Why Restaurants Need to Care About Customer Reviews and Online Feedback: Part 2

It’s one thing for you to talk about how great your food is, but it means a lot more coming from your guests.

It’s one thing for you to talk about how great your food is, but it means a lot more coming from your guests. If we’ve learned one thing over the past few years, it’s that there is nothing more powerful than word-of-mouth marketing. This is especially true when those mouths are hungry and taking every single one of their opinions online. 

Today, online reviews play a critical role in everything from the cars we buy to the jobs we apply for. So why shouldn’t reviews dictate the restaurants we choose to patronize? According to Bright Local, an astounding 94% of consumers surveyed in 2020 said they were more likely to use a business with positive reviews, up slightly from 91% the year prior. Just as telling was the percentage of people who said they would avoid those with negative comments, rising from 82% in 2019 to 92% in 2020. 

We recently sat down with Megan Headley, VP of Research for TrustRadius, to help us understand the subtle nuances of customer reviews. We cover everything from the best way to generate more reviews from happy guests, how to appropriately respond to critical comments, and why developing a positive online presence eventually leads to more guests and higher revenue.

When a restaurant gets a review, what should they do? Is there a process?

“One best practice we encourage at TrustRadius is for businesses to follow up with reviewers, regardless of whether they left a positive or negative review. We encourage them to comment on reviews and follow up with the reviewer personally if they would like to be contacted. 

Following up with a customer, especially an unhappy customer, shows you care about their feedback and are willing to work with them to create a better relationship. Not only is this important for the reviewer, but it’s valuable for other potential customers to see that interaction. 

Of course, it’s not helpful (for your business or for the reviewer) when you’re overly defensive or accusatory when responding to a review. Flat out asking the person to delete their review also isn’t a good approach. So, there’s a bit of tact involved in responding to reviews helpfully.”

Is the restaurant/hospitality industry the most impacted by reviews?

Consumers had to get very comfortable doing online research this year. Because of this, reviews are even more influential for many industries. Reviews are critical for the restaurant and hospitality industry, as consumers are so accustomed to reading online reviews as part of their decision-making process. 

We’ve seen B2B buyers behave similarly. Software and hardware purchases are typically more expensive than consumer purchases and often involve multi-year contracts. This puts even more pressure on restaurants themselves to make sure they’re getting their money’s worth (or ROI). So, reviews are incredibly important in the B2B industry as well because they help buyers evaluate different technology products before making a purchase.

What can restaurants do to take advantage of a good reputation or improve a bad one?

Encouraging more customers to leave reviews is one of the best ways you can help maintain or grow your reputation. 

For restaurants, make sure you’re constantly asking for reviews from lots of different types of patrons. One easy way to do this is to embed the review request in a process you already have. For example, include it at the bottom of a receipt, make it an automatic email after someone signs up for your rewards program, or train all your servers to ask customers for a review before they leave. 

It’s also a good idea to promote and advertise your standing on review sites. For example, we encourage companies to promote awards they’ve earned and post testimonials from customers on their websites and social platforms. This allows you to harness the voice of your customers. Restaurants and other B2C businesses can do this too, and many already do. Putting reviews and ratings on your website is one way to do this. It’s also helpful to make sure you have Google reviews so that your ratings show up when someone searches for your business online or in maps.

What's the Next Big Trend in Reviews?

One key trend we’ve seen in the B2B space is that younger generations of buyers (like Millennials) are behaving differently from older generations. As younger generations gain a bigger share of the purchasing power, reviews become even more vital. 

Millennial and Gen Z consumers don’t care as much about professional critics. They care more about the popular view, and what people like them have to say. They’re also more likely to immediately turn to Google to find what they’re searching for because they’re digital native generations. It’s never been more important for restaurants (and all companies) to invest in their online presence.

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