guestXM – by Black Box Intelligence

7 Proven Tips to Get More (and Better) Restaurant Reviews

Uncover what social engagement tactics make sense for your brand in order to improve online restaurant reviews. 

Elevate Your Restaurant’s Online Reputation with Customer Reviews

Restaurant reviews are not only your window into your restaurant’s strengths and weaknesses but also your brand’s “business card” for potential customers.

Potential customers are highly interested in other diners’ experiences 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. According to a 2023 survey study by BentoBox, 86% of respondents said they search for a restaurant online before making a decision.

The same study also revealed Google Maps as the most popular review site for online restaurant discovery and search engines as the most common channel for finding restaurant websites.

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. Our research has shown that restaurant chains that capture 5 times more customer reviews see a 3.5 percentage-point increase in year-over-year traffic growth compared to their peers. Engaging with reviews is also essential: Businesses that respond to reviews are seen as 1.7 times more trustworthy than those that don’t.

If you’re wondering where to begin, what to prioritize, and how to get ahead of the competition with more and better reviews, we’ve got you covered. We have seven 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 customer experience 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, customers tend to be most affected by rude staff, which often angers a customer more than cold food or slow service.

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 use their positive feelings to your advantage 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 twenty-four 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 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 twenty-four hours when the experience is still fresh in their minds.

2. Leverage Loyal Customers

Repeat customers are the ones most likely to take the time to write a review for your restaurant brand.

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.

If all the above are ticked, they would likely be open to writing a review or two even without additional incentives or benefits. Why is this? For your loyal customers, the relationship with the brand exceeds the customer-seller norms. In other words, they feel part of the social circle created by the brand.

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 fifteen minutes.

How do you juggle all these tasks? Further, how do you quickly prioritize responses between messages like “Are you open at 10 a.m. tomorrow?” “Where did the menu special go?” and harsh reviews like “Food was cold,” “Service was rude,” and “Worst place to dine in this city”?

This is where AI, machine learning, and automation come in handy. The latest technology has quickly evolved to ease your workload and help you make better business decisions. Marketing, operations, or even location managers can filter reviews, incoming messages, and mentions based on sentiment: positive, neutral, and negative. In addition, it shows you urgent items, like a food influencer tagging one of your locations.

4. Turn Negative Experiences Around

When confronted with an angry review, the community manager of a restaurant brand is the last line of defense. 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? AI/machine learning technology can efficiently scan your text to understand themes and sentiments.

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 and day out.

Then, make sure to share the knowledge with your team. Customer reviews are a valuable source of insights for the whole organization.

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, and even reviews or social media platforms. The tech is super easy to use, cost-effective, and offers a lot of space to stand out.

Attach them to anything you want customers to see online: surveys, table menus, reservation forms, reviews, and so on.

OR codes are also very useful when it comes to streamlining customer feedback. By using a reputation management solution with a survey feature, a 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. 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, TikTok would be the go-to platform. If the restaurant brand you manage focuses more on Millennials, 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.

7. Don’t Ignore Neutral Reviews

Engaging with positive and negative reviews plays a vital role in establishing trust with customers. However, many businesses tend to overlook neutral feedback. Impartial customers may be on the fence and can be persuaded in either direction: neglect their remarks and potentially turn them into detractors, or implement proactive, strategic measures to address their feedback to turn them into promoters.

Moreover, these reviews can be a gold mine for restaurants. They generally contain both negative and positive feedback, meaning brands can extract a great deal of useful information.

Last Words

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.

Want to learn how you can craft the perfect survey? Here are “13 Tips for Creating Perfect Customer Surveys.”

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