Restaurant reviews are your brand’s “business card” for potential customers.
Your potential customers are highly interested in others’ experience in your restaurant, especially the visits that took place in recent weeks and months.
Apps that show customer reviews like Google, TripAdvisor or Yelp are used daily in the decision-making process your key market segment: digitally literate people with above-average income living in the city.
Your typical foodies will check at least one rating app before deciding to go for your brand.
9 out of 10 potential customers will search at least one review platform.
With this in mind, it’s clear that an increase in the average rating score would usually lead to more customers choosing the brand, generating revenue growth.
If you’re considering any of the following questions: where do I start, what do I prioritize and how do I get ahead of the competition with more and better reviews for my restaurant? We’ve got you covered. We have six great tips below that you can start using right away.
1. Ask happy customers to write a review while they’re still at your restaurant
Our latest CX research has shown that most customers would not write a review unless their experience was excellent or awful. So, in other words, the ones who leave reviews generally have had more extreme experiences. In the case of negative experiences, the science shows that customers are most affected by “rude staff,” which often angers a customer more than cold food or slow service.
The customers who had a pretty good or even excellent experience may not always take the time to write a review on their own. But, you can leverage on their positive feelings by asking them to write an (honest) review while they’re still sitting in your location. Asking them at the right moment can have surprising results. Most restaurant reviews are posted in the first 24-hours after a visit takes place, so develop new “team habits” by involving your front line.
Encourage them to ask happy customers to leave a customer review, and genuinely explain that in these times, it really helps the business.
If you work with a reservation tool, and customers who book tables give permission to receive marketing messages, you still have a chance to follow up after they leave the location. Your follow-up email should include an invitation to write a review and should ideally be sent within the next 24 hours to to keep their impression fresh.
2. Leverage loyal customers
Repeat customers are the ones most likely to take the time to write a review for your restaurant brand. They are familiar with your menu, know the drinks offered and may even reach out to their servers using their first name. Essentially, loyal customers are emotionally attached to your brand and the customer experience. Ideally, they should feel part of your community, and often they follow and engage with your brand on social media and give supportive feedback for new menu additions.
3. Use technology to manage your brand’s community.
An online reputation management solution will help your brand’s customer experience go beyond physical locations and ordering apps. It brings the customer and your restaurant brand closer, both online and offline. Imagine this: you manage a brand with 12 locations. You have 20 unread direct messages and 30 reviews incoming, while your boss has suddenly scheduled a meeting in 15 minutes.
How do you get these done? Further, how do you quickly prioritize between messages like “are you open at 10 am tomorrow”, “where did the menu special go” and harsh reviews like “food was cold”, “service was rude”,” worst place to dine in this city”? It starts to get messy….
This is where AI, machine learning and automation come in handy. The latest technology has quickly evolved to ease your workload and pressure, and make better business decisions. Marketing, operations or even location managers can filter reviews, incoming messages and mentions based on sentiment: positive or negative. In addition, it shows you urgent items, like a food influencer tagging one of your locations.
Using a CX tool like AreTheyHappy can drastically lower marketing and operations workload: what would take up to 2 hours a day, responding to all messages, replying to reviews and mentions, can be done in 15 minutes.
4. Turn negative experiences around
Like a goalie who saves a last-minute shot, when confronted with an angry review, the community manager of a restaurant brand is the last line of defence. The worst a brand can do is ignore a review or ask the reviewer to unpublish it.
Responding promptly with the right tone can still save an initially bad offline experience, and can do wonders for the overall impression of your brand.
How do you spot an angry review or comment out of the negative reviews stack? Well, the best scenario would be to use the latest in AI/machine learning technology to efficiently scan your text to understand themes and sentiment.
Angry, negative reviews use very strong language.
Punctuation and sentence length can also help in determining angry reviews. Once you’ve identified the most urgent messages, take time to answer them with care.
If in doubt, follow up with the location managers and front line: they know best what is happening day in day out.
Then, make sure to share the knowledge within the team. Customer reviews are a valuable source of feedback (both positive and negative) for the whole organization. It’s crucial to analyze the customer feedback from the table floor all the way up to the company headquarters.
5. Bring offline closer to online, with QR codes
QR codes efficiently link the in-location, takeaway and delivery customers with online surveys, landing pages, even reviews or social media platforms. The tech is super easy to use, cheap and offers a lot of space to stand out.
Since the pandemic, QR codes are on a comeback mostly because it’s super easy to use for everybody. Attach them to anything you want customers to see online: surveys, table menus, reservation forms, reviews and much, much more. It just needs to be larger than 2×2 cm. Besides that, the sky’s the limit.
A great QR code use-case that we noticed getting much traction is for streamlining customer feedback. Using AreTheyHappy’s survey feature, a restaurant brand can configure a customer satisfaction survey, link it to a QR code and print it on the receipts.
Based on their feedback sentiment, they can see different calls to action: responders with positive feedback are invited to write a review on Google, while negative feedback stays internal.
6. Harness social media mentions
This is a bit of a “side dish” that indirectly influences reviews through more exposure online.
If your customers post a photo or video from your locations, that’s great. Engage with the original post, republish it and don’t forget to thank them in a direct message.
This gives your brand a steady flow of free and genuine content for Instagram stories without effort. Repost, repurpose and repackage.
On Instagram, carousel images and videos are surpassing the engagement of single image or video posts by far. This means users who are not followers can “land” on your high engagement posts and start following your brand from there.
Also, it is important to choose what network to push: if your brand caters to young adults, then TikTok would be the go-to platform. If the restaurant brand you manage focuses more on millennials, maybe Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter can make more sense. If your brand is focused on corporate deals and conferences, go for LinkedIn and local entrepreneurial communities.
That was a lot to take in, but creating a strategy to generate more and better reviews takes a bit of nuance. It’s important to choose tactics that make sense for your restaurant and brand.
Try to be methodical in your approach. After selecting the approach that you feel works best for your brand, document the progress during periodic checkups and team meetings. There is no “magic bullet” that will get you to the top of your restaurant category. It’s about incremental progress and applying the knowledge gathered.