two staff members managing online reviews

Managing online reviews: the good, the bad, and the massive opportunity

Posted by
Eamonn Curley
Eamonn Curley
on 6 April 2022

In this #snack, we’ll take a look at the importance of online reviews and how you can effectively manage reviews as a cost-effective marketing tool for your restaurant business. 

Remember the last time you got a bad review? 

It’s deflating. Sometimes it’s out of your control and other times it’s down to a simple mistake.

The temptation is either to ignore it completely or aggressively defend the reputation of your restaurant(f*ck you!). 

But both approaches are wrong – the reality is that a good online reputation is everything.

And, the rate of customers leaving online reviews has shot up in the last number of years. 96% of quick-service restaurants received reviews in 2019, up from 27% in 2015. 

More importantly, online reviews are potentially the most cost-effective marketing tool for your restaurant. 

Let’s dive in and find out more. 

How online reviews work

Since Yelp launched in 2004, almost 24 million reviews have been posted on the site. 

In 2015, Google began to dominate the review platforms. The massive flow of traffic through its search engine means it’s reviews rank ahead of other websites in the search results.  

88% of all online reviews come from four main websites, namely Google (73%), Yelp (6%), Facebook (3%) and Tripadvisor (3%). 

google business profile online screenshot

So how do online reviews work?

  • After a restaurant claims its page on a review site, customers can begin leaving reviews there.
  • Customers usually leave a star rating and in some cases will write a brief or detailed review. 
  • Ratings are then averaged for your total overall rating. 

It’s free to operate and the potential audience size is huge. Last year 77% of people looked up reviews of local businesses, up from 60% in 2020. 

The importance of managing online reviews 

When it comes to the dreaded negative review, the restaurant industry is impacted far higher than most.

According to FastCasual.com, 75% of restaurants are impacted by negative reviews, followed by hotels(70%), doctors(68%), hospitals(67%) and hair salons(56%). 

Maintaining a positive reputation online is so important and it can really impact your sales and overall business performance. A Harvard Business School study found that a one star increase on Yelp leads to a 5-9% increase in revenue. 

Let’s look at two main areas that show the impact of online reviews.

They are a cost-effective marketing tool

Have you ever heard of the term social proof? 

It was coined by author Robert Cialdini in his 1984 book Influence. Social proof is basically the phenomenon of people copying the actions of others in certain social situations. 

When it comes to marketing, social proof is a very powerful way of showing the value of your product or service. A lot of the time, people will seek out online reviews before making a purchasing decision. Brightlocal.com found that 72% of consumers trust a business that has positive reviews.  

Online reviews present a cost-effective way to market your restaurant. It’s free to set up on most review platforms and the only cost is dedicating one person’s time in the business to managing your online reviews. 

Positive reviews boost sales  

A university study from a few years ago found that an increase in your star rating could increase bookings dramatically. One restaurant whose ratings increased by half a star saw its 7pm booking sell out from 30% to 49% of the evenings it was open for business. 

The researchers made sure that the quality of food, the service and the price never changed during the study, meaning the only factor that increased bookings was the online review rating. 

And it makes sense. 

The more positive reviews your restaurant gets, the more chance it will rank higher on Google when a person searches a term like “restaurants near me”. If your reviews and star rating are highly positive overall, it’s more likely that person will walk through your door.

How to manage online reviews successfully

Like every area of your business, you need a clear strategy in place for managing online reviews. 

Here are four key areas to cover.

Claim your page on all major review sites

As we’ve mentioned before the four major review sites in terms of usage are Google, Yelp, Facebook and Tripadvisor.  

The first step you need to take is to claim your restaurant’s page on each of these platforms. 

If you haven’t done this already, do it as quick as possible as someone else may claim your page and potentially do damage to your reputation!

Here is a quick overview of what you need to do on each platform:

  • Google: Take a look at this guide to set up your Google Business profile.
  • Yelp: This step by step blog will take you through claiming your business page. 
  • Tripadvisor:  Here they have laid out an easy guide to claiming your business listing
  • Facebook: If you haven’t already set up a business page using this guide.

Assign one person to manage reviews

The main issue with managing online reviews is time. If you begin to push for customers to review your restaurant the likelihood is the reviews will start steadily streaming in – and the worst thing would be to leave them un-responded to. 

You need to dedicate one person to the task of managing all aspects of online reviews. This doesn’t have to take up of all their time – they just need to dedicate some time every day or every week so your restaurant can maximise the potential of online reviews.

The main responsibility of your “review champion” will be the following tasks: 

  • Set up the restaurant on each major review platform.
  • Encourage customer reviews through various channels, both on-premises and online.
  • Respond to reviews, both positive and negative.
  • Track the performance of each review platform.
  • Work with marketing to pick out positive reviews that can be used as marketing material.
  • Shout out and recognise superstar members of the team who are named in positive review

Respond quickly and correctly to reviews 

The best way to grow your online reputation is to be open and responsive to reviews. 

With positive reviews be enthusiastic and detailed in your response (don’t just say “thanks”). With negative reviews, be sympathetic to the problem and offer to speak further on the phone. 

We know this sounds like a complete minefield so we’ve created some templates to help you respond to both positive and negative reviews:

Positive

Keep it short, upbeat and impactful and personalise it with the person’s name. 

 [Customers name], Thanks for the awesome review! 

We work hard to meet expectations like yours, and we’re happy to hear we hit the mark for you. 

Come back and see us soon. 

Cheers!

[Your name]

Negative

With negative reviews, again use the person’s name so it’s not a generic response. Sympathise with their experience and ask to continue the conversation offline.

Dear [customers name],

Thank you for your review. I’m sorry to hear you had a frustrating experience, but I really appreciate you bringing this issue to my attention.

We set a high standard for ourselves, and we’re sorry to hear this was not met in your interaction with our restaurant. 

We would love a chance to try and rectify your experience. Please reach out to us at anytime at [Email Address] or [Phone Number]. 

Again, thank you for your feedback!

[Your name] 

Adapt positive reviews for marketing content 

88% of reviewers trust user reviews as much as personal recommendations, which is incredibly powerful.

As we’ve discussed previously social proof marketing is very effective. Once you start collecting positive reviews and your star rating begins to rise, there’s several different marketing channels you can promote them through. 

  • List every major review site on your website homepage along with the star rating for each 
  • Add quotes from positive reviews to your website 
  • Use quotes on organic and paid social media posts 
  • List review site ratings underneath your weekly or monthly newsletter

Wrapping up

We know reviews can sometimes be an afterthought amongst the millions of other things going on in your restaurant. 

However, with people navigating the world through Google, it’s necessary to maintain an active presence across all major reviews sites. 

Once you spend time encouraging reviews and responding to them you’ll start to see a positive impact on your restaurant’s reputation and overall performance.