This post has been modified to reflect new information since its original publication.
In today’s reputation economy, diners decide where to eat based on online reviews. This means that to survive in the ultra-competitive restaurant industry, you need to make sure you’re getting lots of good reviews on all the major review sites.
However, before you can influence the online conversation about your restaurant, you’ll need to know what people are saying about you and your brand.
Read on to learn more about why you need to monitor your restaurant’s online reviews, which review sites you should be checking, and how to use what you learn to build a strong online reputation.
Why you should monitor your reviews
There are two reasons you should add “monitoring your online reviews” to your to-do list, and both of them impact your bottom line.
Reviews generate money
Research has consistently proven the correlation between good ratings and revenue:
- Restaurants that claim their business profiles on at least three review sites boast 30% more revenue than other restaurants.
- 47% of individuals won’t consider patronizing a business that has fewer than 4 stars.
- A 1-star increase in a restaurant’s Yelp rating leads to a 9% rise in revenue.
- Restaurants with a higher-than-average number of reviews garner 82% more annual revenue.
- On Yelp, a half-star increase correlates to a restaurant being 49% more likely to sell out during peak hours.
- Restaurants that have at least 1,000 reviews earn double the revenue of other restaurants.
Reviews help you improve your business
Monitoring your reviews can help you learn what’s working (and what you need to work on) in your restaurant.
“Sometimes you might read a negative review and you want to think that they weren’t there, and sometimes you just need to look at it head on and say ‘We did not do our best that day and we can do better than that.’”—Emily Mendenhall of Lily’s Bistro in Dayton, OH
When evaluating the key takeaways from a bad review, you should think about trends instead of one-off complaints. If a single customer claims that his or her soup was too salty, but the majority of reviewers are raving about the soup, the problem could simply be a matter of that one person’s taste. While you still need to apologize for his or her negative experience, you don’t necessarily need to alter your recipe.
However, if you get many reviews complaining about how horrible your soup tastes, then you should assume the problem is real and immediately change your recipe or remove the dish from the menu. This strategy holds true for all aspects of your business. Whenever you see a trend in complaints, you should assume the fault lies with you and look for ways to fix the problem.
Exceptions to this rule are when people contact you about inappropriate employee behavior or health-code violations. Obviously, you should investigate these types of issues right away, even if there is only a single complaint.
Which review sites should you monitor?
With so many restaurant review sites to choose from, it can be hard to know which ones to sign up for. Therefore, we’ve listed five of the most influential sites, along with instructions on how to claim your profile on each one so you can see and respond to your reviews.
1. Google Business Profile
Google is where the majority (60%) of consumers go to look for reviews. It also occupies the top slots for any search of local restaurants. For example, when you type in “Pizza restaurants in Chicago,” the first three results are Google Business Profile results.
How to claim your profile on Google Business Profile
If you don’t have a Google Business Profile account, you’ll need to create one.
- Go to the Google Business Profile overview page and click “Manage now.”
- Enter your business name in the search box.
- The next steps depend on whether Google can find your business listing.
- If Google has a listing of your business, a verification page will appear. Select your verification option: phone call or text message.
- If Google can’t find your listing, you can create a new one by clicking “Add your business to Google.”
Once you verify your business profile, you can log in and start replying to reviews.
Yelp is the next most important site to sign up for because 45% of people use it to learn about businesses before deciding to visit them. Further, businesses that claim their free listing on Yelp have the potential to see an $8,000 increase in average annual revenue. (This is according to a Yelp study.)
How to claim your profile on Yelp
To claim your restaurant’s profile, do the following:
- On Yelp’s Claiming your Business page, click the red “Claim your Business” button.
- Click “Manage my free listing.”
- Enter your business name and zip code to look up your business.
- Choose one of the following, depending on whether Yelp can find your listing:
- If Yelp can find your business, click on it, enter your email address, and click “Continue” to set up your account.
- If Yelp can’t find your business, you can add your business details in the form provided and click “Add Business.”
To verify that you are the restaurant owner, Yelp will call you with a verification code to enter. Once you’ve done so, you will be able to edit your business information.
TripAdvisor draws approximately 460 million monthly visitors with its more-than-830 million customer reviews and opinions. As such, having a TripAdvisor profile can be an effective way to spread the word about how great your restaurant is.
How to claim your profile on TripAdvisor
The claiming process for TripAdvisor is like the process for Google and Yelp in that you can look up your business or add a new one.
- Go to the TripAdvisor Owners page.
- Enter your restaurant’s location and name in the search fields and click “Search.”
- The next steps depend on whether TripAdvisor can find your listing:
- If your business appears in the drop-down list, select it and click “Claim your free listing.” Fill out the fields or enter your account information if you already have a TripAdvisor account.
- If TripAdvisor can’t find your listing, you can create a new one by selecting “List it now” from the drop-down menu and click “Restaurants” at the bottom of the page.
Fill out all the fields about your restaurant and click “Next.”
Continue filling out the contact information and property details for your business in the subsequent pages.
On the last page, click the verification box at the bottom of the page and then click “Submit.”
Although it is owned by Booking Holdings, OpenTable isn’t just for making reservations. It also generates over 1 million reviews each month, helping 26 million people find restaurants. By joining this site, you can expand your reach worldwide.
How to claim your profile on OpenTable
To claim your profile, you will need to do the following:
- Go to OpenTable’s restaurateurs’ website and click “JOIN OPENTABLE.”
- Fill out the information form and click “CONTACT US” or call the company directly at (866) 951-7154.
OpenTable will then contact you about its services.
While you might not associate Facebook with reviews, it is an increasingly popular platform, with 23% of consumers using it to research businesses. However, what makes this site appealing is the number of people who use it every month: 2.70 billion as of June 2020.
How to start getting Facebook reviews
To enable reviews on your restaurant’s Facebook page, you’ll need to add the “Review tab” to your list of visible tabs.
- From your Facebook page, click “Settings” and then “Templates and Tabs.”
- At the bottom of the Templates and Tabs page, click “Add a Tab.”
Now that you’ve added the Reviews tab, you can encourage your customers to provide reviews.
How to use what you hear to boost your online reputation
The goal of monitoring your online reviews is to grow your business. As such, you should have a strategy to use what you learn to improve your reputation and attract more customers.
Respond to reviews, both good and bad
97% of consumers read business’ responses to reviews. As such, responding to reviews is a huge opportunity to reach a wide audience of potential customers, in addition to the original reviewer. It is also your chance to change an unhappy reviewer’s mind, tell your side of the story, and earn the loyalty of positive reviewers.
Bad reviews: What to say
While you might be tempted to ignore your negative online reviews, your response can actually be a great way to mitigate the reputation damage these reviews might inflict. In fact, a 2017 TripAdvisor study showed that over 90% of people read management’s responses to negative reviews—and the vast majority of these individuals reported that a restaurant’s reply encouraged them to try the restaurant anyway, despite the bad review.
Your goal in replying to negative reviews is to diffuse the situation and impress anyone reading the exchange. Therefore, your tone should be polite and helpful. Never respond in anger like this owner did.
In your message, you should offer to make things right with your critic. Once you have resolved the situation, you can ask the individual to delete or amend the review.
Good reviews: What to say
It’s always a good idea to acknowledge people who take the time to post a nice review of your establishment. Therefore, you should make it a habit to write a brief note of thanks whenever you encounter positive comments. Doing so will further cement the reviewer’s good feelings about you and your restaurant. It will also show potential customers that you truly care about your clientele.
When not to reply
When you come across reviews that are profane, abusive, or otherwise paint the critic in a bad light, you should take a moment to consider whether they are worth replying to.
Reviewers who come across as irrational won’t sway most readers, especially when weighed against a restaurant’s otherwise spotless reputation. Additionally, engaging with these individuals often just encourages them to post more defamatory reviews.
Because these types of reviews usually violate a review site’s content guidelines or terms of service, you should contact the site and flag the content for removal—although this doesn’t necessarily guarantee the site will remove it.
Reviews and comments that contain the following often violate site guidelines:
- Hate speech
Share your positive reviews
Positive customer reviews are a great form of social proof that you can leverage to generate even more good reviews. Some effective ways to share your good reviews include:
- Highlighting positive reviews on your website: In addition to simply showing a feed from your review sites, you could feature a “Customer of the Week” or videos of your staff reading customers’ glowing reviews.
- Include links to review sites on your emails: Doing so reminds your customers where they can review you and encourages them to read other customers’ reviews.
- Post logos for review sites on your doors and windows: Again, advertising where your reviews are makes people more likely to read reviews and write their own.
- Posting good reviews on social media: Social media is now the top channel for restaurant marketing. As such, it’s the best place to share consumers’ opinions about your restaurant.
If you need additional help
If you’re not sure how to handle your restaurant’s online reputation, ReputationDefender can help. Tools like our Defender® Local product can save you time and effort by automatically monitoring and responding to your restaurant’s online reviews on numerous platforms.