Reviews and Your Restaurant: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Why Reviews Matter

Whether you consider it to be a good or bad thing, the food retail world is controlled by the consumer, and your restaurant is just living in it. If your customer has a bad experience and chooses to tell others about it, your operation could be in trouble. Word of mouth is extremely important for the perception of your restaurant, so it’s crucial to know how to handle reviews of all kinds.

Where do customers leave reviews?

You may say ‘I’ve never seen a review of my restaurant before’. More than likely, you’ve just never seen the reviews. The most common places to look for reviews of your restaurant are Facebook, Google, and Yelp.

Facebook

Because of its user-friendliness, Facebook is popular with customers and restaurant owners alike. Your restaurant’s business page is a great platform to have pictures of the day’s specials, hours, and social interaction, all in one place. When it comes to reviews, Facebook creates a star rating that denotes the quality of the reviews left, with five stars being the best. You can also change how you want to filter reviews: most helpful, most recent, and star rating. Because of how often it is used daily for news, photos, and checking up on friends, it’s only natural that Facebook restaurant reviews are taken seriously. Potential customers can trust the words of their mutual friends and can even see if others they know have reviewed the restaurant.

Facebook Business Page

Facebook Reviews Page

Learn how to find and interact with your Facebook page reviews.

Google

If you look up your restaurant on Google’s search engine, you will see your business name off to the right side, along with categories like directions, website, and an overall star rating. This star rating is determined by an average of the reviews left. If you click into these reviews (and there are some) you will be able to see the individual reviews. Google is a super important facet of customer reviews because whether people are searching for your menu, hours, or directions, they’re most likely typing it into the Google search engine. This will bring up the sidebar with the star-rating and reviews front and center.

Google Search Reviews

Find out how to respond to Google reviews.

Yelp

One of the most common review sites, and the thorn in the side of many restaurant owners, Yelp helps future customers narrow down their choice of where to do business. It also gives customers that have visited the business an outlet to review the quality of services and their expectations of that business. Yelp has its own algorithm when it comes to displaying reviews. Like Google and Facebook, Yelp also uses a star ranking system, calculated by reviews left. Yelp tends to display a frequent Yelper’s reviews over a new user, making it more difficult to see reviews chronologically.

Yelp Business Page

Yelp Reviews Page

Learn how to use Yelp to the fullest potential with these tips for your restaurant.

What do I do if someone leaves my restaurant a good review?

Congratulations on your restaurant’s hard work! Here’s how you can make the most out of your patron’s compliments:

Respond Back– Before you do anything else with your positive review, you need to write back! Good reviews deserve just as much attention as bad reviews, plus you can promote them without having to come up with an apology statement. Thank the customer for their review and acknowledge that they went out of their way to pass along kind words.

Give Credit Where Credit It Is Due– After you pat yourself on the back, make sure to bring the review to your staff’s attention. If it is about the service, recognize your bartenders or wait staff at the next shift meeting. If it’s about the food, congratulate the cooks on a job well done. While credit should certainly be served to those that were mentioned in the review, you can commend all moving parts of your restaurant. This success is the result of teamwork in your restaurant.

Show It Off– Publish the review on your social media channels, have framed testimonials (do it yourself with Small Thanks), or even include it into your next menu design. Reviews are a great way for your restaurant to tout its successes and would be a shame to not promote them!

What do I do if someone leaves my restaurant a bad review?

Don’t panic! A bad review can become an opportunity for your restaurant if handled correctly. The process below can help streamline how you or your staff deal with negative reviews.

Study Up–  You’ll need to do a little research before answering the review with your emotions flying. First, take note of the date the review was posted and, if it gives details, who (if anyone) was involved. This can help you gain some perspective on how to respond to the review.

It’s Not Too Late to Say Sorry– Apologizing is crucial. Even if it was the weather. Even if it was a fluke in your well-oiled staff. Even if it was the way your restaurant is decorated. Say you’re sorry. That person is not leaving a review for no reason (usually) and wants their feelings validated.

Be a Problem Solver– After your apology, be sure to offer up a solution that’s related to what the customer was concerned about. If there was an issue with the food, reach out with a free meal or appetizer. If there was a problem with the staff, communicate that it will be brought up during a team meeting to prevent it from happening again. Also, if the incident has since been addressed and solved, let the reviewer know of the policy change.

When dealing with a bad review, it’s important to acknowledge the reviewer’s feelings and empathize while also offering a solution. Be sure to touch on each of these points and tailor the response to the reviewer’s experience. Canned responses quickly lose candor and don’t win you any points for originality.

As with positive reviews, be sure to bring up bad reviews with your staff. Walk through the situation with them and provide a process for how to deal with similar situations. You can even use them as motivation for your staff by putting bad reviews in their break area, especially if they are unmotivated by tips.

Why does brand management matter?

Having fresh reviews, engaging with those leaving reviews, and monitoring your social media channels may sound like it will take a lot of time and energy. But without good brand management, it’s extremely difficult to stay on top of customer reviews. In doing these daily tasks, you can quickly pick up on these channels’ review components and see what people are saying about your restaurant. It’s important to keep an eye on these as much as possible to create the highest amount of engagement, and ideally, new reviews.

When making decisions, customers are searching for recently posted reviews, as it should be the most up to date information. Unfortunately, the barrage of five-star reviews you received early last year just isn’t going to cut it. According to Search Engine Land, “69 percent of consumers believe that reviews older than 3 months are no longer relevant”. In other words, a review’s usefulness depreciates in value for bringing in new business. Constant flow of reviews show that your restaurant is staying relevant and can be used for customers to make more informed decisions.

By successfully managing your brand, you can incite more reviews by guests, encouraging others to come see what the fuss is about. To help you stay on top of your restaurant, try setting up a Google Alert to easily monitor possible reviews or comments.

Reviews can stand as a welcoming beacon or caution sign; handling them properly can make all the difference. By staying on top of good and bad reviews with attentive brand management, your restaurant can create a quality experience for all guests.

Get Found Fast Online: The Importance of Google Knowledge Graph Carousel and Google Plus for Restaurants

As a restaurant owner, you know how important it is to attract customers through online efforts, including an attractive website, testimonials and reviews, online menus and specials, and a blog.  You work hard to build a strong online portfolio in order to drive patrons to your tables and chairs.

Now, it’s time to turn your attention to important Google products that will increase your search rankings. In return, these products provide some helpful information to both current and potential customers.

Google Changes the Search Game Again

You’ve probably typed your restaurant’s or bar’s name into Google to see where you rank, but try a slightly modified search:  enter in the words “restaurant” or “bar” and then your city. This search produces a results page that looks a bit different. Now, you’re going to see a list of establishments, plus pictures or maps, that runs across the top of the page. You can scroll through this list to see what businesses show up. When you click on one, you’ll see their business hours, contact information, the address, a price list, and even a menu and reviews. Because restaurant goers may be searching in this manner for a Google recommendation, you need to know where your restaurant falls.

Below the main search results page is a map that shows the general location that you entered with locations of restaurants in the area, and a list of search results. These results are pushed down the page because of the information at the top, forcing searchers to scroll down.  In other words, you should make sure that your business information shows at the top of the page to make it easy to find—right away.

If you’re not showing up where you’d like to, there are a few things you can do to improve your search engine optimization, or SEO.

A Google Plus Account Is Your Friend

Google Plus for RestaurantsSo make sure that this visual search works in your favor:

  • Create a Google Plus account for yourself and one for your business. Google loves ranking its own products, so a social media and networking product like Google Plus (sign up here for free) is a must have. It allows you to connect to others and categorize them in different groups, called ‘Circles’, that you create using terms like “customers,” “employees,” “suppliers,” “marketing” and more. Just like any form of social media, it’s most effective when it’s updated frequently and shared with others.
  • Make sure you have updated content and images. Your Google Plus account should have great content. That includes interior and exterior pictures of your business, pictures of your food, new and daily menus, information about your chef or staff, coupons, and specials. If you’ve read a great article or blog, share it with others in your circles. Better yet, write a great article or blog that you know others would find interesting, then link your content to your Google Plus profile or Google Plus business page. As your Circles grow, your byline will define you as an expert in your field.

A Blog Means Business

Make sure that your website has a blog! Why? A blog can be updated frequently—some restaurants update theirs three times a week—and it creates fresh content that can be searched and shared.  Google likes to see new content on your domain, and a blog can be an excellent PR tool to sharing interesting information to your social media channels, customers, and community members.  To take it another step further, link your blog to your Google Plus account through what Google calls authorship.  Quality blogging may help your restaurant get found more quickly in online searches.

Keeping your content fresh and your site updated is time consuming—but it’s a very important factor in your search results.

Does your restaurant need a website?

5 Reasons Facebook Isn’t Enough

With the growth of social media and the dependence on sites such as Facebook and Twitter to keep consumers in-the-know, many new restaurants are asking if they need to have a website these days.  While the landscape of the worldwide web and the manner of how people surf the ‘net surely has changed in recent years, my gut instinct is to answer, “yes.”  But it’s not just that simple.  Ten years ago, new restaurants only needed a website.  Today, you need to have a more involved online presence.  Sure, you probably should have a website, Facebook page, Twitter account, Google+ presence, and be managing Pinterest boards.  Not to mention a strategy for Yelp. But here are my reasons why having a Facebook page alone won’t cut it.  (These points can apply to any social network, really.)

1. Not everyone is on Facebook. You can spew the jaw-dropping statistics to me all day long.  I know Facebook is huge. The number of Facebook users continues to grow.  But the truth is, not everyone has a Facebook profile. Not everyone wants to use Facebook. And not everyone uses Facebook to search for restaurants when they’re hungry.  Sure, your Facebook page will probably pop up on a Google search if you’ve set it up correctly, added your name in the URL, and used your restaurant’s keywords throughout the page.  Can you guarantee a non-Facebook user will click on that Facebook result, though?  I didn’t think so.  I will absolutely argue that Facebook is a must-have for restaurants, but it won’t replace your own corporate website.  At least not this year.

2. Facebook controls Facebook. Remember the timeline adoption that rolled out a few years ago? When Facebook changes, its users just have to go along for the ride and adopt.  You are only one page on this gigantic network of pages, and Facebook owns every single one of them.  I recommend branding your pages as much as possible through the cover photo, profile image, photo albums, and of course the messages you post via your status updates, but I also recommend linking your Facebook page back to a fully-branded site that you can design and control.  Don’t forget, you’re going to need a mobile version of that same branded site.  As a side note, depending on your account settings, your fans (and foes) can post information on your Facebook page.  You can reply (or delete, which I don’t recommend), but it’s one less thing you can control on Facebook.

3. Facebook content is limited. A robust restaurant website should include: hours of operations, contact information, a map with directions, current sales or promotions, a complete menu, a photo gallery with pictures of food and ambiance and people, details on involvement with community or earth-friendly service projects, testimonials and reviews, an ever-changing blog, online reservation form, catering or takeout details, a little bit of history, the mission and vision statements, and key staff bios.  If you sell bottled spaghetti sauce, branded t-shirts, or gift certificates, you are also going to want to implement an e-commerce shopping cart and payment processor.  That’s a lot of info to cram into the ‘About Us’ section on Facebook.  You can create custom-designed tabs and a Facebook store, of course, but that can get costly with so much info to share, and not every developer offers Facebook tab/store design.  Besides, Facebook users don’t often look through the tabs, or even land on your Facebook page. If this info isn’t showing up repeatedly in users’ news feeds, there is a good chance they aren’t seeing it.  With recent changes to how all information and posts show up in news feeds, with more opportunity for selecting the type of news a user sees, this even becomes more limiting to restaurant brands.  Plus, if you aren’t already popular on Facebook, getting your content seen, liked, and shared is a challenge.  Facebook insights don’t currently share the impressions your ‘About Us’ section or tabs are receiving, whereas you can measure the traffic to your website with easy integration to Google Analytics.

4. Facebook content is hard to navigate. I mentioned Facebook tabs above, but not all the tabs are prominent from the home screen of your Facebook page. And those posts you share?  Well the timeline goes on and on forever, but Facebook doesn’t archive those posts in easy-to-find navigational menus.  There’s a search bar on Facebook, but it’s going to search the entire network (and web) for results, not just your page.

5. Facebook replaced MySpace. Well, that’s not true.  MySpace is still around, believe it or not.  My point here is that if you invest entirely into Facebook as your main online presence, you’re going to really feel the negative impact when Facebook usage starts to dwindle or the next big social media platform comes around.  I think Facebook does have staying power (for now), but again…you don’t have control of that.  In fact, neither does Facebook.

I want to reiterate that Facebook should definitely have a place in your restaurant’s marketing strategy.  It offers a great way to build community and generate fans.  However, it’s my opinion that you also should invest in a corporate website.  Only there can you control all the content, design, and properly promote your restaurant.  Your Facebook and website pages should link to each other and support the same overall branding of one another.  Being social and socially engaged is vital to the success of any restaurant (or business of any kind) in today’s real-time, interactive, socially demanding world.  Your own website is a great place to start!

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