By Joe Welsh, Foodable Industry Expert
Over the past few years, many restaurant owners I have met with have been very skeptical of review sites such as Yelp or TripAdvisor. They contended that the reviews are false, misleading or competitors just writing bad reviews about them. In some cases they claim that Yelp was misleading in its representation of reviews.
Recently though, I’ve seen a shift in how operators feel about review sites. They have faced reality and accept the fact that it really doesn’t matter what they think. Consumers can visit as many review sites as they wish and will form their own opinion. If the majority of the reviews are positive, that will create its own impression and the consumer will make a decision. If they are negative, well we know what happens then.
How Much Are Those Rating Stars Worth?
Let’s talk about review sites. Recently I met with a client for a local search visibility review. To me, local search visibility is not just how your restaurant shows up in search engines. It comprises review sites, social media sites, along with other measures. This particular client had 259 reviews across 19 different review sites. It’s important to note that 38% of their reviews were on Wedding Wire where the purchase decision has a significantly larger check average. Overall they had a 4.5 star rating which is good, but what if their rating was 3 stars? What would be the financial impact?
Harvard Business Review did a study which showed that an improvement of one star in your rating could have as much as a 9% impact on business. For this business, it could have a $120,000 impact on his restaurant business or $135,000 impact on his catering business. That is a significant financial impact on his business. Keeping the rating high is an important management objective for this operator.
How to Use This Feedback To Improve Your Restaurant
Great info, but what does a restaurant owner do to create change? Step one, take a look at your review sites. I have seen consumers comment on everything from food quality, server attitude, and poor delivery for takeout. Some have even made reference to an egotistical owner. These may be tough to read if you are an owner, but you need to remember that this is what consumers see when they read reviews on your restaurant. Step two, work on improving these issues with your staff. In some cases it will be easy to identify and fix the problem and some more difficult.
Is it important to generate reviews? Yes it is, reviews help generate trust and credibility with consumers which in turn builds sales and loyalty. Make sure you are doing all of the possible steps to make the best customer experience and encourage reviews. This is not a quick fix strategy, but is an important part of branding your restaurant for the long term.