For better or for worse, online reviews have an immediate impact on your restaurant. Positive reviews can directly grow your profits while negative reviews can drive people away for good. Don’t think this applies to you? Think again.
88% of consumers incorporate reviews into their purchasing decisions, trusting online reviews as much as personal recommendations. And people are most likely to read reviews for restaurants and cafes over any other type of business.
That means your restaurant’s reputation is more sensitive to the opinions of customers than any other type of business. Since the ultimate goal is, of course, to make more money, you cannot afford to wait until someone leaves a nasty comment to devise a plan for reputation management. Instead, here are three steps to create a proactive online review strategy.
1.List Your Restaurant on Review Sites
There are hundreds of review sites on the internet, so how do you know where you should have a presence? When it comes to restaurants, there are four biggies you should focus on according to data received on the NGAGE marketing platform. They are:
- Bing (Which is used by Alexa, Siri and Safari Voice Search on Apple products)
Some runners up you should also consider:
If your restaurant is not listed on the top four, stop reading this post. Seriously! Take 10 minutes to create a profile on each platform, then come back for the rest of our online review strategy.
Back so soon? Great!
It’s important to know that on most review sites, anyone can create a listing for any business. Your best friend’s cousin could create a Google business listing for your restaurant. Research at least the top four sites to make sure that your business is represented accurately.
If a listing has already been created, you’ll need to claim it. Claiming your listing is the process of telling the review site that you are an official representative of that business. Some sites, like Google, will require a verification postcard or phone call to make sure you are who you say you are. While this process may seem tedious, don’t skip it! Claiming your listing ensures that you receive notifications when someone posts a new review and gives you the ability to respond to it.
Check out our Ultimate Guide to Restaurant Marketing that walks you through creating a marketing strategy to bring in new customers.
2. Handle Negative Reviews like a Boss
Negative reviews can feel like a punch in the stomach. You’ve poured your heart and soul into building and running your restaurant, and it feels like all that effort is diminished when someone leaves a nasty comment. Having a plan for responding to negative reviews, even before you ever get one, ensures that you can tackle this challenge quickly and professionally.
Here are some do’s and don’ts when responding to a less-than-stellar review.
- Research – Ask your staff if they have any knowledge of the situation. This will help you understand why the customer is upset and if you need to address any issues internally.
- Apologize – It’s hard to argue with someone’s feelings. Simply acknowledge why the customer is upset and apologize for it. A little empathy can make a lot of things better.
- Take it offline – Provide contact information and an invitation to talk one-on-one. This shows that you’re willing to spend time listening to your customers and their concerns.
- Try to Change Their Mind – This could come off as argumentative or condescending, and while that isn’t your intention, it could do more harm than good.
- Reuse Responses – Using the same reply over and over shows customers that you aren’t paying attention to their unique concerns. Instead, reference phrases from their specific review to show that you listened to and understood their concerns.
- Delete Reviews – Deleting a bad review makes it look like you have something to hide. As tempting as it may be, leaving negative reviews online shows that you care about giving your customers a voice.
And remember, you’re not just speaking to the person who left the review, you’re also speaking to every other person who might read that review before deciding if they’re going to head over to your place for their next meal. Responding to negative reviews positively and sincerely shows existing and prospective customers that your restaurant cares about providing an excellent experience for its diners.
3. Keep Your Eyes on the Stars
Not all shoppers will take the time to sort and read through your reviews. Instead, some will take a quick glance at your star rating to decide whether or not your restaurant is worth the experience. If your overall star rating is in the dumps, you can wave that new customer goodbye! Even if your star rating is average, increasing it by even one star can lead to as much as a 9% increase in revenue!
Improving your star rating is simply a numbers game. Take, for example, IndoorMedia’s Google rating. In May of 2019, we generated 36 positive reviews for a total of 200 reviews. Our star rating went from 4.3 to (drum roll, please) 4.4! That’s right, 36 positive reviews only increased our rating by .1 star…
You should take our metrics with a grain of salt. The fewer reviews your restaurant has overall, the fewer positive reviews you’ll need to go from unsavory to delectable!
To generate positive reviews, you’re going to have to encourage customers to share their input. Here’s how to do that:
- Find out where your customers are most frequently posting reviews. In many cases, it’ll be one of the top 4 sites listed above, so it’s smart to have complete profiles on those.
- Ask for the reviews. Don’t be shy! Just tell them that their opinion is valuable to you and ask for a review. Customers who love you will be happy to do it.
- Respond to every review (not just the negative ones). Responding to positive reviews is an easy way to engage further and build trust. You could even thank them for their feedback by offering a coupon or free item!
- Share on social media. When a customer has something especially kind to say about your restaurant, share it on your social media pages. This will make them feel valued and encourage others to review you, too.
Put Your Strategy Together
Online restaurant reviews can have a big payoff (literally), so don’t avoid them just because they can be uncomfortable to deal with.
- Start by claiming your listings so that you’re always in the know when someone leaves a review.
- Responding to negative reviews with sincerity and professionalism is the best way to make a good impression.
- Increase your star rating = increase in profits!
Finding the best ways to advertise in your local area is key to driving new customers through the door every single day. Learn more about some of the top restaurant marketing tactics and how to apply them to your restaurant.