Online reviews and ratings of your restaurant can drive hungry customers to your door or scare them away.
60% of restaurant-goers read online reviews before going out for a meal — a habit that takes precedence over getting directions to a restaurant or looking at food photos. In terms of preferences in types of reviews, customer-written reviews on websites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Zomato are preferred by 25% more people than reviews written by professional food critics.
Two economists at the University of California, Berkeley found that a half-star improvement on Yelp’s 5-star rating scale makes a restaurant 30% to 49% more likely to be fully booked during peak dining times.
According to ReviewTrackers research, approximately 1 in 3 diners will not choose to eat in a restaurant with an average rating of 3 stars out of 5 (or below).
Even without stats like these, it’s perfectly reasonable to think that positive reviews from satisfied customers can do wonders for your business — while low ratings and negative reviews can tarnish, even ruin completely, your restaurant’s online reputation.
But it’s not like you can just delete a bad Yelp review. Or filter Google search results so that only the nice comments on TripAdvisor appear online. In today’s age, when restaurant diners can quickly become online critics, how can you proactively bring about reviews that capture the hearts and minds (and tummies) of guests?
Here are 4 ways to grow your restaurant reviews and improve your performance on online review sites:
1. Promote your restaurant’s presence on online review sites
If you want your customers to post reviews of your restaurant, let them know where exactly they can do it.
Between your typical “Like us on Facebook” and “Follow us on Twitter” messages, help your audience become aware that they can also find you on Yelp and check you out on TripAdvisor.
You can start by including your review site profiles and listings in places where you may already be promoting your social media presence:
Your website and blog
Your online and printed menu
Your email newsletters
Your marketing and sales collateral (brochures, business cards, receipts, etc.)
Your restaurant location
Not only does this strategy help you grow reviews; promoting your restaurant’s presence on online review sites also lets diners know that you’re unafraid and excited to hear their feedback, and that you truly care about the customer experience.
Sometimes, the most effective way to collect online reviews is simply to ask.
If you are confident about the kind of dining experience your restaurant provides, go ahead and reach out to your guests. Ask (nicely) if they would take the time to share their thoughts, opinions, and experiences on a review website where your restaurant is listed.
You can also make “review requests” via email, which works particularly well for restaurants with a solid email marketing list or CRM database.
Try not to sound overly solicitous, though. There is also no need to incentivize reviews and reward those who write them. And never require that the review or feedback be positive. A request that says “Give us a 5-star rating and lunch is on us!” is obviously out of the question.
If customers don’t review your restaurant, it’s because they have forgotten about it, or the process is too complicated, or they’re simply too busy. When you ask for reviews, it therefore makes sense to send friendly reminders, simplify the process, and schedule your engagements with customers during their downtime.
Important note: While most major restaurant review websites are fine with — and even encourage — review requests, Yelp actually discourages restaurant owners from asking diners for reviews. The practice is against the site’s guidelines, and reviews that you do manage to generate are likely to end up being filtered out by Yelp’s software system.
3. Create your own landing page for reviews
Your restaurant’s website may already include a nice testimonials page, filled with 5-star shoutouts and declarations by your most loyal guests. Wouldn’t it be extra nice to have guests like these spread the good word about your restaurant on, say, TripAdvisor and Zomato?
This is where a dedicated landing page for collecting reviews can help. Think of it as an online destination for turning customers into reviewers.
Once you have built your landing page, you can identify key touch points at which you can get customers into the funnel — such as right after they have paid for a meal, or maybe the first weekend after their most recent visit to your restaurant.
Or you can work in broader strokes: by sharing the landing page link on your Twitter profile or Instagram bio, say, or by planting the link across your digital properties.
The Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a management tool and survey methodology used to gauge customer loyalty. By asking respondents just one question — “On a scale of 0 to 10, how likely are you to recommend this company to a friend or a colleague?” — the NPS survey offers a quick, effective way for you to understand how guests feel about your restaurant.
Part of what makes the NPS methodology work so well is that it enables your management team to identify survey respondents as Promoters, Passives, and Detractors based on the scores they give.
Promoters (score 9-10) are loyal customers who can fuel the growth of your restaurant by remaining loyal and referring other people to your business.
Passives (score 7-8) are satisfied but indifferent customers who could be swayed by your competition.
Detractors (score 0-6) are dissatisfied and unhappy customers who can hurt your business through negative word of mouth.
How can the NPS survey help you grow your restaurant reviews, you say? For one, it provides better structure to your feedback and review collection efforts. Instead of merely whistling in the dark, you can actively identify Promoters who can be nudged into writing great reviews; at the same time, you can avoid provoking Detractors into “Yelping” your restaurant.
The NPS survey is also a useful source of information on how your restaurant is doing in the eyes of your customers, and what you can do to make their experience better. Through the survey, you can address negative feedback and fly-in-the-soup issues quickly and internally — well before they get a chance to develop into a one-star review visible to the public.
It’s true that what diners say online about your restaurant can have a significant impact on others’ decisions and dinner plans. This doesn’t mean you can’t do anything about it. With a well-crafted strategy for growing your restaurant reviews, you can strengthen your brand and build a 5-star reputation that keeps diners coming back for more.
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