Isn’t the internet great? More information at our fingertips—anywhere and anytime we need it—than any other time in history. But if that information is in the form of negative reviews for your restaurant or business, you probably feel very differently. In fact, you might even hate the information superhighway and want off.
Fear not, we’re here with some helpful tips to turn those Debbie Downers and Negative Nancy’s back into cherished customers, and show you how you can limit the damage to your sales and online reputation once and for all.
How Negative Restaurant Reviews Impact SEO and Customer Sentiment
Online reviews are the new word of mouth and having good ones is vital to your restaurants’ bottom line. With so many options vying for your diners’ attention (and taste buds), you want to make sure that your reviews are as strong as your best dish.
According to a survey by TripAdvisor, 94% of diners in the United States are influenced by online reviews before making a reservation or plans to eat out. We assume the other 6% must not have internet access.
In addition to having an immediate effect on diner’s decision making, reviews are also a factor in SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Good reviews have a direct benefit to your search rankings on Google and Facebook. The better (and more numerous) your restaurant’s online reviews are, the higher you show up when diners are looking for a place to eat in your category. Volume equals popularity for search engines, and sentiment comes in as a subset of their algorithms.
Reviews really matter, so don’t give up on them.
Good, Honest Reviews Will Wash Out The Negatives
It’s true you can’t control what people write about you online, and not everyone is going to fall in love with your chef’s take on macaroni and cheese, or love your head server’s charming people skills. You will get negative reviews no matter how hard you try, but that’s okay. Customers don’t expect to see positive reviews only. In fact, only gushing reviews comes off as fishy, but most folks are reasonable and know you can’t please everyone.
Shoot for a review mix that gives you primarily good, honest reviews while showing that you tried to address the negative ones in the kindest way possible, and you’ll be on your way to navigating online sentiment for the better.
As you grow your collection of positive reviews, they’ll outweigh and push down the negative ones. Positive reviews attract new customers.
Start With The People Already Walking In The Door
Good reviews will lure new diners in, but first, you have a golden opportunity to gather good online reviews from the customers that have already paid your restaurant a visit. Good chance they already love your food, especially if they’re repeat visitors.
Leverage your loyalty programs, email lists, text lists, social media followers and others that have shown they like what you’re serving to encourage or even just ask for a review.
Timing is key here, you want to hit them while their bellies are full and the memory of their positive experience is still fresh. There are several online tools that can help you facilitate this ask, and there’s nothing wrong with table toppers or servers asking for a review while the check is being run.
Highlight The Positive Reviews On Your Social Media Channels
Showcase the best reviews you get in social posts. Dress that review up with some tasty graphics and show the world what Ben From Missouri thinks about his most recent experience at your establishment. It shows your followers and potential diners that you care about the customer experience. It also gives them a mini 15-minutes-of-fame thrill that they were featured on your channel. They’ll tell their friends, and maybe even bring them next time they visit.
Respond to Reviews, Positive And Negative
Responding to positive reviews is easy, but also easy to forget. Thanking a customer for taking the time to share some kind words in a positive review can turn them from visitors into regulars that admire and love your restaurant even more.
The negative reviews are of course tougher, but even more important to respond to, and this part isn’t easy. Human nature is to get defensive about whatever complaint the reviewer has, and of course, some people can’t be pleased. But give yourself a second to work through the defensiveness and respond by thanking them for the feedback, and if possible, offer to make their grievance right.
Addressing negative reviews does two things. First, it gives you a chance to turn around someone’s negative experience and get them back into your restaurant. Second, it shows everyone else reading your reviews that you actually care when a diner’s experience isn’t up to your standards.
And what if they can’t be pleased? Kill ‘em with kindness. People are reasonable and will see you tried.
This is one of the areas where an agency or third party comes in handy. We’re not as close to it as say an owner or employee of the restaurant and can often respond with a more level-headed, calm tone in the moment.
Listen To Review Feedback
It’s easy to look at reviews as some sort of report card for your restaurant, and they kind of are. But you can also get some valuable feedback and information from them to improve your operations and menu. Notice a majority of your reviews are raving about a certain dish? Highlight that dish in your menu (and feature some of the good reviews for it there too), and in promotions.
Does a certain server or bartender’s name keep showing up in positive reviews? Reward them, they’re helping grow your business in this valuable area.
Is there a spot in your restaurant where customers take more selfies than anywhere else? An entryway, spot at the bar, a place near some wall art? Encourage more of the same by placing a branded hashtag and sign encouraging reviews in that area.
Reviews aren’t all bad. There are actually some great opportunities to increase your bottom line and grow your business if you can nurture them in a positive way.
The key is always to start with what you do best—offer incredible food and amazing service. From there it’s just a matter of nudging your best customers towards taking some action online.
Reviews really matter, so don’t give up on them. Dig in and use them to your restaurant’s benefit.
- 94% of diners in the United States are influenced by online reviews before making plans to eat out.
- Current customers are a golden opportunity to gather and grow positive online reviews.
- Showcase the best reviews in social posts.
- Responding to reviews, positive and negative, is important.
- Gain valuable feedback and information from reviews to improve your operations and menu.