Earning Positive Online Reviews for your Restaurant
Online reviews are a complicated beast for business owners to tame. At their worst, they’re personal sounding boards for miffed customers, looking to rake your restaurant across the figurative coals. When they’re positive though, they’re real guest testimonials and can serve as powerful ambassadors for your restaurant. The challenge for operators then is how to earn positive restaurant reviews, tactfully.
Understanding Online Restaurant Reviews
In the modern era, review sites for businesses are the norm. Third-party services like Yelp allow users to rate these businesses based on their own experiences. These reviews help future customers make decisions. A BrightLocal survey suggests that most customers read an average of 10 online reviews before trusting a business enough to patronize. A whopping 57% of all customers won’t even consider a business if it has fewer than four stars!
Now, there’s a lot to be said about the actual reliability of these reviews. For one thing, the verification process is still a grey area, often meaning that anyone, at any time, can write a negative review of your business, even if they’ve never visited. These users can strike fear into the hearts of many operators!
Additionally, customer experiences can be acute and subjective. They’re not aware of all that’s happening in the kitchen or the line cook who “no call/no-showed.” This article isn’t to discuss the ethics of restaurant reviews though, but rather the reality: they’re not going away, and they’re essential for your business and visibility. Below we’ll detail how to earn more positive reviews for your restaurant.
Know Your Restaurant’s Strengths
You know that you’ve got to keep your restaurant in tip-top shape – from the menu to your customer service. The fact that customers are reviewing this online should provide extra motivation. The basic principle here is that, before you invite customers to consider your restaurant, you want it to be at its best.
Make sure you’ve got a solid customer service strategy in place. Ensure you’ve got everything working, from the menu to the actual workflow and synergy between your front and back-of-house staff. Where necessary, consider employing technology to pace and automate these processes, ensuring high food quality and overall efficiency.
If you’re looking for specific areas of improvement, consider the restaurants that you would give a positive review. What sticks out to you? What delights you about their service? How do you compare to them?
Another way to seek areas for improvement is negative reviews. Whether they’re for your own business or someone else’s, you can identify common themes in these reviews to help make improvements. If guests are complaining consistently about long wait times, you should probably look into your guest management efforts. Address any red flags you notice along the way before soliciting any reviews.
Create the Channels and Methods for Online Reviews
If you want guests to review your restaurant, you need to make it extremely easy for them to do so. First and foremost, make yourself available on as many review sites as you can. Some of these include TripAdvisor, Yelp and Zomato. Many guests already know to use these sites, so being proactive in directing users there shows that you’re open to feedback and goes a long way in humanizing your business.
You can promote your presence on these review sites through social media channels, email campaigns and even through printed table cards and sticker decals in your restaurant. You don’t need to do anything fancy or complicated. Use these channels to encourage guests to review your restaurant on these platforms.
Another way to drive more digital reviews for your restaurant is through landing pages on your website. Through solid restaurant SEO and a clean design, you can drive traffic directly to a review site. You can do this by creating a Reviews page and embedding badges to the review sites in which you have a presence. The general principle here is this: if your customer wanted to leave a review, make it as simple and available as possible.
Ask for Online Reviews
Asking for reviews doesn’t have to be tacky. Your guests use these review websites and know their importance. Unfortunately, in most cases, customers feel the most incentive to leave a review only when they’ve had a negative experience. You can reverse some of this energy in the other direction, by taking things a step further and just sincerely asking.
You can ask for them through social media, email campaigns or even, at your best judgment, in person. It helps if you know a customer has had a good experience. You needn’t make a big deal of it, but you can let them know the option is there.
A net promoter survey helps you gauge customer loyalty by asking respondents a question like: “on a scale of 0-10, how likely would you be to recommend this restaurant to a friend?” You can categorize 0-6 as those who are dissatisfied with the business, those 7-8 as satisfied customers who could be swayed by competition and those 9-10 as people who’d be likely to promote your restaurant. When you’ve identified some 9-10 scores, consider asking them for reviews.
Incentivize Online Reviews with Caution
It’s not uncommon to reward online customer reviews. Many will expect it, and it goes a long way to show your appreciation to them. Be mindful, though, if you make the reward the central focus of things, that you can appear desperate and a bit tacky. Don’t say things like “If you give us five stars, we’ll give you 50% off your next meal.” You don’t want to create the idea that you’re trying to manipulate them for good reviews. Be upfront about why you seek reviews: they help you stay in business!
Offer the reward as a sincere token of appreciation that they’ve taken the time to leave it. Don’t use it to bait your customers. Remember also that even if you dangle a figurative reward in front of a guest, they can still leave a negative review – and may do so to spite you! Be cautious in how you reward.
Share the Good Word
When a customer says good things about your restaurant, it carries much more weight than when you do. Future guests who use these online restaurant reviews sites will likely find a genuine review from a customer more compelling than your website.
When you’ve built up a bank of good reviews, don’t be afraid to share them. A simple “see what they’re saying!” campaign not only gets eyes on your restaurant’s great qualities, it can motivate others to get in on the action. These online customer reviews act as powerful ambassadors for your brand. Show them to the world!
Online Reviews and Your Restaurant
Reviews are a significant part of the growth and visibility of your restaurant. While they can seem unruly to many, a positive approach will help you leverage reviews for your benefit. By keeping your restaurant in premiere working order, creating clear channels to review and by sharing your positive reviews, you can earn more positive reviews for your restaurant.
What’s in a bad online review? Read our article on responding to negative restaurant reviews to learn how to make the best of a disgruntled diatribe.
About the Author
Dylan Chadwick is a Content Marketing Specialist at QSR Automations. He graduated from Brigham Young University with an English degree and journalism focus. When left to his own devices, he enjoys loud music, adorable dogs and documentaries about them.