Top Reasons People Leave Negative Restaurant Reviews (and How to Fix Them)

Online reviews make a huge difference in where people choose to eat these days. 90% of diners research restaurants online before choosing a place to eat. 33% won’t eat at any place that has fewer than four stars. 

Ultimately, this means that negative reviews have a significant impact on a restaurant. In addition to reducing your foot traffic and immediate profitability, they can also:

  • Reduce your visibility online. Review platforms and search engines consider user-generated content, including reviews, when ranking businesses. If your rankings are poor you will appear at the bottom of searches – or potentially not at all.
  • Damage your reputation, causing you to experience things like staff churn and difficulty hiring great talent.
  • Erode trust with current customers, causing you to lose your loyal base.

What to do when you get a bad review

When done, here is content other readers find helpful:

Bad reviews happen to even the most incredible establishments. The best thing you can do is address it. Online review platforms like Yelp typically allow the owner or manager to respond publicly. This is your chance not just to fix what went wrong for the customer who left the review, but to demonstrate to potential customers how much effort and care you will put into their experience. 

Some best practices when responding to bad reviews:

  • Stay professional. Craft a thoughtful and polite response.
  • Respond promptly so that you are able to fix the issue in a timely manner.
  • Begin your response by expressing gratitude for the customer’s feedback. It demonstrates a growth mindset and a willingness to put effort into the customer experience.
  • Acknowledge the specific issue raised in the review and apologize for any negative experience the customer had. Show empathy and understanding towards their concerns.
  • Take the conversation offline so that you can provide your solution privately.

A perfect example of a good response that addresses all of the above comes from Brittany at Founding Farmer’s in DC. Have a look:

Reasons diners leave negative reviews and how to prevent them

Of course, it’s better to avoid getting bad reviews in the first place. To do so, you need to understand the variety of factors that go into a restaurant review, so you can improve those areas at your restaurant.

Poor service

The quality of service your staff provides is a true make or break for a restaurant. Common complaints about service include:

  • Slow service
  • Rude staff
  • Mistakes in orders

The best way to prevent poor service at your restaurant is to provide comprehensive training to all staff members, including servers, hosts, and kitchen staff, on customer service best practices and brand standards.

While training is essential, training alone does not guarantee brand standards are followed. Staff may be trained, answer the quiz and pass the test, but are they applying their learned skills where it matters, enhancing the guest experience? So make sure that you also protect the brand with site visits.

Lastly, streamlining your processes is also key to empowering your staff to provide good service. Staff can’t help with slow service if the fault lies with the processes. Optimize restaurant operations to ensure smooth and efficient service. Minimize waiting times, streamline order taking and food delivery processes, and ensure that staff members are well-coordinated to prevent delays or mistakes.

Quality of food

When people go out to eat, they do so for the food. And while taste is certainly the most important factor in what customers think of your food, presentation and freshness of ingredients are also very important. 

Fortunately, there’s also a lot you can do to ensure your food is top quality across the board. Here are some strategies:

  • Source ingredients from reputable suppliers and ensure that they meet your desired standards. 
  • Implement rigorous quality control processes on both ingredients coming into the kitchen and the final dishes leaving the kitchen meet the established standards. 
  • Continuously evaluate the performance of menu items. Pay attention to customer feedback and popularity. Remove or modify dishes that underperform.
  • Foster a culture of continuous improvement in the kitchen. Encourage staff to share ideas, experiment with new flavors, and refine cooking techniques. 


The ambience of your restaurant is critical in the experience guests have. A poorly lit, under furnished space can have the best food in the world but will still be off-putting to guests. 

To create an ambience that is enjoyable for guests and drives excellent reviews, you need to develop a clear concept for the restaurant that matches the desired dining experience. To fully flesh out this concept you’ll need to:

  • Pay attention to lighting choices, as it significantly impacts the ambiance. Use a combination of natural and artificial lighting to create a warm and comfortable environment. Dim lighting can create a cozy atmosphere for intimate dining, while brighter lighting may be more suitable for casual or family-oriented settings.
  • Select appropriate background music that complements the overall ambiance and enhances the dining experience.
  • Invest in comfortable seating options that cater to different needs, such as cushioned chairs or booths. Consider the spacing between tables to provide customers with privacy and ample room to move comfortably.
  • Maintain a high standard of cleanliness throughout the restaurant. Regularly clean the dining area, including tables, chairs, floors, and restrooms. 
  • Ensure that the temperature within the restaurant is comfortable for guests. Proper systems should be in place to create a pleasant environment regardless of the weather outside.

These tips apply to outdoor spaces as well as indoor—including the temperature. Outdoor spaces need to be equipped with fans, shade, and heating elements.

Wrapping it up

Ultimately, the best way to prevent bad reviews is to care deeply about your customer experience. If you want your guests to have a great meal, your care will come across in the food, service, and environment. 

Hopefully the pointers above help you and your team implement processes and best practices that create 5-star-worthy reviews. For best results, be sure to audit and assess your restaurant operations regularly to make sure that your procedures are being followed to the letter. 

Use Bindy’s restaurant audit and inspection software to keep your business in top shape. Bindy enables you to inspect and validate everything front and back of house operations, food preparation, customer service and more, to ensure that all teams and locations meet your brand standards. Learn more about Bindy.


Refer to the Food Service and Restaurants category for checklists, how-tos and best practices for food service and restaurants.

About the author:

Francesca Nicasio is retail expert, B2B content strategist, and LinkedIn TopVoice. She writes about trends, tips, and best practices that enable retailers to increase sales and serve customers better. She’s also the author of Retail Survival of the Fittest, a free eBook to help retailers future-proof their stores.

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