7 Tricks to Getting Positive Restaurant Reviews

Increasing Positive Restaurant Reviews

Online reviews can make or break any business. After the bill is paid, an online review is often posted before the next day. Anyone with a social media account can post to review sites. The most popular are Facebook, Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Foursquare.

According to Forbes, about 90% of consumers are influenced by reading a positive review, and 85% read reviews for local restaurants and businesses. Recent poor reviews or multiple poor reviews in a row will hinder interest in your restaurant. Here are some sure-fire ways to help your online review scores.

Your time and efforts are critical to improving your online reviews through staff training and accountability, excellent customer service, engaging customers, and responding to reviews.

Restaurant Staff and Customer Service

Good, if not excellent, customer service is key to receiving positive reviews. The happier and more satisfied people are, the more likely they will share their experience with others. Whether online, with family, friends, and coworkers, each positive review will help build the restaurant’s business reputation.

The first step to providing excellent customer service is with how your staff is trained. This includes:

  • Providing clear goals and expectations
  • Cross-training employees (or at least explaining what each position entails)
  • Sharing best practices in foodservice skills
  • Customer de-escalation practices
  • Engaging employees

Beyond individual training, also conduct staff meetings with training refreshers. This could include discussions about handling difficult customers and what could have been done differently or better. Take time for staff to give kudos to their coworkers who have shown excellent customer service.

Every employee must feel part of the team and understand the big picture. Regardless of their duties, employees have a unique role at the restaurant. From the dishwasher ensuring utensils are spotless, cooks who make the food to perfection, and waitstaff who are friendly and helpful in the consumer’s experience. Summed up, customers are happy when they:

  • Receive a friendly greeting
  • Prompt service
  • Food made to their order
  • A timely exit process and a friendly ‘thank you for coming in’ from staff

When a problem can be traced back to an employee, be honest and take the time to discuss the problem in a private setting. Find out what may have caused the poor service and remember that sometimes consumers are simply unpleasant people.

Either way, provide constructive feedback to your employee or disciplinary action if appropriate. Holding staff accountable will help them understand your expectations are to be held in high regard, and it will build trust with your hard-working staff.

Engaging Customers

There are many ways to engage customers and encourage them to submit reviews. There are many ways to invite diners to submit a review directly and indirectly, including:

  • Provide a feedback link on your website
  • Print “review us at” language on your receipts
  • Offer promotions or discounts for submitting a review
  • Ask your regular customers
  • Ensure your marketing materials have added verbiage for social media

Some of your biggest allies will be your regular customers. Get to know their names, favorite dishes, and surprise them with a free appetizer or drink if you know it is a special day or special event has occurred in their life.

Other ways to build customer loyalty include sponsoring social events, for example, trivia night, book clubs, or knitting groups. These types of engagements will need to be catered specifically to your customer demographics and monitored for success.

Management of and Responding to All Reviews

It may sound like quite the undertaking; however, customers will appreciate your due diligence. Focus on the most popular review sites and your restaurant’s social media platforms. Online review sites are easy to sign up with, and often require a simple verification to ‘claim’ your business.

Once you claim your restaurant’s pages you can respond as your business, which is an expected norm in the age of the Internet. While it would be difficult to find all review sites, at minimum claim your restaurant on Yelp and Facebook. Once you have the hang of it, start claiming on other sites including TripAdvisor, Foursquare, OpenTable, and Zomato.

After several months, gauge how often you should review each site. Be sure to check account options to receive an email or notice when a review is posted. Make a policy to respond within 48 hours or less, which can build your restaurant’s reputation quickly. Your responsiveness can have the potential to turn a negative review into a neutral or positive response from the customer.

Every couple of months check each site to read and respond to each review, including the poor or degrading reviews. For positive reviews, simply respond with a “Thank you for the review.  We hope to see you again soon!” or other appropriate and appreciative response.

With negative reviews, it will really depend on what the problem is; however, best practices for responses to unhappy reviews include:

  • Thank them for being honest
  • Respond that you will investigate the issue
  • Invite them to call you directly
  • Ask how you can remedy the situation
  • Never argue or respond with investigation results

Your willingness to respond to all reviews will show customers you are actively monitoring and responding to their reviews. This adds a level of trust even to the harshest reviewer. Potential clients also see these responses as a dedication to customer service and your restaurant’s reputation.

Keep in mind some customers are never happy after a negative experience. The important thing is that you show responsiveness and integrity consistently. This, by far, will outweigh a negative review than any other action.

The world of online reviews is a complex and sometimes tricky environment. With consistency in the three areas discussed above, you are sure to gain trust and increase the number of positive reviews online… and, in the long run, attract new customers.

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