Optimizing Your Restaurant Reviews
Reviews play a pivotal role in establishing trust with new customers. On the surface level, it's pretty easy to understand how reviews can impact your restaurant— but it has more depth than you think. More than just a number between 1 and 5, reviews serve as a trust signal to your current and potential customers.
Why Do Reviews Matter for Restaurants?
New customers are essentially strangers to your business— you are an unknown quantity to them, as they are an unknown to you. Reviews can help you bridge that gap. A recent study from Moz showcased that 67% of respondents reported that reviews impact their purchasing decisions. Over 50% admitted that online reviews play a significant part in all major purchases they make.
The number of reviews can also significantly influence how new customers perceive your business. If you want to try a new Thai restaurant, you will have different feelings if the place is 5-star with three reviews or 4.8-star with 300 reviews.
One of the sneakiest ways reviews can impact your performance is through your organic search rankings. When people search for "barbecue near me," you want your hypothetical barbecue joint to be near the top of the list— Google takes a lot of variables into account for their ranking algorithm, and reviews are one of them.
Types of Reviews
Google is the king of search and likely where most of your reviews come in. Some details make Google reviews the easiest (and among the most impactful) to work with.
- Easy Reviews - The only thing a customer needs to leave a review is a Google account, which is already commonly used among adults. This means the barrier to entry is low and achievable by almost everyone without extra work.
- Solicited Reviews - Unlike Yelp, Google doesn't mind requesting reviews on the condition that you're not review-gating (discouraging negative reviews while selectively soliciting positive reviews).
If Google is the king of search, then Yelp is the biggest bulletin board in town. While Yelp doesn't impact SEO rankings or map pack as Google does, it has positioned itself to dominate the review space and become a trusted review location. Due to this, some view the Yelp reviews as more authentic and believable.
- High Barrier To Entry - You do have to create an account to leave reviews on Yelp. It's a small hurdle but one that can discourage new users.
- No Solicited Reviews - Yelp takes a hard line against solicited reviews of all kinds, building the narrative that their reviews have more authentic trust than other locations.
Apple Maps Reviews
A distant third, Apple Maps reviews are tied directly to the success or failure of the maps app. If it continues its growth path, the value of these reviews will grow, but until such a point in time, the importance of Google and Yelp reviews dwarfs it.
Improving the Review Process
Owning and understanding every step of the review process is crucial to maximizing their potential for your brand. We're dividing how to improve your review process into internal and external processes.
Internal Review Management
Let's knock out the easy ones first. Ensuring that you're providing top-quality service across the board is the easiest way to keep the reviews positive and in your favor. People visiting restaurants generally judge them on three things: Food Quality, Service Quality, and Overall Atmosphere.
Make Reviewing Easy
One of the most pivotal ways to improve your review process is to make it easy for the customer to do. Add CTAs to your landing pages, letting them know you're available on Yelp and Trip Advisor. Add a review page to your website where they can easily access Google, Apple, Yelp, and anywhere else your reviews might be curated.
The critical part is ensuring the journey is easy and removing as many hurdles as possible.
Learn from Current Reviews
The customer might not always be right, but they don't hesitate to speak their mind. There's a wealth of knowledge to be held in positive and negative reviews and how minor tweaks can improve customer experience.
Are your reviews lacking in depth? Read your competitors' reviews to see what joys and pain points their customers are experiencing.
External Review Management
We briefly touched on it when talking about Google vs. Yelp reviews, but review solicitation is a useful, albeit tricky route. Rule #1: listen to the FTC. They suggest:
- Check the rules and prohibitions of where the review will be hosted (ex. Google)
- Only solicit or ask for reviews from people who have used or experienced the product or service
- Don’t get people on payroll to leave a review for their place of business unless they disclose that information
- No Review-Gating — don’t only ask the people you think will leave a good review
- If you offer an incentive, it can’t be tied to it being a positive review— implicity or explicitly
In short, be transparent and be honest. You don’t want to trick people into giving a good review, you want them to give an honest review about the awesome service you provide.
SMS Review Requests
SMS open rates are the highest of any marketing channel, and there are a lot of excellent tools for review requests/follow-up over SMS. Often touted as a more successful review curation strategy, this could be a good fit for your restaurant.
Responding to Reviews
Whether they're leaving a 5-star review or a 1-star, responding to reviews is an excellent way for people to feel heard and that their review matters. Beyond increasing trust and increasing the chance that the customer comes back for a future visit, this shows potential customers that the owners/management team/person with access to the company account care about their customers' experience.
Make The Most Of Your Reviews
Reviews can play an impactful part in the success of your business, and it is paramount that you do everything you can to build them in a positive direction. Proper customer engagement and leading with data-driven information can elevate your restaurant to the next level and drive further traffic to your restaurant.