guestXM – by Black Box Intelligence

Restaurant Reviews: What Are Your Customers Saying About You?

We’ll identify what users are saying about your business so you always know the status of your reputation and get unbiased feedback on the guest experience.

The Power of Restaurant Reviews

Harnessing Guest Feedback: Insights from Restaurant Reviews

Restaurant reviews hold a tremendous amount of sway for consumers. Word-of-mouth is some of the best marketing you can get, and there’s a direct correlation between high ratings and profitability. People trust other people, and when potential customers see that other guests enjoy your food, service, and atmosphere, it makes them feel more confident in giving your business a try. Likewise, negative reviews can completely turn off consumers who were previously excited to dine with you. Staying on top of your reviews is essential to staying competitive.

Here’s a breakdown of how we gather restaurant review data, what the latest trends are telling us, and how you can turn the data into action.

How We Retrieve Data from Restaurant Review Sites

Unveiling the Power of Restaurant Review Data Gathering

Restaurant review sites give consumers a massive platform to express their opinions – good or bad. These platforms can be powerful marketing tools since restaurants with a high number of positive reviews are featured more prominently. We work with each of the major review sites to collect data on our clients and their competitors.

Google Restaurant Reviews

Local search is critical to attracting customers to offline businesses, and the most popular local search term by far is “restaurants near me.” The vast majority of those searches are happening on Google, and this is our largest source of reviews.

Yelp Reviews

Yelp is probably the most popular brand name in restaurant reviews. One study by Harvard found that increasing your Yelp rating by even just one star leads to a 5-9% revenue jump. Yelp provides a free database with some reviews, but we purchase additional access for a broader set of data.


TripAdvisor touts more than 700 million restaurant reviews to help travelers find the best local eateries. Similar to our partnership with Yelp, we purchase access to granular review data.


The internet’s most popular reservation site garners 1.3 million restaurant reviews per month. When OpenTable sends customers a follow-up survey after their visit, we’re able to integrate that data into our platform (if the business is a client).

Social Media / Social Review Sites

Unearthing Restaurant Insights from the Social Media Buzz

There’s a ton of chatter about restaurants on social media – from location tags to complaints. For Facebook and Instagram, we’re able to monitor social feedback for companies that are BBI clients. With Instagram, we pull the hashtags and comments people make that reference our clients’ businesses.

Pulling restaurant reviews from all of these sites can easily lead to data overload – BBI has clients that get up to 30,000 reviews a month. It’s important to have a natural language processor to parse through the data to identify common themes, trends, and areas where you’re improving and declining. Restaurant reviews are super valuable and important, but companies need help going through them all and using them to boost their business’s success. That’s what we do at BBI.

How We Turn Restaurant Review Data into Customer Intelligence Insights

Extracting Insights from Restaurant Review Data with Guest Intelligence

All of this data aggregation sets the foundation for our Guest Intelligence services, which enable restaurants to track their online reputation. We go through millions of restaurant reviews and use natural language processing to search for keywords. The keywords are then used to put the reviews into categories (such as food, beverage, service, value, ambiance, and intent to return) that we can track with sales and traffic year after year.

Those reviews are then bucketed into bigger umbrella categories (such as flavor and food prep) to get to the root of what part of the experience the customer is referring to when using those keywords. This allows you to track specific causes behind changes in sentiment, such as whether the taste of your food or the quality of your to-go packaging has changed.

This is part of what sets our guest intelligence offering apart. You get data classified by category, allowing you to track specific areas where you want feedback. For example, you can track mentions of a specific promotion or special menu item.

Our Guest Intelligence offering also provides access to data on your top five competitors. In instances where we don’t have direct access to competitor data, we can get a sampling of the rival restaurant’s data analytics. We provide a dashboard that allows you to view the reviews in their various categories.

For clients who purchase our full suite of products, we provide quarterly performance and trend comprehension, information on competitors, and granular insights on recent changes (both positive and negative). This data adds broader context to your guest satisfaction research so you can make well-informed changes.

Guest sentiment trends

Navigating Industry-Wide Guest Sentiment Trends

With all of the data that we collect for our clients, we’re able to spot industry-wide trends. In Q2 and Q3 of 2021, customer sentiment about cleanliness (down 4.2%) and service (often due to short-staffing) trended downward. The drop in satisfaction tied to cleanliness negatively impacted guest perceptions of ambiance in both full-service and limited-service restaurants. Guests often mentioned the cleanliness of the tables and floors, the state of the bathrooms, and high-touch points such as cutlery. Beverage satisfaction is also trending downward, with many guests citing quality issues, getting the wrong order, or failing to receive drinks at all.

These are part of a larger trend around falling guest satisfaction. With the huge swing in traffic and the ongoing staffing shortage challenge, operators have struggled to keep up, leading to a flurry of negative restaurant reviews. And takeout orders continue to be high, creating a challenging environment for everyone.

We try to encourage restaurateurs not to be discouraged, though. There are some things you can do to manage and meet customer expectations – even in these tough times. Keep reading.

What to do with Guest Intelligence

Figuring out how to respond to all this data amid a labor crunch is a tall order. Customers are frustrated, and sometimes harassing staff, making it an even more difficult situation. Try these strategies to keep guest satisfaction high without overwhelming your staff:

  • Take care of the staff you have, understand their pain points, and don’t overburden them with unrealistic expectations.
  • Over-communicate with customers and employees to prevent surprises (such as price hikes) and misunderstandings.
  • Stay plugged in with your staff to understand their day-to-day challenges so you can keep them happy and engaged.
  • Be honest with your customers and don’t take on more than you can handle. For example, most signs now say “limited capacity due to being short-staffed” instead of “closed due to COVID.”

What Restaurant Reviews Tell us about Mask-wearing

We wanted to know how mask mandates are impacting restaurant-goers, so we parsed the data to look for trends. What we found was that restaurant reviews feature more frequent mentions of masks (particularly at full-service restaurants). For the most part, customers are mostly grateful when they see servers wearing them, as well as workers who are handling their food. We recommend that operators strongly encourage employees to wear masks whenever possible. On the flip side, if you want customers to wear masks, ask nicely and be prepared to provide them.

Restaurant Reviews FAQs:

Why do we need restaurant reviews?

Restaurant reviews are vital to attracting customers. Reviews build trust and are often the deciding factor for whether someone chooses to visit your restaurant. Reviewing data also helps you continually improve your operations. It’s truly unbiased data since customers provide it without needing to be prompted.

For example, we are working with a client who is having a food prep issue. By monitoring the data, we were able to identify the root cause of negative feedback and make meaningful changes to resolve the issue. Instead of playing a guessing game, the client now has the information they need to make the change and do it quickly and effectively. In another instance, we were able to help a client pinpoint that a bathroom odor issue was causing sentiment to fall. This level of granularity allows BBI clients to truly understand what’s driving guest sentiment.

What is the best website for customer reviews?

We use all of the review sites in our data analyses, but Google Reviews is the most comprehensive by far. Between 90-95% of our data comes from Google.

How to get customer reviews

For starters, it’s important to have a presence on all of the major restaurant review sites. Make yourself easy to find. To encourage customers to leave reviews, you can send reminders after their visit (for digital orders) or have managers gently encourage them to leave a review if they like at the end of their dining experience. For to-go orders, you can also put information and review platforms on your to-go packaging so people know where to find it. It’s also important to respond to reviews to show that you care about what customers are saying, both positive and negative.

How to respond to negative restaurant reviews

Despite your best efforts, negative reviews are sometimes unavoidable, but they can easily be fixed by having a manager acknowledge the issue and talk through the steps they’re taking to fix it. If customers feel that their concerns are properly addressed, chances are they will continue to come back because they feel important and valued.

How to measure customer satisfaction in a restaurant

Categorization and classification are essential to measuring customer satisfaction. By categorizing guest sentiment based on the topic and the common words used concerning that topic, you can drill down to see what’s driving reviews. With that information, you can make informed decisions about where to make improvements and where to keep up the good work.

Start aggregating data on your reviews with Black Box Guest Intelligence™. We’ll help you identify what users are saying about your business so you can always know your online reputation and get unbiased feedback on the quality of your service.

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