By Adriana Veasey, Contributor
There’s no doubt that reviews are an important part of the restaurant industry. The majority of American consumers look for online reviews, meaning those five-star ratings can effect whether a potential guest visits your restaurant or the bar & grill down the road. So the restaurant industry thrives on positive customer reviews. But how do we get them? How do restaurants influence guests to leave rave reviews on websites like Yelp, Facebook, and Google?
The answer is as simple as it is not-easy – encourage your guests to leave reviews. Simple solution, right? Alas, it may not always feel so easy. To tackle this goal, we encourage restaurant operators to follow the advice below.
#1. Be the Best Out There
The simplest way you can encourage visitors to leave positive reviews is by making sure they don’t have what to complain about in the first place. Be ahead of the bad reviews and create a smooth, seamless experience for each guest. From the food you serve to your services, atmosphere, and the littlest detail. Everything matters.
You may have heard before that people are more inclined to share negative experiences online, more frequently than positive ones. The study linked shows that more than 50% of the customers who had interacted with a business and had a negative experience with the customer service department stopped buying from the business. They also shared the bad experience five times or more -- online or offline. Work with this in mind and ensure you don’t leave room for negative opinions.
Positive interactions with your establishment will also encourage customers to share their experiences with others.
#2. Create Business Profiles on Specialized Platforms
Many guests might want to leave positive feedback on your business, but they need to have the necessary means to do so. So, setting up business profiles on some of the most powerful review platforms will come as a big plus. If you haven’t yet, consider creating business profiles on the following:
All these websites are an authority in restaurant reviews. Most potential restaurant guests will come to one of these sites before making a decision. That also means they’re more likely to leave a review on these sites, too.
Having your restaurant on these review websites will also help boost your restaurant’s SEO value as it will make your official website rank higher in search results. So, it’s a double win for your business.
#3. Just Ask
Although asking guests for reviews is the most obvious approach restaurant owners could try to boost their positive feedback online, it’s seldom practiced with consistency. Data from BrightLocal shows that more than 85% of customers are more likely to leave reviews if they are asked to. While this isn’t a mind-blowing tip, it works and it works well.
There isn’t a wrong or right approach to ask for this small gesture on your clientele’s part. It can also vary depending on your type of restaurant. For instance, if you are a small, family-owned establishment, you could ask your customers yourself. For luxurious, high-end restaurants, you could have a tablet come with the check, and have a member of your staff kindly ask visitors to leave a review before leaving the establishment.
Regardless of what approach you prefer, being straightforward but polite will always do the trick.
If your guests are more than happy with the food, services, and atmosphere in your venue, they will be more than happy to help out. Here are a few more tips for asking guests for reviews:
Make the process straightforward. Leaving online reviews should be effortless. Although visitors will be happy to help, they don’t want to spend too much time with the process. Plus, they want a hassle-free one.
Profiles on the platforms mentioned above have easy forms that your guests can use to submit reviews. Include similar forms on your newsletters, email marketing campaigns, and so on. Make the links as visible as possible to increase the chances of getting positive feedback.
Use reputation management tools. If getting guests to leave positive feedback seems like a complicated project, your team will be pleased to find that some of the best online reputation management tools have some interesting features designed to help bar and restaurant owners get some of the best reviews out there.
Some come with centralized dashboards that allow monitoring of professional review profiles as well as set you up on platforms like Yelp and TripAdvisor. Another useful feature is that they allow owners to actively seek reviews and guest feedback through email or text messages.
Aim for a smooth social media approach. Your business is on social media, and so are your guests. Why not profit a little and interact directly with them?
The simplest approach is to get in touch with your guests on social media, and ask them about their experience, what feedback they have for your establishment -- be it positive or negative -- and so on. Clarify from the beginning you are doing this to improve your business and customer experience in the future. Ask them if they have the time to leave a review on your business review profiles. This is a professional approach and your guests won’t feel pressured into leaving positive reviews. Although, once they will be hearing you ask for guest feedback to improve your products and services, they will be more than thrilled to leave a positive opinion.
#4. Avoid Rewards & Incentives
Ok, this sounds a little counter-intuitive, but hear us out. You should never try to buy customer reviews. This will damage your reputation and financial stability of your establishment.
When you incentivize or reward positive feedback, this usually leads to biased opinions. And it can backfire big time. When incentives are offered before letting your customers experience your establishment, the opinions will be even more inaccurate.
What you should strive for is honest feedback through unpromoted reviews. Pressuring visitors into leaving one will make them feel uncomfortable with your business. Besides, they are very likely to share this experience with others, making your business look shady.
#5. Improve Your Customer Service
All businesses, no matter the industry, have to deal with customer concerns and questions. This is a great opportunity to use this to your advantage.
But, first of all, you have to put together a solid customer service team. Once they solve your potential guest’s dilemmas, train your managers, hosts and serving team to ask guests to leave a review on one of your restaurant’s official business profiles. This is such a simple and approachable way to make guests leave positive reviews.
#6. Always Strive for Improvement
The reality of online reviews is a harsh one, but it should offer you a clear perspective on how guests’ minds work. You can’t always get 5-star ratings. As soon as your customers encounter the smallest inconvenience, they will shift their reviews and offer your business a less-than-stellar review.
But, hear us out. This can also be a good opportunity to improve guest reviews in the future. Negative reviews are just as useful as positive ones.
Negative reviews will improve your restaurant’s problem-solving aptitudes. You can make the right changes and adjustments to your menu, your customer experience, your staff training, and so on.
Although your main goal here is motivating guests to leave positive feedback on your establishment, striving to always improve your services and products is just as important.
Also, how you respond to negative reviews can boost your reputation and improve guests’ opinion on you.
First, you should avoid getting defensive. Yes, your bar or restaurant is your baby, going on the defensive tends to do more harm to one’s reputation than help. Instead, try to be as empathic as you can to the negative reviewer. Thank your guest for their honest opinion and for taking the time to write the review. Apologize for the negative experience your customer had. Also, try to include some marketing in your responses. For instance, you could say something along the lines: “We, at (insert restaurant/bar name) are known for exceptional services and attention to details. We are sorry about your negative experience and that this time, we couldn’t meet the expectations set previously.”
Ultimately, to generate positive reviews in the future, you have to keep your responses short and sweet. Getting into details online looks a little unprofessional and might damage the image you have built for your establishment over time.
Getting the perfect review is not as hard. But make sure to follow the pieces of advice above. Guests need more than being provided with flavorful meals and beverages to get them tipsy. They need the proper means to feel motivated enough to “waste” five minutes to write that golden feedback.
About the Author:
Adriana Veasey is a customer relations manager and business writer. With a vast marketing experience, she now collaborates with websites like Studicus.com.
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