Word-of-mouth marketing has always been the most effective forms of advertising a business can have due to its source due to its credibility. People who make these kinds of word-of-mouth recommendations have nothing to gain and puts their own reputation on the line, making it a trusted source for those seeking unbiased reviews about a company or service. These kinds of recommendations have manifested into online reviews in this digital age, and with consumers reliant on using the internet for more research about you, online reviews are something you can’t ignore.
Particularly in the restaurant industry (or in our case, the restaurant supply industry). Reviews appear everywhere. From Google map search results, to even reservation sites, reviews are a quick way to tell users “Yay!” or “Nay!” on dining at your particular restaurant.
However, everyone considers themselves a food critic, and with review sites like Yelp, they can share those criticisms with the rest of the world instantly. Though the credibility of these reviews are questionable, the 5 (or 6) stars are still used often as a veritable source of information—however, they aren’t safe from mockery. (see: South Park’s “You’re Not Yelping”). That’s why it’s important to stay vigilant about reading and responding to your reviews on multiple channels.
Hopefully your customers leave the restaurant feeling more full (both physically, mentally and spiritually as our friends at Root Down say), than when they came in. That means the service and food were spot on, your table was set appropriately and the bathrooms were fresh and clean. If you’re so lucky, your customer will post about their amazing experience in an Instagram shot, on your Google map listing or even on Yelp. These positive reviews help your business appear in searches and can give 1st timers the confidence in trying out your restaurant.
Truth be told, most of us will write a bad review before we spend the time to write a good one. Why? Quite simply, we’re angry. After a bad experience with a company, you’re probably still fuming about the interaction. If venting about it to your family, friends and coworkers isn’t enough to assuage your feelings, you’ll take the next step—TELL THE WORLD! (And you’ll shout it, too). The worst part though, is that your negative reviewers won’t just leave a negative review in one place (like Yelp), they’ll also target you on Facebook, OpenTable, Google, TripAdvisor and more. When this happens (and it will), the best thing to do is to be vigilant and prepare a graceful (e.g. not defensive) and concise reply to each and every comment. Nowadays most customers are already aware that the customer is not “always right,” so steer clear of engaging in the argument and be tactful—your actions there will speak more to your brand and business as a whole.
Unfortunately, some companies have used reviews unethically. Hoping to capitalize on the perception of an “unbiased” and “trustworthy” recommendation, many companies have utilized fake reviews to boost their ratings against their competitors. Both Amazon and TripAdvisor are victims of scams and are working towards addressing the problem for their consumers, who rely heavily upon reviews for purchasing decisions. Though tempting, avoid the use of sourcing reviews from a third party. Instead, stay true to your course and focus on what you do best and work on areas that might need improving.
So what can you do?
The first step of course, is to encourage positive reviews. Include a small card featuring places where customers can leave a review and include it with the check (though perhaps skip those tables who for one reason or another, had a truly awful night). You can also try contacting your fans via social media and asking for reviews there. Finally, you could have a contest. Set up a form asking fans to share a picture of their recent meal at the restaurant and offer up a free appetizer or drinks on the house to the winner (picked at random). Remember, bribing customers for reviews or paying for fake reviews is considered a big NO-NO and you will get caught eventually…so be strong, stay the course, and spend extra time with customers who walk through your doors to get those reviews!