For the restaurant industry, online reputation management is an essential ingredient for success. As online reviews increasingly influence how diners make decisions, restaurants live and die by their standing on sites like Google, Yelp, Facebook, and Zomato. Competition between restaurants only heightens the need for effective online review and reputation management strategies.
Restaurant-goers are especially inclined to share details about their dining experience, and this large volume of online reviews creates a particularly reliable source for restaurant recommendations. In fact, almost half of all consumers consider online reviews as highly influential when searching for a new restaurant. Online reviews are often the first encounter customers will have with your restaurant, before they even sit down at the table.
Considering these facts, restaurants must think carefully about crafting an online review management strategy and engaging with customers to develop a positive online presence. This guide will provide restaurants with the tools needed to improve online review and reputation management, increase revenues and keep customers happy.
Why Restaurants Must Manage Online Reviews
Online reviews matter for every business, but there probably isn’t an industry in which they matter as much as in the restaurant industry. Customers rely on recommendations to make decisions about restaurants, and they increasingly share details about their dining experiences through social media and online review sites.
Why are restaurant-goers more likely to write reviews about their dining experience? It might just come down to the fact that sharing food and drink is a highly social experience. It’s also true that food is a constant concern of daily life. One study by TouchBistro found that 64% of restaurant-goers occasionally look for somewhere new to eat. When it comes to restaurants, customers are often looking for new options—and they turn to online reviews to make those decisions.
Another reason why restaurants must consider their online presence is that reviews have a real, tangible impact on business performance. One study conducted by economists at the University of California, Berkeley found that a restaurant with an extra half-star rating – on a scale of 1 to 5 – was much more likely to be full at peak dining times. It’s clear that online reviews play an increasingly important role in how consumers judge the quality of a restaurant.
Establishing Your Restaurant’s Presence On Review Sites
Customers have the power to share details about their dining experience to a wide online audience. While this power gives diners the ability to affect restaurant performance, it also provides opportunities for restaurants to engage with customers and improve their reputation. Optimizing your restaurant’s presence on review sites can make the difference in how potential customers view your business.
In the past, food critics were the arbitrators of a restaurant’s success, but today that role is held by online review sites and social media platforms. Everyone’s a critic. Establishing a presence on these review sites is a necessary first step. While there are tons of sites out there, we recommend focusing your attention on Google, Yelp, Facebook, Zomato. These sites not only receive the most traffic from restaurant-goers but also retain the highest level of trust. Also, make sure to monitor sites like Chowhound and the newly independent Zagat.
- Google: This is one of the most important places for restaurant reviews. Create or edit your restaurant listing on Google to increase visibility. Reviews on Google can influence both how often your restaurant appears in search results and whether or not it is selected. Additionally, Google is now posting how the busiest times, how long people typically stay, price ranges, menus, and more.
- Facebook: When it comes to social media, Facebook is the platform your restaurant should be focusing on. Users are much more likely to post reviews on Facebook than any other social media platform, and studies show these reviews can often have a positive impact on the business.
- Yelp: Yelp covers a wide variety of businesses, but its main focus is restaurants, bars, and other dining spots. Although Yelp’s guidelines make it difficult to control customers’ reviews, there are still ways to engage on the site.
- Zomato: Zomato is one of the fastest growing restaurant review platforms in the world and has already eclipsed Yelp in a number of countries. A restaurant in London as 246 Zomato reviews and 146 Yelp 146. In Toronto: Zomato 169, Yelp 502. In Melbourne: Zomato 2296, Yelp 61.
- TripAdvisor: Both in the US and around the world, TripAdvisor is a key review source for any restaurant that has any hope of catering to tourists. Looking again at the London example of 246 Zomato reviews and 146 Yelp reviews. TripAdvisor has tallied an astounding 5,137 reviews for this high-end restaurant in the theatre district.
- Regional Sites: Food is almost always national, regional and local. The most important review sites might be the ones that resonate with your core customer demographics. In Australia, it might be Truelocal.com. In Brazil, it might be kekanto.com. You will always want to make certain to stay connected to the newer review services that are embraced by the trendsetters for your business – whoever they might be.
- Traditional Media: The local newspaper or magazine restaurant critic might be the single most important source of information for a new restaurant. While these review platforms don’t offer the opportunity for responses or moderation, you will certainly want to stay abreast of what these critics are looking for from your style of restaurant.
- Possibly A Dozen More: Unfortunately, there may be a dozen more review sources that are directly relevant to your restaurant, even for a single location. Take a day to conduct searches for your business using a wide variety of terms and from multiple search engines. Track down any listing services or review sites. Register directly with each platform. You will want to be able to be notified via email of any new reviews so you don’t need to continually check each site.
Optimizing Your Restaurant’s Online Presence
In addition to establishing your restaurant’s presence on review sites and social media platforms, there are things you can do to improve how customers view your business. While some review sites have strict guidelines, others provide more flexibility when it comes to customizing your profile and engaging with reviewers.
For restaurants, in particular, It’s always a good idea to maintain complete and accurate details about your business on these sites. Your hours of operation, address and contact information are key details that customers want to know. If they can’t contact or connect with your restaurant, you probably won’t be getting their business.
One great way to improve your restaurant’s presence on review sites is to add photos and menus. This is a simple thing to do, but it can make a big difference in how consumers interact with your brand. In fact, Yelp reports that customers stay on a business listing two and a half times longer when photos are featured.
Responding To Restaurant Reviews
The best thing a restaurant can do to improve its online reputation is to respond to customer reviews–both positive and negative ones. Every restaurant, no matter how good, will have its share of unsatisfied guests. That’s something every restaurant owner and chef knows. You can’t please every single guest.
Still, responding to customer reviews can make a difference in how potential customers view your business. In this guide, we go into great detail about how to effectively respond to online reviews with helpful tips and examples. Restaurant owners should be especially aware of the common reviews that restaurants may face. While food quality is typically the most important factor influencing a customer’s review, customer service is often the most common type of complaint.
Asking For Restaurant Reviews
Responding to negative reviews can go a long way in enhancing your restaurant’s online reputation. However, obtaining more positive reviews is ultimately the only way to improve your review site ratings. In order to get more positive reviews, you’ll have to ask for them.
Asking for customer reviews is always tricky, and it can be hard to know what the best way to do it. Many restaurants will leave reminders or post signs on the door to see as customers leave. These physical reminders are important, and we recommend that you take advantage of the materials provided by sites like Yelp and OpenTable.
But that’s not all. There are additional ways to encourage happy customers to post online reviews for your restaurant. One great way to remind diners about reviews is by printing a request on their receipt or by placing a reminder card in their bill. When a waiter or waitress provides the customer their bill, they can call attention to the review site reminder.
An even better option is to collect customers’ emails. Enticing customers to share this information can be difficult, but there’s a worthwhile payoff. Once you have an email, you can reach out the next day or following week to ask about the customer’s experience. Providing direct links to review site pages makes the process as easy as possible. (Check out LocalClarity’s Google Review Link Generator.)
Simplifying Restaurant Reputation Management
To take control of your restaurant’s online reputation and simplify how you engage with customers, consider enrolling with an online reputation management company. Restaurants with multiple locations can especially benefit from this service. Since restaurant owners are often busy on the floor, it’s difficult to keep up with customers’ feedback and respond to every single review.
Online reputation management tools allow you to view thousands of reviews with user-friendly reporting structures. These capabilities give your restaurant full visibility of online activity so that you’ll never miss a review or an unhappy customer. They also simplify how you respond to customer reviews. LocalClarity, for example, has a library of customizable review responses that are tailored for the restaurant industry.