Anatomy of a Review Response: A Step-by-Step Guide to Managing Guest Reviews & Feedback

Review Management Dec 11, 2023

Having your online listings on platforms like Google, Yelp, and Facebook packed with 5-star reviews is great, but ignoring reviews, no matter what the rating, could have a negative impact on your business. 

Think of it as the equivalent of a guest sharing their experience face-to-face, only for you to say nothing and walk away. 


In this guide, we’re going to look at the value of all ratings, not just 5-stars. 

We’ll uncover the hidden moneymaker in neutral ratings, discuss strategies for negative feedback, provide key components for every review response, and lastly, share the best approach to managing your reviews so you can get the most out of what customers are sharing about your restaurant.

To help you get started with review responses, we’ll include easy-to-copy/paste response templates for star rating. We’ll also include a link where you can download all these templates – plus a few extras – to get you started. 

Let’s dive in.

Understanding the Value of Online Reviews

Reviews are often the deciding factor when customers are figuring out where they want to eat. 

People look at your menu, see where you're located, and then check out reviews to see what other guests are saying about your restaurant. 

I’m sure you do the same thing when looking for a place to eat—I know I do.

But why do 92% of Americans read a restaurant review before making a decision?

To eliminate doubt and uncertainty. 

People don’t want to risk blowing their money on a bad dining experience, so they jump online to make sure they’re getting the meal they’re craving. 

That means right now, hundreds, if not thousands, of people in your local area are trying to figure out where they want to eat, and a negative or positive review can tip them in either direction when making that choice. 

Here are 8 other ways reviews can benefit your restaurant:

1) Trust and Credibility: Positive reviews build trust among potential customers, as they rely on the experiences of others to gauge a restaurant's quality.

2) Increased Visibility: Reviews can improve a restaurant's search engine rankings and “near me” searches, making it more visible and accessible to new customers.

3) Valuable Feedback: Reviews provide critical insights into what customers enjoy and what can be improved, helping restaurants refine their offerings and services.

4) Word-of-Mouth Marketing: Good reviews act as a form of recommendation, encouraging others to visit.

5) Competitive Advantage: Restaurants with higher ratings can stand out in a competitive market, attracting more customers.

6) Customer Engagement: Responding to reviews shows that a restaurant values its customers' opinions, fostering loyalty and repeat business.

7) Trend Analysis: Reviews can reveal trends in customer preferences, aiding in menu development and marketing strategies.

8) Social Proof: Positive reviews serve as social proof, influencing the expectations and decisions of potential customers.

Reviews are your most valuable online asset. How your restaurant responds, whether its 1-star or 5-stars, can greatly influence potential customers’ dining choices. 

Here's how you should craft and manage your review responses. 

Responding to Positive Reviews

Responding to 5-star reviews is easy. 

You know the customer is already happy, so all you have to do is say ”thank you,” right? 

Yes, that’s part of it, but you don’t want to miss the opportunity to reinforce a positive image of the restaurant and encourage them to make a return visit. 

So even though they had a great time, you’ll want to be strategic with your answer. 

Here is a great starting point and the first of several templates we’ll share with you. 

5-Star Response Template:

We’re glad you had such an enjoyable visit, <NAME>! Thanks so much for joining us, and for sharing your feedback about our <include specific item from their review>. We hope to see you back again soon.

Customers love this response because: 

  • You recognize them by name.
  • You refer to something specific about their review, showing that a real person read it and appreciates their feedback.
  • You welcome them back for another great time. 

Gratitude is key, and this simple, heartfelt response goes a long way in making customers feel appreciated.  

The Untapped Potential of Neutral Reviews (3-4 Stars)

Operators tend to focus on the two ends of the 5-star rating scale. 

You want to thank 5-star reviews for helping to spread the word and show what a great place your restaurant is, and 1-2 star reviews are issues that need mending, leaving the 3-4 star reviews to go mostly unnoticed. 

Here’s why 3-4 star reviews are your most valuable reviews: customers with a “middle of the road” experience tend to leave more insightful and descriptive comments. 

For example, here’s a snapshot of 5-star reviews on Yelp for Margaritaville. 

And here is a 3-star review, also for Margaritaville.

The 3-star review has significantly more information, which is what makes these reviews so valuable. 

It does two things.

  1. Gives prospective customers an honest, straightforward telling of what it’s like to eat at your restaurant. 
  2. Shines a light on problem areas with your customer service and shows you how to rectify the situation with the customer leaving a review.

Because most restaurants ignore 3-4 star reviews, stepping up to the plate to acknowledge their blasé customer experience will help your business stand out in the restaurant landscape and strengthen your customer bond, making it more likely they’ll have a return visit. 

Try this template or build something similar when doing 3-4-star review response. 

3-4 Star Response Template

<NAME>, we appreciate you taking a moment to share your experience with us. Your support is truly valued, and please know that we will review your feedback with our team. It’s our hope that we can earn that extra star on your next visit.

3-4-star review customers are just a step away from becoming loyal patrons. Taking the time to address their concerns can often make the difference when creating a long-term customer relationship.

The Delicate Dance with Negative Reviews

Negative reviews can be tough, especially if you think the customer is out of line, but there’s always a tactful way to handle these situations. 

How you navigate 1-2 star reviews can significantly impact how other customers see your brand, and it’s an opportunity to gain respect from your community. 

Here is the best way to respond to negative reviews.

  1. Keep your cool: Getting defensive when faced with negative feedback is natural, but staying composed is key. Remember, your response is public; take a moment to breathe and approach the situation objectively. 
  2. Acknowledge and apologize: Take ownership of the customer experience and sincerely apologize. This demonstrates responsibility and empathy, laying the foundation for resolution. 
  3. Move the conversation offline: In some cases, it’s best to remove the conversation from a public forum by giving them an email or phone number to contact. This allows you to gather more detail and provide a tailored solution to the customer experience in a private channel, and it also shows potential guests reading your reviews that you take feedback seriously. 

Here is a template that embraces each of these steps.

1-2 Star Response Template

<NAME>, we’re disappointed that your recent visit fell so short of your expectations. Complete guest satisfaction is what we strive for every time, as we always want you and your family to leave feeling full and happy. We’d love to discuss your experience with you in the hopes of inviting you back, so please reach out to us at <manager’s email>.

Staying calm and not taking criticism personally keeps you in the right frame of mind to handle negative reviews professionally and objectively so your emotions don’t cloud a response. 

Remember, every negative review is an opportunity to win back an unhappy customer. Other guests read negative reviews, and if they see you always respond with grace and dignity, it will strengthen your brand in their minds. 

If you like our review response templates, use this link to download the ones you see here and more so you can start responding to reviews today. 

Anatomy of a Great Review Response

No matter how many stars a review has, there are specific elements that every review response should include. 

More than anything, each of these components helps customers feel heard. It’s awful to share an experience, positive or negative, and feel like no one hears you. 

Stick to these elements, and you’ll make every customer feel valued. 

  1. Repeat back parts of the customer’s review: This technique shows you've read and understood their feedback. For instance, if a customer mentions enjoying a specific dish, you might respond, "We're delighted you loved our signature lasagna!"
  2. Personalize It: Each response should feel personal and unique. Avoid generic phrases that could apply to any establishment, and use their name if it’s available.
  3. Maintain Authenticity: Be real. Customers want to read a response that comes from a human. Templates or AI tools are great for saving time, but a human touch is still necessary. 
  4. Incorporate SEO Keywords Tactfully: Use relevant keywords naturally in your responses. Mentioning menu items, ambiance features, or even music can enhance your restaurant's search engine visibility, helping with SEO without compromising the authenticity of your response.

Number #4 is kinda outta left field, I know, but it’s incredibly important to your Google rankings, and a review response is a prime opportunity to take advantage of plugging in keywords organically. 

If SEO feels new and you want to learn more, check out our Comprehensive Guide To Digital Restaurant Management: SEO, Hours & Location, Menus, Reviews, and Analytics

In it, you’ll learn everything you need to know about SEO and how it can help your restaurant reach more customers FOR FREE, along with other amazing information on managing your online assets. 

The Best Way To Manage Review Responses

If your team is fielding more than 50 reviews per month, we strongly suggest you adopt a review management system like Marqii. 

Staying on top of review responses is difficult even when business is smooth. Throw in the holidays, a broken ice machine, and two no-call-no-shows, and reviews are likely to fall lower on your priority list. 

However, responding to customer feedback is just as important as fixing that broken ice machine— and the only way not to fall behind is with review management tools. 

How Marqii Can Help

Marqii's Managed Review Response service blends AI's precision with a human touch. This approach ensures responses are not just timely but also personalized and authentic, fitting perfectly with the unique vibe of your restaurant.

Marqii's dashboard centralizes review management from multiple platforms like Google, Facebook, and Yelp, all in one place—making it easy to keep track and respond promptly.

Responding to customer reviews will build your reputation as a restaurant that cares about customer needs and is invested in continuously improving. Marqii empowers you to do just that, turning reviews into strategic assets.

If you’re ready for your restaurant to: 

  • Take control of your online reviews
  • Connect with customers on a deeper level
  • And drive revenue growth in 2024

Then reach out right now and schedule a demo to see the Marqii difference. 

Using Marqii means you can easily manage your online:

  • Reviews
  • Listings
  • Menus
  • Hours and location
  • …and more

Don’t let another day pass with review responses falling deeper and deeper into the weeds. 

Reach out today, and let’s get started. 


Kelsey Verdier

Kelsey is the Director of Marketing at Marqii. With over a decade of experience in the restaurant industry and in marketing, she's felt firsthand the pains and joys of working in hospitality.