For restaurant owners, Yelp is both their saving grace and the bane of their existence. It’s enabled loyal regulars to express their enthusiasm and easily spread the word to others. It’s also provided a platform for disgruntled patrons to broadcast their grievances to the world.
It's a double-edged sword, but with 86 million monthly app users looking for new businesses, there’s no denying that Yelp is an important site for restaurants. According to a Harvard Business School study, restaurants will see a 5% to 9% increase in revenue if their Yelp rating increases by just one star. This is important, folks.
Get started with Yelp by creating an account and claiming your business. Then, you can start to bring your listing to life. Once you’re in, here are five best practices for managing a Yelp page that will entice new customers to eat at your restaurant.
1. Complete all sections of your business profile
Search engines gobble up pages like Yelp because it’s teeming with high-value links, relevant keywords, and domain authority. Often, you’ll see Yelp business pages appear above restaurant websites in Google search results. Depending on the search terms, it’s very likely that a searcher will land on your Yelp page without ever making it to your official website.
Therefore, your Yelp page should be just as polished and information-rich as your restaurant’s website. Complete as many fields in your Yelp profile as possible. At minimum, this should include your address, cross streets, public transportation options, phone number, and website.
Remember, Yelp is primarily used on mobile phones through the app. In a mobile environment, it’s absolutely essential that business information like address and phone number is immediately accessible - and consistent across review sites, Google My Business, and your website page.
2. Upload your own photos
Once you claim your business, you’ll have access to publish your own photos, supplementing the user-generated pictures that customers will publish. This is a great time to break out those high-quality photographs of your food, interior, and friendly staff.
Pictures on Yelp are important because they allow new visitors to get a sense of your concept and brand. It’s an opportunity to catch their interest before they even see a menu. In fact, a Yelp study found that people spend 2.5x more time on a business page with photos compared to one without.
3. Link to Yelp on your website
Yelp is a trusted third-party source for restaurant reviews. By posting a link to Yelp or at least including their logo on your site, you’re displaying an independent endorsement of your business.
A 2013 Zendesk study found that people who had a bad experience with a company are 50% more likely to share it on social media than those that had a good experience. By outright soliciting reviews, you’re more likely to get in front of the satisfied customers who might not otherwise have made their way to Yelp.
The most effective way to get more Yelp reviews is to ask for them. Here are a few ways you can generate more reviews:
Printed and digital receipts - Whether you’re handing customers a paper receipt or sending it to them via email, the receipt is the one takeaway your guest has from their experience. Boom - marketing opportunity. Customize your receipts to point guests toward your Yelp page and any other promotions you're running at the time.
Email marketing - If your POS system enables you to collect customer data through loyalty programs or digital receipts, that database is ripe for review requests. Use targeted marketing emails to request reviews from past customers. As long as your message is within your restaurant’s brand and you don’t email too frequently, it’s totally OK to ask.
Social media - Request reviews from your customers by sharing a link on your social media accounts. For best results, share the link that goes directly to your restaurant’s review page (the one that starts with "www.yelp.com/writeareview/biz...").
Window decals - If it fits with your restaurant concept, it may make sense to gently remind customers about Yelp when they enter and exit the building. You can request a “Find us on Yelp!” window cling for your front door on the Yelp website.
5. Respond to all reviews (especially <5 stars)
Reviews are the core of Yelp’s business model and are both invigorating and infuriating for business owners. Customer reviews can range from inspiring to negative to downright mean. The reality is you have to be prepared for them all.
Here's the truth - a successful Yelp page requires constant attention from yourself or a trusted staffer. This is not a "set-it-and-forget-it” platform that will work without your attention. If you aren’t able to budget time for Yelp monitoring every day, delegate the task to someone who understands your brand and business. Make it a goal to respond to every review. Even if the response simply says, “Thank you so much for joining us last night,” those prompt responses show your commitment to the guest and your appreciation for their business.
From what I’ve seen as a Yelp user, responses to reviews on business pages are rare, so your efforts are even more likely to stand out and impress the reviewer.
Hearing from a few disgruntled customers? Don’t despair. Take their review as an opportunity for proactive outreach, a learning moment, and a chance to get them back in the door. Here's an example of a cafe manager who responded to a customer whose review was mostly pleasant but said she was displeased with an above average wait time:
Chris Campbell, CEO of review-monitoring software ReviewTrackers, says that a restaurant can actually increase revenue by capitalizing on negative reviews. “Negative restaurant reviews can work to your advantage if they are embraced, and if they are used as a way to improve the business,” Chris says.
How do you manage Yelp today?
As you’re building out your restaurant business plan, be sure to include Yelp management in your marketing efforts. Whether you claim your business or not, customers still have the ability to review your business and share their experiences. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to connect directly with your guests after they’ve left the building.
What is your strategy for managing your Yelp page? How do you respond to reviews, if at all?
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