Are you monitoring your restaurant’s online customer reviews?

If not, you should be!  There’s no way around it . . . customer reviews are a powerful force for good or bad.  Review sites have changed the game when it comes to how customers make decisions.  But why are these sites, and the reviews on them, so important?

Review sites offer customers the opportunity to tell the world how they feel about your restaurant.  If they had a really great experience – they’ll say so.  If they had a bad experience, you can almost guarantee they’re going to say so.  Your customers do this because it makes them feel better to post it online.

More than an opportunity for people to shout about how they feel (good or bad), customer reviews offer potential customers a way to help them make decisions about what restaurant they will definitely visit, might try some day, or want to steer clear of altogether.

Between the popularity of social media sites and the rise of online review sites, public opinion is shared far and wide . . . and it’s affecting your restaurant for good or bad.

The next section explains what you can do about it.

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88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation.

So, customer reviews are important.  What can I do about it?

You can start by monitoring your online reviews.  Many restaurants will have unclaimed profiles on review sites – these profiles are created by customers (in the absence of an official profile) for the purpose of posting reviews and checking in (depending on the features of the site).

Use this review scanner to discover where you have reviews online – and see what your score is.  It’s free and instant.

At first, pay particular attention to your overall star rating on the site.  Generally, reviews will come with a star rating ranging from 1 to 5 stars – with 5 being the best.  Your restaurant could show different overall ratings on different sites.  Anything less that 3 stars is completely unacceptable, but 3 stars isn’t helping you at all.  Strive for at least a 4-star rating as a minimum.

Next, make sure you claim your profile.  Most sites have a process that allows you to claim your listing through a process of verification to ensure you actually have the authority to do so.  They want to ensure that you are the restaurant owner, or at least a person in a position that would allow you to officially represent the restaurant on their site.

The next section gives you the 4 most important review sites.

More than 33% of diners will not eat in a restaurant with less than a 4-star rating.

So, there’s something I can do about it.  Where should I start?

Your website should include a feature that allows people to leave you a review.  By including a review feature on your website, you show that you take customer reviews seriously, and you have the opportunity to funnel reviews into the sites that matter most to you.  Of course, this doesn’t mean somebody can’t leave a review for you on another site – so you’ll still need to at least monitor all of them.

The image below shows the major review sites, as well as the most common directory sites for reviews, social media sites, and local review sites.

Major Review SitesIf this list seems overwhelming and you want to focus your efforts on the most important sites for your restaurant, we suggest the following 4 review sites:

Google

Start with Google because of the massive search benefit you’ll receive by doing so.  Go to Google.com/business and create your Google My Business listing (if you haven’t done so already).

You’ll need to create your listing and verify it – most likely by way of a postcard from Google with a verification code.  After verifying your listing, you’ll be able to collect customer reviews.  But here’s he best part . . . doing so will give you more exposure in search.  Not only will your listing come up in relevant mobile, local, and map searches, but your customer reviews will actually help the process.

Yelp

Yelp is a review giant, and it’s not just a review site for restaurants.  However, restaurant reviews are the number two rated category (behind shopping), which makes it a very important review site for restaurants.  If you’ve never created an account for your restaurant on Yelp . . . chances are, your customers already created one for you and wrote reviews on it.

Facebook

This is a given.  Any business of any size should maintain an active Facebook page simply because of the massive amount of daily activity on the site.  The vast majority of the entire population uses the site daily – and reviews are common on the site.  As with Yelp, if you’ve not already created a Facebook page for your restaurant . . . your customers already have – and they’re using it to check in, write reviews, and talk about you in general.

Foursquare

Foursquare is a popular app that is great for restaurants and retail – basically any business with a frequent, recurring customer base.  It also has some interesting promotion tools that you might find helpful to keep people coming back.

The next section explains what you should do about restaurant-specific review sites.

Improve your local ranking on Google

[Excerpt from Google My Business Help] Local results appear for people who search for businesses and places near their location. They’re shown in a number of places across Maps and Search. For example, you’ll probably see local results if you search for “Italian restaurant” from your mobile device. Google will try to show you the kind of nearby restaurant that you’d like to visit. In the image below, Google uses local results to suggest some options.

Google Restaurant

Why Yelp is important for Reviews

[Excerpt from Yelp Blog]

Virtually all Yelp users (98%) have made a purchase at a business they found on Yelp, with nearly 90% of them doing so within a week.

 

4 out of 5 Yelp users visit Yelp because they intend to buy a product or service.

Yelp users search on Yelp for everything from restaurants to spas to hotels to locksmiths and everything in between.

Facebook Stats

[Excerpt from Facebook Newsroom]

1.8 billion daily active users on average for September 2016

1.09 billion mobile daily active users on average for September 2016

Restaurant Customer Review Management

Learn more, get a free consultation, or just take a look at how it works.  Review Funnel Examples.
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1 in 8 diners will post a restaurant review after their meal.

Are there review sites specific to restaurants?

OK – you’ve taken care of the “big 4” above, now what?  There are review sites devoted to restaurants.  The image below shows some of the players in the restaurant review game.

Restaurant Review Sites
You’re already trying to turn your website into a review funnel and you’ve taken care of Google, Yelp, Facebook, and Foursquare . . . how are you going to have the time for the restaurant review sites as well?  Here’s our suggestion:

Taking care of the major review sites we mentioned above will put you into a great position to handle the majority of your review traffic.  These specialty sites aren’t used as frequently as the larger sites, so your best bet is to check for mentions of your restaurant on the sites above.

If you don’t find any mention of your restaurant, then there’s nothing to worry about . . . and you probably don’t need to worry about creating an official profile on there just yet.  However, if you find reviews for your restaurant on one of the sites, you’ll need to make yourself official on the site so you can manage your reviews there.

The next section explains what to do about bad reviews.

A 1-star increase in a restaurant’s Yelp rating can result in as much as a 9% increase in revenue.

MANAGE YOUR REVIEWS!

This is important!  Simply claiming your listing on the review sites above and making yourself official there won’t change the status of your reviews – that part falls on you.

Each time a review is posted for your restaurant, you should respond accordingly.  If the review is good – thank your customer for visiting your restaurant and leaving the review . . . and encourage them to come back.  If the review is bad – address the situation and do what you can to fix the problem.

Bad reviews are not the end of the world unless you do nothing about it.  Addressing a bad review is a great opportunity to turn an unhappy customer into a happy one – and doing that will show that you actually respect and care about your customers.  This may lead to a bad review turning into a good one.  And, since potential customers are reading the reviews and your responses, a bad review could lead to a new customer depending on how you handled your response.

Monitoring and actively managing your reviews is a sure-fire way to increase your overall review scores.  If you stay on top of your reviews and manage to increase your overall rating by just 1 star, you will see increased profits.  Happier customers . . . more potential customers willing to give you a shot for the first time . . . more business . . . more profit . . . and everybody’s happy.

About the author

Ken Collins

Ken Collins

Owner, Ken Collins Marketing

Ken has been deeply embedded in the world of public relations and marketing since 1990. Since that time, he’s worked in 3 countries, 15 states, and has excelled in 30 jobs for 17 companies before using that knowledge to leave the traditional work place and form his own marketing company in 2012.

Ken has developed his public relations and marketing strategies through his work with federal government, local government, corporate business, and small business. He’s worked with budgets that contained millions of dollars – and he’s worked with budgets that found it difficult to squeeze out a few hundred dollars. He has been using the Internet for marketing since the mid 1990’s, and he gets better at it every year.

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