There are more than 1 million restaurant locations in the United States, according to the National Restaurant Association. There will be 1.7 million new restaurant jobs created in the year 2026.
In this increasingly competitive industry, online management of restaurant review sites should be a fundamental component of your restaurant marketing strategy.
Online customer feedback provided from restaurant review sites can be extremely beneficial. This feedback can help management make decisions about operations, see where guests' opinions truly lie, and strategically engineer a menu.
Your Customers Are Speaking
You want to do your best, right?
To operate the best restaurant possible, you need more than just a unique restaurant concept - you also need to understand your customers.
Your customers are most likely already leaving online reviews, which can provide key insight into the guest experience at your restaurant. The data that can be gathered from restaurant review sites can be used to improve all aspects of your restaurant, especially your menu items.
Ambiance and service play important roles in the perception of your restaurant, but the quality and taste of your food – whether you specialize in hamburgers or pasta – is the most important part of a diner’s restaurant experience.
Imagine your favorite eatery that is relatively cheap: maybe it’s the shack down the street that serves the best hot dog in town or the Mexican place that you go to once a week for lunch. Can service and ambience make up for mediocre food?
So whether it’s refining operations or creating menus that are better for the customer, online reviews provide a complete picture of how your customers are thinking and feeling about your restaurant.
Before you start using online reviews to improve your restaurant’s menu items, make sure you are active on the following restaurant review sites.
Prominent Restaurant Review Sites to Monitor
Claim your business on Yelp if you have not already done so (here’s how). Chances are, your business is already on Yelp whether you know it or not. If it is, your customers are already talking about your restaurant online. However, if you aren’t aware of your business being reviewed on one of the most popular review websites, you might want to readdress your customer feedback strategy.
Yelp is arguably the hub of restaurant feedback. Take the time not only to read these reviews thoroughly, but respond to each one. This helps to humanize your business and show you care about what your customers think.
Google is taking over the world. These online reviews are especially important because they show up in the Google Knowledge Panel, under “reviews from the web.” This displays up to three different review sites, and reveals itself to the searcher unprompted. But at this point, it's difficult to tell which review sites Google will choose when aggregating third-party reviews.
Google's search results are in constant flux, and there is little that can be done to alter which review websites show up in the knowledge panel. It's still important to check these reviews constantly so you can see which ones your customers are seeing first when they search your name.
Facebook is certainly a top platform for reviews. This leading social media site had 1.71 billion monthly active users as of June 2016, which is an increase of 15 percent from the previous year.
Facebook is a place where other users will likely comment on reviews left by customers - which means it's a scene you should always step in to. Make sure you monitor these reviews closely and respond posthaste.
Owned by Priceline, OpenTable is the leader for restaurant reservations around the world, according to the company’s website. It deals primarily with reservations, but always prompts users of the app to leave feedback after the reservation is made.
OpenTable is a great platform for customers to evaluate the best eateries and simultaneously make a reservation.
Choosing Your Menu Items
Now that you know where to look, start taking in the valuable information from online reviews. You can use this customer feedback to improve your menu. Customers are providing feedback on specific dishes, quality of service, and recommended hours. They are providing everything a restaurant needs to create an exceptional customer experience, which will help to turn a profit for your business.
With a review monitoring system, you can understand what your customers are saying about specific menu items at scale and over time.
For example, if you only serve curly fries, but many customers complain that you do not serve regular steak fries, then it might be best for your restaurant to start offering steak fries. It could be as simple as that. On the other hand, if you see that multiple reviewers write about how the crust on the pizza doesn’t taste good, then it’s time to do something about that crust.
With this customer feedback, your menu will stand out if you take this insight and create a customer experience that ignites positive emotion about your restaurant. This happens - of course - when you listen to your customers.
Share Your New Menu Items
After you’ve analyzed this customer feedback and altered your menu accordingly, it's time to brag.
First, you should keep customers up to date by adding these new menu items to your review profile. OpenTable and Yelp are especially tuned into each restaurant menu and encourage searchers to filter based on specific menu items.
Next, use the customer feedback you’ve received to win back customers. Respond to every review that mentions your menu’s shortcomings and inform them of the improvements you’ve made. Thank them for sharing their experience and invite them back. You can even offer a discount through a private conversation and see if they will change their review. This is a great way to build and improve your public-facing relationships with customers who may have had negative experiences at your restaurant.
When it comes to your menu, online review sites are a great tool you can use to help you learn more and better understand your customer base. Reviews also provide the information your restaurant needs to win customers back. Make sure you have a solid strategy in place to capture that feedback and rapidly make changes.
Once you really understand who your customers are, you’ll know exactly what changes you need to make to your menu items and how to make your menu stand out against your competition.