Where are people kindest (and harshest) in their online reviews of local restaurants?

In this 6 minute read:

  • Which region of the country is kindest/harshest in online reviews of restaurants?
  • Which cities are people kindest/harshest in reviews of restaurants?
  • The cities with the best and worst reviewed restaurants

We recently published our impact of online reviews on restaurant revenue report, in which we analyzed review site data and transaction data at over 30,000 restaurants across the country. This unique combination of data helped us discover the things that actually matter most to restaurants when it comes to online reviews.

And now that we’ve completed our full analysis, we thought it would be fun to dive deep into the data we used in that report and see which parts of the country were home to the best reviewed, and worst reviewed restaurants.

Or, another way to look at it is—where do the sharpest (and kindest) critics in the country live?

North, South, East, West — which corner of the country is home to the harshest critics?

Our impact of online reviews on restaurant revenue report involved the analysis of over 7 million reviews posted about restaurants across the country. We started by looking at what percentage of those total reviews were positive vs negative. (Note: 4 and 5 star reviews were designated as “positive,” while 1 to 3 star reviews were “negative.”)

80.8% of the reviews posted about restaurants in our analysis were positive, suggesting that Americans are rarely critical in their reviews.

So with that in mind, let’s start by looking at the major regions of the country.

As you can see, when we analyze the average review rate by census districts, positive reviews remain high from coast to coast.

The Pacific District was home to the lowest percentage of good reviews (78.9%), suggesting “laid back” vibe often associated with the west coast doesn’t appear to extend to online reviewers.

Southern hospitality, meanwhile, appears to be very much alive, as the East South Central Division was home to the greatest percentage of positive reviews.

Check out our impact of online reviews on restaurant revenue for a list of which states are kindest and harshest to restaurants in reviews.

The kindest and harshest cities in America for restaurant reviews

Now that we’ve determined which states were home to the most consistently positive reviews in the country, let’s get even more local. Which cities are home to the kindest and harshest reviews?

We started by looking at major metro areas where we had data from 50 restaurants or more and evaluating what percentage of the reviews posted in each city were positive. Here’s what we found:

Akron, Ohio took home the prize for city where restaurant reviews were most frequently positive. 85% of all reviews posted about restaurants across the Akron area were positive.

Scranton, Pennsylvania, home to America’s favorite fictional paper supply office, is a close second place. A pair of Florida cities—Jacksonville and Sarasota—also had a positive review rate of over 84%.

The most critical city in the country is San Francisco, as 26.4% of all restaurant reviews posted there were negative. Over a quarter of all restaurant reviews posted in Washington, DC were also negative, making it the second harshest city in the country.

Which cities are home to the best and worst reviewed restaurants?

The section above showed us how frequently any given restaurant review in each city was positive or negative, but we also wanted to see which cities were home to the best and worst reviewed restaurants.

We started by looking at the cities whose restaurants were most consistently rated 4.5 stars or higher.

Topping the list is Sarasota, Florida and Louisville, Kentucky where over half of their restaurants were rated 4.5 stars or higher. Unsurprisingly, many of the cities that are home to the best-reviewed restaurants were also those whose reviewers were the most consistently positive.

To find the home of the worst-reviewed restaurants, we examined what percentage of restaurants in each city had a rating of 2.9 stars or lower.

Detroit was home to the worst-reviewed restaurant in our analysis, as 6.2% of their restaurants were rated at 2.9 stars or lower. New Haven, Connecticut came in 2nd with 5.6%.

In an interesting twist, Knoxville, Myrtle Beach, and Omaha all landed on both lists—suggesting there might be very little ground for restaurant reviewers in those cities.

An important thing to consider when looking at all the cities above, of course, is how few local restaurants are poorly reviewed. With 93.8% of all restaurants in Detroit still had a star rating of 3.0 or higher, dining options are far from bleak no matter what city you’re in.

Managing reviews if you own your own local restaurant

As you can see, people are generally quite positive when it comes to leaving reviews of local restaurants—even though sometimes it may not feel like it.

At the end of the day, it’s not about whether a restaurant brings in good or bad reviews, but it’s about consistently getting genuine, authentic reviews. Even bad reviews can be a good thing, as many customers look to bad reviews to help them decide whether they want to roll the dice on trying a new restaurant.

That’s why it’s important for restaurant owners to keep an active presence on all online review sites—claim and update your listing, and respond to your online reviews. Then get as many of those authentic and genuine reviews as possible.

This helps your restaurant stand out above the competition on online review sites, no matter how kind or harsh your critics might be.

Finally, to make all this much easier (and save you a whole lot of time) consider using Womply’s reputation management software to help you manage all your online reviews better than ever before. Learn more, plus get free reputation monitoring and customer insights when you sign up for Womply Free!


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