignored, or addressed, explained and taken seriously? Ignoring reviews, no matter how negative they might be, can risk losing a customer for good.

Why does this matter? Because the cost of replacing that diner is often much greater than the cost of retaining them, meaning it can hurt your margins when you drive away existing customers

Responding to a negative review affords you the opportunity to salvage the customer relationship. But more importantly, it also demonstrates to other potential customers that you take every customer complaint seriously and are willing to make improvements.

How to respond to a bad customer review

Before you reach out to your displeased diners, it’s best to know a few best practices. Let’s take a look at the do’s and don’ts of responding to bad restaurant reviews:

Don’t ever ignore a bad review

Every online review matters, no matter how positive or negative. We’ve already talked about how important it is to respond to a customer and tackle their negative feedback head-on. 

Do respond right away

A bad review can spread like wildfire if you’re not quick to make amends. It’s best practice to respond as quickly as possible so that other diners aren’t put off by your lack of response in the meantime.

Don’t take reviews personally

It’s hard to not be frustrated by a bad review, but it’s important not to let your emotions get the best of you. Instead of throwing gas on the flames, take a second to collect your thoughts and see where the customer is coming from. Their concern or complaint could be perfectly legitimate.

Do learn from your mistakes

When responding to a review, think about what you can do to avoid repeating the same mistakes. Better yet, let the reviewer know what you’ll be doing better in the future.

Don’t forget to say thank you

Reviews are an opportunity to learn and improve — so why not say thank you? After all, the diner is bringing something important to your attention.

Do invite the customer back with a commercial gesture

Be sure to invite the diner back to your restaurant to give you a second chance. It’s also a good idea to offer a commercial gesture, such as a discount on their next visit, to help make things right and win back their business.

Where you should look out for a bad review

You know that negative reviews come from customers, but do you know where customers are posting their reviews?

To effectively respond to customers, you need to be on your toes and go where they go. In truth, there’s no telling where a diner might review your restaurant, but generally there are three usual suspects:

Google Business

Google Business is by far the most popular place where consumers leave their restaurant reviews. If your restaurant has a Google Business profile — as it definitely should — then chances are customers are reviewing your restaurant on this channel. 

Check out our guide to learn more about using Google Business for your restaurant.


As the second most frequently used review platform, customer feedback is Yelp’s bread and butter. Similar to Google Business, Yelp allows you to create a profile for restaurants where diners can learn more about your establishment. More importantly, it’s also where they can review their experiences.

Online ordering marketplaces

That’s right, diners are even posting their opinions on online ordering platforms like Grubhub Marketplace. After all, Grubhub Marketplace is where 33+ million diners are looking for new restaurants — it’s only natural that they’re reviewing them, too.

And according to Grubhub’s 2022 Technomic report, 77% of surveyed consumers agree that if something goes wrong with their order, it’s important that they’re able to easily communicate the issue to the third-party delivery provider and receive a quick response.

Fortunately, Grubhub makes it easy for you to get to the bottom of every bad review and make things right. In fact, with a Grubhub Premium partnership, you can respond to reviews and engage with customers whenever you need to.

And if you use Grubhub Delivery, all of your orders are protected by the Grubhub Guarantee. If our drivers don’t deliver an order on time, we’ll provide customers with a perk to use on their next order — 100% covered by us.

To top it all off, Grubhub is extending the refund dispute window from seven days to 30. That means if you think the cost of fixing an order mistake should come out of our pocket — not yours — you have more time to let us know about it.

So, what’re you waiting for? Join Grubhub Marketplace today.

Ready to reach new customers and grow your business with Grubhub? Sign up today!

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