Restaurant reviews online are the gateway to gaining customers. Over 90% of patrons look for reviews for eateries before they go to one. If you have bad reviews, it will be looked at negatively by customers, but you’re bound to have one or two people who are unhappy with your service.

And if you ignore the ramifications of poor reviews, it can have a negative impact on your sales.

common restaurant reviews

What Happens with Bad Restaurant Reviews?

Bad reviews may or may not have an immediate impact on your sales. For example:

  • If you have dozens of great reviews and one or two bad ones, it’s nothing to worry about. People will generally overlook one or two bad reviews.

  • If you have a lot of recent bad reviews, even with dozens of good ones, it can negatively impact your sales.

Restaurant-goers want consistency when they go to their favorite eateries. A few telling stats on the importance of good reviews for your business online are:

  • 9% of customers – that's it – engage with a 1- or 2-star business

  • 88% of customers trust reviews as much as a friend recommending an eatery

  • 22% higher revenue is the average for businesses with positive reviews

Unfortunately, 95% of customers will leave a review if they have a bad experience, but this percentage is far less for a positive experience. You have to work hard to get good reviews.

If you do get bad reviews as a restaurant, you must deal with them properly to limit the impact they have on your business.

How to Deal with Bad Reviews Using 6 Proven Techniques

Restaurant owners or managers must be diligent when responding to bad reviews. If you’re too slow to reply, it’s harder to correct the damage the review will have on your business. The following are ways we recommend that you handle bad reviews.

1. Respond to Complaints Quickly

You don’t need to check your email every minute of the day just in case you receive a bad review, but you do want to respond within 48 hours. If you have a routine where you check for bad reviews each morning, it will help you maintain this strict deadline.

You should:

  • Assign a key stakeholder to reply to online reviews

  • Setup autoresponders if the person leaves a complaint on your restaurant’s form or email address

Replying quickly opens the door to rectifying the person’s complaint and preventing future issues. You may even want to offer to call the person and offer a free meal to “make it right.”

2. Be Empathetic and Apologetic When Responding to Negative Reviews

If you go on the defensive any time that you have a bad review, it will create a bad look for your restaurant. Instead, you want to remain apologetic and empathetic when replying to online reviews.

Avoid arguments and look for an amicable way to solve the problem.

3. Try to Make Things Right with the Customer

What can you do to “make things right?” If you know that there is an issue and it was your fault, consider offering a refund for the meal. You may not want to offer a refund if someone ate all of the food and then complained, and in this case, you can:

  • Offer a partial refund

  • Offer a coupon or discount for their next meal

  • Provide a free entree voucher that can be used in the future

how to respond to a 1 star review without comments

4. Listen to Their Feedback and Make Changes if You Can

When a customer leaves a negative review, use this as an opportunity for improvement. Listen to their feedback and make changes if possible. If you find that negative reviews generally have the same complaints, this indicates that a big change is needed.

For example, if multiple customers have complained about having to wait 10-15 minutes for a server to arrive at their table, you may need to make changes to how guests are seated to ensure they’re served in a timely manner.

Finding ways to make improvements based on customer feedback will help prevent future negative experiences.

5. Accept That You Can’t Make Everyone Happy

Every restaurant deals with horrible restaurant reviews. The truth is that you can’t make everyone happy. Negative reviews are just a part of running any kind of business.

Apologize, be empathetic to their situation and try to make things right. Then, accept the fact that these types of reviews will happen from time to time.

Customers are suspicious of restaurants that only have positive reviews, so keep this in mind.

How To Respond To A 1 Star Review Without Comments

Negative reviews happen. It’s a fact that every business owner has to accept. Responding to negative feedback gives you an opportunity to make things right for the customer and to improve your service.

But what happens if someone leaves a 1 star review for restaurant service, but doesn’t leave a comment?

It can be challenging to make things right when you don’t even know why the customer was unhappy in the first place.

Should you ignore the review? No. Respond in a kind and apologetic way. Ask to continue the conversation elsewhere, so you can understand what went wrong and why.

For example, you might say, “We’re very sorry to hear about your negative experience and would like to learn more about what happened so that we can improve our service. Please call us at XXX-XXX-XXXX or contact us at”

Responding in this way opens the door for a conversation with the dissatisfied customer, but it also shows that you care about providing great experiences and service to your customers.

Final Thoughts

Positive reviews are the most common restaurant reviews. But it’s hard to focus on the positive when a customer is unhappy and may even be threatening to spread the word not to visit your restaurant. Responding to negative reviews promptly and in an apologetic way can go a long way in turning an unhappy customer into a happy one. Offer to make things right and listen to their feedback so that you can improve your service and prevent future negative experiences.