Could your restaurant use a 5-9% bump in revenue? Because a study out of Harvard Business School says that’s what you’ll get from one extra Yelp star.
These days, paying attention to your business’s online rating just isn’t optional. That goes double for the restaurant industry. Customers rely on restaurant reviews more than any other type of local business.
They’re the new word of mouth. But unlike word of mouth, you can track your online reviews. And if you’re not getting the kudos you think you deserve, there are a few ways to increase your positive reviews.
5 Ways to Increase Positive Online Reviews
Restaurant Review Tip #1: Maintain Your Online Presence
No one’s going to leave a review if tumbleweeds are blowing through your restaurant’s online profiles. You have to care about your online presence first.
We’re not saying you have to post on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook five times a day. We’re talking about the basics:
- Own Your Profile: You should have an account established on all the major platforms. Make it easy for people to find you or give you a shout-out on social media. Reviews can come in the form of @’s too. Plus, if you don’t take ownership of your brand, you run the risk of a troll doing it.
- Make It Complete and Accurate: You need your location, phone number, and hours at the very least. You should go all-in, though. Post your menu, even if it’s just a photo of the printed version. Upload nice photos of your place and your signature dishes. According to TripAdvisor, online photos influence 60% of potential restaurant customers.
- Promote Events: You don’t need to be a social media master, but if you’re hosting events, adding new dishes, or changing your hours, you should post about those things. It’s free advertising! Public congrats to employees and regulars can also be great for loyalty and morale.
What counts as a major platform? Well, there are the social media giants: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. Google, Yelp, and TripAdvisor are the largest review sites in general. Then there are the restaurant-specific sites as well, like OpenTable, Zomato, and Zagat’s.
Look to see what’s popular in your area and where your competitors are focusing.
Restaurant Review Tip #2: Check Your Filters
If you’re getting good restaurant reviews, make sure they’re being counted. Yelp and other platforms filter out the ones they suspect are illegitimate. In particular, Yelp’s restaurant review filters got very picky in 2018.
Unfortunately, these filters catch legit reviews as well. If you can fish those out of the trash, you can get their rating included in your average.
Here’s how you do it on Yelp:
- Log in to Yelp on your business account and scroll to the bottom of your page.
- Click on the grayed-out text that says “…other reviews that are not currently recommended.” It will expand to reveal your filtered reviews.
- The easiest thing you can try is to friend the reviewer’s account. Wait a few days and see if their review pops into the regular section.
If that doesn’t work, you have some additional options, but proceed with good manners. Thank them for their review then let them know that Yelp thinks their reviews are fake. They can fix it by connecting their account to Facebook, logging into the Yelp app on the phone, or filling out their profile further. Suggest, don’t demand, and do it through private messaging.
Restaurant Review Tip #3: Respond to Reviews (Not Just the Bad Ones)
Recently, we posted about the value of responding to negative restaurant reviews and how to do it appropriately. But you shouldn’t only respond to the bad reviews. Last year, Harvard Business Review found that when businesses respond to all reviews, good and bad, they get 12% more reviews plus a bump in their ratings.
Responding to reviews will show your restaurant’s potential customers that you care about your reputation. You’ll also impress existing customers by reaching out to thank them – that’s how you bring them back again and again.
Respond to positive reviews the same way you respond to negative ones: be short and to the point, personalize the response, and be as sincere as you can.
Restaurant Review Tip #4: Share Good Reviews
While you’re responding to restaurant reviews, look for the stand-outs to share. It’s good advertising, and it reminds other customers to review without asking them for it. Plus, people are more likely to leave good reviews if they see you promoting others.
There are a number of ways to go about this:
- Promote Reviews Natively: Most review sites allow anyone to mark reviews as “helpful,” which brings them up to the top for better visibility. You can use this feature to highlight glowing restaurant reviews on your own page.
- Feature on Your Website: Prominently feature 2-3 excerpts from excellent reviews on your homepage.
- Cross-Post on Social Media: Share excerpts from your best restaurant reviews across social media. For best results, make them visually interesting—you don’t need any talent in graphic design. The ability is native on Facebook now, and there are plenty of free tools to create images for other sites. Remember to link people back to your review page, after, to generate additional reviews.
Restaurant Review Tip #5: Ask for Reviews, But Do It Right
Once you’re making use of what’s already out there, you can start encouraging new restaurant reviews.
First, what NOT to do:
- Don’t Incentivize Reviews. It’s a logical idea, but review sites will punish you if you pay for or otherwise reward reviewing. Don’t do it.
- Don’t Provide a Review Station. Multiple restaurant reviews from the same IP address will set off a red flag with review sites. This also makes reminding people in-person a risk—if you have free Wi-Fi, they could leave their review from your IP. It’ll immediately go into that trash bin.
What you can do:
- Ask Your Best Customers: Do you have loyal regulars? Customers who have gone out of their way to express gratitude or compliments? Then you have excellent targets for in-person requests. The next time you see them, ask if they’ve left an online review. If they haven’t, tell them you’d love it if they shared their experience.
- Email or Text Customers: A quick text after a customer’s first visit is the most effective way to ask for restaurant reviews. If you use text messaging in your reservation process, try it out. Email is also a possibility if you already have a marketing list. Don’t abuse these channels, though. One and done.
- Use Partners: Apps that enable online reservations or third-party delivery will email or text customers for you.
- Use Social Media: Asking followers on social media is another convenient option.
However you do it:
- Make Your Request General: Say “Check us out on Yelp,” or “Share your experience online,” rather than asking for a five-star review. You’ll avoid alienating review sites and customers alike, that way.
- Lead Up to It: When you ask by email or text, you’ll have to take the good with the bad. But if you’re asking in person, check that you’re talking to a happy customer first. A good old fashioned “How was your visit?” should do the trick.
- Link to Review Sites: Up your odds of success by making it easy. If you’re asking online or in text, provide a direct link to your review site(s).
In the end, getting reviews for your restaurant is a numbers game. Most people won’t bother, so don’t nag or get frustrated. Just build a system for reminding people to review and stick to it. It’ll pay off over time.
Pre-Requisite: Get Your Business in Order
Of course, all of these tips assume that your business is worthy of positive reviews. Is it?
As you’ve seen, restaurant review sites are making it harder and harder to game their systems. You need to give customers genuine reasons to leave you good reviews, or all the tricks in the world won’t help.
Solicit honest feedback from customers in person. Take complaints seriously. Read negative reviews. Train your staff well. Put systems in place to prevent any errors that keep coming up.
Listen to what your customers are telling you – if that’s largely negative, fix what needs to be fixed. Then start worrying about your reviews. That’s good business.