Why Restaurants Need to Care About Customer Reviews and Online Feedback: Part 1

In a world where seemingly everyone is a critic, online reviews can have a massive impact on the bottom line.

We’ve all been there before. It’s Friday night, and the fridge is empty, but there’s a gang of hungry children ravenously looking for food and you’re about 30 seconds away from tearing the hair out of your head. Then you look at your phone…  

Boom! That’s it; time to order from a local restaurant and support the industry. But where to order from? You scroll through dozens of options ranging from classic Americana to Laotian/Thai fusion, when you finally see it. The restaurant that has everything your family will eat, pleasing even the most finicky palate. But then disaster strikes… it’s only rated a 3.4 out of 5 stars.  

In a world where seemingly everyone is a critic, online reviews can have a massive impact on the bottom line. The restaurant industry is among the most impacted by poor reviews, and even a few sub-par experiences on Google or Yelp can have a major effect on a concept.  

More than 60% of customers read online reviews before choosing a restaurant, and a one-star rating increase can result in up to 9% more in revenue. On top of that, guests are turning to peer-reviewed sites more than ever before. More than a third of diners say they choose the eateries they visit based on their peers’ positive reviews, making a restaurant’s online reputation management critical to its overall business strategy.  

PAR recently spoke with Megan Headley, VP of Research at TrustRadius, to learn more about the science of restaurant reviews, why they matter, and what operators and owners can do to ensure their locations are shown in the best light possible.  

Why should restaurants care about online reviews?

“For consumers, reading online reviews is second nature now. When was the last time you tried a new restaurant without consulting at least a few Google reviews?   

We’re seeing parallels across both the B2C and B2B space. Restaurants should care about reviews because they’re often one of the first impressions potential customers have of your business. They can influence whether someone chooses to patronize your restaurant or not.   

Just like restaurant visitors, technology buyers want to control their own buying journey. This means they’re doing more of their own online research before deciding to engage with a vendor. The pandemic has only accelerated this—both B2C and B2B companies had to get comfortable with conducting business 100% online, fast.”

How much truth is there in an online review? How much influence does it have on a restaurant's reputation?

“Well, of course, it depends on the online review platform. How helpful and valuable are the review questions or prompts? How carefully does the platform vet reviews to make sure they’re authentic? How many words do reviews have? Do they convey helpful context and details?   

All of these are important questions to ask when thinking about how valuable and influential online reviews are. The quality of online reviews completely depends on the quality of feedback from the community (i.e. reviewers) and the quality standards of the review platform.   

Of course, fake reviews can be a big problem that both B2C and B2B companies struggle with. One way that we combat this at TrustRadius is having a rigorous process for vetting and approving reviews. We authenticate each reviewer to verify that they are a real person and end-user of the software or hardware product. Our Research team personally reads through each review to ensure it lives up to our quality standards and community guidelines. We actually end up rejecting about 35% of reviews because they don’t meet our quality standards and community guidelines.   

This is so important in part because we know that a single review can influence multiple people and their subsequent purchase decisions. Our 2021 B2B Buying Disconnect research revealed that 92% of B2B buyers who read reviews share them with others. And, surprisingly, 12% said they shared reviews with more than 10 other people! For the past five years, reviews have consistently been one of the top five resources buyers rely on when making a purchase.”

What are the impacts of having a good/bad reputation online?

“I would be shocked to find a marketer who didn’t think having a solid online reputation is important! But before you even get to the online reputation stage, your business needs to have an online presence. More specifically, you need to be visible when and where potential customers are searching for you.   

For B2C businesses like restaurants, part of this is making sure your business listing is accurate and updated on search engines like Google and other business directory websites. Online review websites play a huge role in helping companies generate enough awareness so that potential customers have that product on their radar.   

The consequences of not having a strong online presence are that you’re less likely to be considered by potential customers, and therefore lose out on potential business. Having a strong online presence and reputation also impacts conversion rates. When businesses back up their claims with social proof (like authentic reviews), potential buyers are far more likely to take the next step. When users can’t suss out youonline reputation, they take no action, or continue to search hoping to find something more helpful.”

Restaurant Reviews: More Than Simply Being Aware

Online reviews can raise a local business to new heights, but they’re also just as capable of spelling doom. In part two of this interview, Megan Headley touches on how restaurants should handle customers when they leave a negative review, maintaining a great reputation, and which generation is putting their faith, and dollars, behind popular reviews.

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