6 Steps to Increase Reviews to Grow Restaurant Sales
5 star reviews are your most effective restaurant marketing
5 star reviews are a restaurant’s best marketing tactic. Smart restaurant owners know that reviews directly impact new guest flow, current guest satisfaction, and your restaurant’s sales. You can build a system to improve reviews and grow restaurant sales by following 6 easy steps. Review Acceleration is a critical part of the RPM full service restaurant marketing program. Fix this first – before you spend another dollar in “marketing”.
“I don’t care about what my customers say. I ignore reviews and complaints”
I don’t know a restaurant owner that actually believes reviews should be ignored. But many of them do exactly that. They are too busy running the restaurant and putting out fires to consistently manage reviews and customer comments on social media every day.
But the reality is it takes dedicated daily time, a consistent focus, and good systems or review management won’t happen. Why not? Managing and collecting reviews is hard work. Everyday. Just like cleaning the restrooms, no one wants to do it, but your business will stink if you don’t.
Do Restaurant Reviews Really Matter?
Only if you want new customers.
Think about the last time you bought something online. Did you look at the customer rating? Did you choose the product with the better reviews? Consider these facts:
- 3 in 4 Americans look up information online before they go out
- 72% of consumers trust online reviews
- 4 in 5 Americans read online reviews before purchasing
- 83% of people say reviews and recommendations are the primary way they discover new products
- 4 in 5 customers say they reverse a purchase decision based on negative reviews
Good review management is good customer service (and marketing). Stellar 5 star reviews are among the best long-term marketing investment you will do.
- According to Harvard Business School, increasing ratings by 1/2 star leads to a 9%+ increase in sales.
Your reviews and complaints are the evidence to your potential guests of how good your service is. Your review rating tells the world is a simple star rating how good you are at serving the guest. AND it ranks you directly against your competition.
For digital and mobile, review management is not optional.
Improving your reviews will help more people find you and directly lead to more new customers.
- 88% of Internet users consider online review when looking for local businesses including restaurants (Search Engine Land)
- Better reviews mean you rank higher on search results in Google, Yelp, Trip Advisor and Open Table – so more people see you
If you are not on page one of search results – whether it is Google or review sites like Yelp or Trip Advisor, you can forget it.
- Review signals represent about 10% of the weight in determining Google ranking (Search Engine Watch)
- The best place to hide a dead body is page 2 of Google Search Results
- The top organic rankings on Google now are almost always aggregators like Yelp, Trip Advisor and Zomato – where top review rankings gets you more free visibility
The good news is you can increase your ratings by following a simple formula. By following these 4 simple steps, you can create a road map to identify your destination and chart a path to help you stay on the right track:
Becoming a 5 Star Review Magnet: 6 Step Formula
Step 1 – Commit
Improving your reviews and delivering great customer service is not an option. But customer service is a daily commitment – both in terms of listening and responding. You need to decide it is a priority and assign resources to do it!
Most successful restaurants have a dedicated resource to manage customer comments and reviews. You can assign someone on your staff or hire an agency that has a dedicated team for restaurant review programs. Beware the trap of thinking your GM or someone else will get to it along with many other priorities. If it is not their #1 job, it will slip through the cracks!
Step 2 – Get a monitoring and response systems set-up
There are several good monitoring and review systems that you can set up to make monitoring, managing and responding to reviews efficient and easy. They have excellent dashboard resources and tools. I highly recommend you pick one. They also provide one central place for your entire team to see feedback and resolution progress.
Review Trackers and Review Push are easy to use platforms for restaurants that work well for the smaller chains and independents. Moment Feed is another choice many larger restaurant chains use. Other platforms serving general retail/service business including restaurants are Grade.Us and Yext, which recently added reviews.
Step 3 – Avoid negative reviews
The best way to deal with a potential negative review is to prevent it from getting posted online in the first place. Several review services use customer comment portals that consumers can go to leave feedback. The positive is pushed online and the negative goes to an internal alert to give you an opportunity to resolve the issue before it blow up into a one star review. We use this system for our clients at RPM.
Step 4 – Deal quickly with negative reviews
It is very important to respond/resolve all negative reviews within 24 hours. In some cases, the review can be challenged and removed (services like RPM can help you do that). But usually they can not. Always try to take resolution offline into a private conversation. When dealing with negative feedback, don’t argue. Use the BLAST system:
- Believe it happened
- Listen to their feedback
- Accept responsibility
- Solve the complaint
- Thank them for their feedback
Most consumers just want to feel heard. Often they are your fans trying to help you. A good resolution keeps a good customer and wins you points!
Step 5 – Increase your positive reviews
The most under-utilize way to increase your reviews is to ask your best customers. We like to utilize review cards from servers or cashiers and run a contest to see who can get the most 5 star reviews. Most satisfied customers don’t think of going online to give you a review but will if you ask.
Flood your listing with happy 5 star reviews and 3 good things happen:
- It increases your average rating
- Larger review volumes are a signal to Google, Yelp, and Trip Advisor to increase your ranking
- Good reviews will push an old 1 star review onto page 2 so it will get seen less
Step 6 – Increase customer relationships by responding to all reviews
Most people understand that they need to respond to negative reviews. But what about the 3 star? Or even the 5 star? Should you respond to those? Yes.
Respond to every review – especially the 5 star reviews with a “thank you”. Those are your biggest fans and they took time out of their day to leave you a great review to help your business.
The 3 & 4 stars are a chance for you to engage your customers who are on the fence. What do we need to do to make your experience 5 star? Invite them back. Give them VIP service. They are leaving a review because they want you to engage with them.
It’s simple, not easy. But in restaurants, being great means doing the right things every day, every time.
Hire staff internally or bring in an agency that knows the restaurants business to partner with you. But DO IT today. Great customer service and review management and foundation programs that make all your other marketing pay off. With my clients, I suggest they STOP MARKETING until they have the guest experience and customer service right. Nothing is worse than paying for new customers to try you only to have them disappointed, never coming back, and worse of all, telling other people to stay away.