If you own or manage a restaurant, it’s essential for someone in your organization to pay attention to your online reputation. The advent of online rating systems means that when a customer has a bad experience at your eatery, the whole world gets to hear about it. And the average diner pays a lot of attention to what peers say about a restaurant. It might not be as bad as receiving a scathing review from a food critic, but poor customer reviews can be death by a thousand cuts. Read on to learn how to get better reviews.
How Do Reviews Impact the Bottom Line?
According to Harvard Business School researcher Michael Luca, major chain restaurants with a national presence are not likely to be impacted by a few bad reviews. However, newer franchises and independent restaurants are at risk. For restaurants that are impacted by online reviews, Luca determined that a one-star increase in Yelp ratings for Seattle restaurants led to a 5-9 percent increase in revenue. In a San Francisco based study, restaurants with a rating just above four stars were 19% more likely to sell out reservations compared to those with just under four stars.
It’s important to note that the opportunity for increased revenue is tied to improvement and not to perfection. This means you don’t have to have five stars to reap the benefit of better online reputation management. So even if some bad reviews have knocked you below the 4-star level, it’s worth your while to start addressing the issue now and get better reviews.
Improve Your Restaurant’s Online Ratings and Get Better Reviews
1. To get better reviews, train staff to ask for reviews. Perhaps you can even incentivize this behavior. For example, when a server drops off the customer’s check, they might ask the customer to leave a review that mentions the server by name. For example, “We have a contest this month to see how many online reviews each server can earn for the restaurant. If you leave a happy review and mention my name in it, I can win a prize!” Since servers usually have a good idea of when a customer is satisfied with their service, they can help you hone in on people who are likely to leave four and five-star reviews. It’s low tech and low cost.
2. Automate your review collection process to get better reviews. If you are starting to implement more technology into your restaurant’s operation, it makes sense to invest in tech that could help you increase your star rating (and potentially deliver a 5-9% increase in revenue as a result). Whether you are using loyalty and reward programs or a tabletop kiosk to collect payment after a meal, customers are becoming accustomed to interacting with your brand electronically. And the best time to ask for a review is right after a customer has enjoyed a great meal. Having review collection integrated into the payment system means the customer doesn’t have to remember to log onto Yelp later.
3. To get better reviews, use social media to remind people about your brand. Yelp isn’t the only review system to watch when you want to show that your restaurant has a great reputation. If you are using Facebook to promote your restaurant, post specials, or sell branded merchandise, make a point of engaging your repeat customers to leave reviews there as well. You want potential customers to read good things about you no matter where they find you online.
4. Respond promptly and professionally to online reviews. If you get a bad review, it’s not the end of the world. And it’s very important not to take it personally. You’ll find poor reviews fall into a couple of categories—people who are having a bad day and happened to visit your restaurant and people who are having a bad day because of your restaurant. In the first case, the professional thing to do is express empathy without arguing about whether the customer’s complaints are valid. In the second case, you need to review your internal processes and make sure what went wrong doesn’t happen again. In any situation, you can offer an apology for not creating an outstanding dining experience and ask for another chance to do things better.
You can have a basic format to follow with these responses, but don’t use a cut and paste template. Remember, your responses are public and people are impressed when they know a real person is listening to feedback and responding to complaints. You may not turn a dissatisfied customer around, but you can make a better impression on the rest of the audience that is deciding whether or not your restaurant is worth their time and money. Restaurant Engine has more good advice for responding to negative restaurant reviews. If you want to really step up your game, respond to the positive reviews as well, thanking your customers for their business and inviting them back again!
For more insights into how restaurants are being impacted by the changing world of technology and tech-savvy customers, read our blog on “How Millennials Are Changing the Quick Service Restaurant Industry”.