How to Respond to Negative Reviews

It goes without saying that when you own or run a restaurant business, you will encounter negative feedback at some point. Even if your sales are high, your employees are happy, and business is running smoothly, you unfortunately will not be able to please everyone. Sites such as Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Facebook provide patrons of your business with a platform to share their feedback with the public, whether it’s bad or good. Oftentimes, these reviews can be the deciding factor between someone choosing your restaurant to dine at over another one. If the platform allows business responses, it is always a good idea to publicly respond to negative feedback on food, service, and cleanliness, because it shows your customers that you care, and it also provides you with a great opportunity to remedy potential problems at your business. If you know how to respectfully respond to negative reviews, you will hopefully be able to encourage an angry diner to give your restaurant another chance.


If you receive a negative review about the service at your business, you’ll want to first vet whether the issue was with a specific employee’s behavior, or if a guest is upset about something inevitable such as wait time. A quick and sincere apology for an issue such as a long wait will suffice. If you’d like to take it a step further, suggest they make a reservation in the future, if this is something you offer, and ask them to show the review to their server on their next visit for a free appetizer on the house. 

Genuine issues with a staff member’s attitude or treatment of guests should always be taken more seriously. Apologize to the guest sincerely, and provide them with a private channel through which they can share further details on their experience with you personally. If the situation was indeed severe, offer the guest a generous gift card, assure them you will take appropriate action with the employee at hand, and follow up with the employee as soon as possible. 

Food Quality

You will occasionally run into a situation where a guest reviews your restaurant negatively because they simply did not care for the food or the dish they were served. In these situations, a quick apology is appropriate. You may even feel obliged to share an alternative dish suggestion if they would like to visit your establishment again. 

If the issue was food quality, you will want to address the situation more seriously. First, survey your kitchen and staff for what may have gone wrong with your guest’s meal to gather more information. When you respond to the review be apologetic, genuine, and provide the same private feedback channel discussed in the previous section. A gift card is always appropriate if the guest is willing to come back, but a refund for the meal may also be suitable.

If you own a quick-serve restaurant, there is a chance you may get a negative review pertaining to the quality of a delivery order. If this occurs, work with your preferred third-party provider to see how you can get delivery times down so food always stays fresh. For example, Grubhub’s Just in Time flow is perfect for quick-serve or fast-casual restaurants with fast prep times, as it ensures your food is prepared and ready to be picked up right as the delivery driver is arriving.


Oftentimes, guests will write reviews about noise-level, cleanliness, and the general atmosphere at your business. If you run into this, let the guest know what day of the week or time of day is the quietest, and give them a coupon to get a free appetizer during that time. If the guest left a review regarding the cleanliness of your restaurant, provide them with a channel to give further feedback, and apologize sincerely. It is important that you tackle the issue the guest complained about, and be sure to alert them when it has been resolved. Guests have the option to update reviews on certain websites like Yelp, and if they trust that you have taken their feedback into serious consideration, they might update their review. 

Negative reviews can be discouraging, but if you receive them, try to look at them as opportunities to improve your restaurant business. Restaurant owners can respond to negativity and may turn an angry diner into a repeat visitor. However, you should never feel the need to respond to reviews that are straight-out abusive. If someone is unfairly disrespectful to you or your staff, for example, it may be worth letting that review go unresponded. It is also just as important to take the time to send a quick “thank-you for visiting!” to any positive reviews you receive, because your happiest diners will keep your business running for many years to come.

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Jenna Calderara

Jenna Calderara

Jenna Calderara is the B2B Content Manager on the Marketing Team at Grubhub and LevelUp Agency. She is also a holistic nutritionist. When she’s not at work she enjoys cooking, blogging about wellness, and trying new Boston-area restaurants. Follow her on Instagram @jennacalderara or at @wellcanvas for nutrition and wellness!

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