Customers constantly check restaurants’ ratings on Yelp and other review websites. Even right before visiting a restaurant, they may change their mind due to one negative review that they find online. It is, therefore, crucial for restaurant owners and managers to pay attention to online ratings and have a set strategy regarding Yelp for restaurants.
If you’re wondering why exactly Yelp is so important for restaurants, how to maintain high ratings, or how to respond to online reviews, read on!
Yelp is extremely popular among consumers. According to its latest investor presentation, the platform had 96 million unique monthly visitors as of October 2019. The restaurant, cafe, and nightlife category of businesses had the highest frequency of page views with 60% of all traffic.
Not only do consumers visit restaurant pages on Yelp, but they also talk about their dining experiences on the platform. 18% of all Yelp reviews were about restaurants, according to Yelp data.
As you can see, Yelp gives immense exposure opportunities for restaurants – your guests are much more likely to find your Yelp page than your website. Furthermore, you can position your restaurant and highlight your unique value proposition if you encourage your customers to post positive reviews about their experience.
How important is it to have four or five stars on Yelp? Very. A study conducted at Harvard Business School found that a one-star increase in rating leads to a 5% – 9% increase in revenue. Therefore, the difference between three or four stars can actually lead to thousands of dollars in earned (or wasted) revenue!
Creating a structured plan is crucial to achieving any long-term goals. Otherwise, everyday tasks are very likely to take priority over more important but less urgent goals. Achieving high online ratings is no different – it will require focused action over an extended period of time, so you should have a strategy and a timeline ready.
It all may sound a little complicated, but creating a strategy is actually simple if you know the steps. I want to make marketing tasks as simple as possible for you, so I created a guide to a successful marketing strategy for restaurants. You can download it below.
The easiest way to get good reviews is by providing good customer service to your guests. Therefore, you should put an emphasis on training your staff to make sure that they know how to deal with a variety of situations and customers.
Staff education does not have to take up a lot of your and your employees’ time. Instead of conducting long obligatory workshops, you could send weekly emails that pinpoint the most important service notes. Alternatively, you could discuss those before each shift or run virtual bi-weekly or monthly meetings. The key is to educate your staff consistently to nurture new positive habits.
Instead of waiting and hoping for positive reviews to increase your Yelp ratings, be proactive and ask your customers to write a few words about their experience. If a guest had a good time at your restaurant, they will certainly be happy to help you by posting a positive review online.
You can’t talk to each and every customer at your restaurant and ask them for a review. However, there are other ways to do that. First, you can ask your employees to mention it as they drop the check. Second, you can add a call to action at the bottom of the check.
What is more, you could connect with your fans and followers online. I would recommend asking your email subscribers to post a review on Yelp or Google providing that you have an email list. Your subscribers know and like you, which is why you want them to write an online review about your restaurant. If you aren’t running email marketing campaigns yet, check out my Email Success For Restauranteurs course!
Your social media followers are another group likely to write a good review about your restaurant. A big fraction of your followers have probably visited your spot in the past and they liked it enough to get updates from you.
For better results, you can add an incentive for everyone who writes a review. The incentive could be a 5% discount on their next visit, a free beverage with dinner, and so on. You don’t want to bribe the customers but to give them a little push to take the desired action.
The first reason to keep an eye on online reviews is to respond to them. Further in this post, I will actually discuss the best practices while responding to negative and positive reviews. Research by Review Trackers shows that simply responding to reviews will get you more customers. 44.6% of consumers say they’re more likely to visit a business that responds to negative reviews. What is more, restaurateurs responding to a 1- or 2-star review have a 33% higher probability of the customer coming back and potentially upgrading their review by even 3 stars.
The second reason to monitor online reviews is to find out what customers really think about your restaurant. Negative reviews can be a great way of learning what you can do better; thus, they should not be dismissed or ridiculed. If a customer points out something that can be improved at your restaurant, the best thing to do is to improve it so that the next customer has a better experience (and, hopefully, leaves a better review).
You should learn more about the experience your restaurant provides in order to make sure that it meets your standards. One way to do it is by asking your customers directly in a form of a survey. The survey can be distributed online or at the restaurant.
Don’t forget to ask your employees what objections or issues customers have raised with them. Servers and bartenders spend quite a lot of time with guests and may be able to give you a great picture of what people find annoying, what they would improve, and what they love about your restaurant.
Just like buying email lists, buying reviews almost never works out as planned. If you buy positive reviews, you are likely to get caught by Yelp, which will lead to wasted money and decreased reputation. Even if you do not get caught by Yelp, users who read your reviews may suspect those reviews of being fake and flag you, which will hurt your reputation. Furthermore, it makes little financial sense to spend money on something that can be free and quite easily obtained. You don’t have to buy reviews because there are much better ways to receive genuine reviews from your guests.
It is unhealthy to stress over things that we have no control over. Instead, you should focus your attention on what you can control. In this case, you can control the experience that your restaurant provides, not what people write about you. It will pay off in regards to online reviews and many other areas of your business!
The most fundamental rule is to respond to all reviews, especially the negative ones. You show your customers respect by acknowledging their opinion. Responding to a review also gives you an opportunity to mitigate the issue and control the damage that it may cause.
Every review provides an opportunity to grow and improve, which is why you should thank for sincere, unsolicited feedback. For instance, you could say: “Thank you for bringing this issue to our attention” or “Thank you for your review. I am sorry you did not enjoy your time at our restaurant but I appreciate you bringing this problem to my attention”.
Even if you don’t agree with the review, you should still apologize for providing a bad experience to the customer. An apology shows that you care about your customers and are focused on making their experience enjoyable. Besides, other readers may not appreciate someone who believes they are too perfect to apologize.
You can say: “I apologize that your experience at our restaurant did not meet your expectations” or “I am sorry to hear that you did not fully enjoy your time at our restaurant”.
If the review mentioned any specific situation, explain your perspective of what happened. However, try not to make excuses for the bad service or bad experience in general. Instead, take responsibility for what happened. Furthermore, assure the reader that you hold yourself to high standards and will use their review to improve your processes.
Some of the phrases you could use include: “I am sorry you had a bad experience when talking to our bartender. Your feedback will allow us to grow and provide a better experience for future guests. I made sure to talk to Adam about the situation and to conduct a workshop for all employees in order to avoid the issue in the future.” Alternatively, you could say: “I apologize on behalf of our restaurant. Please, know that your situation was an exception. We sadly can’t fix your experience, but your feedback will allow us to improve our reservation processes and customer service standards. In the meantime, I sincerely apologize for your negative experience.”
If you want to discuss the issue further, provide direct contact information in your response so that the customer can reach you. This way, you will show your good will and will prevent any further embarrassment.
Don’t forget to respond to positive reviews. You should show appreciation to customers who took the time to share their good experience. After all, reviews provide amazing social proof and can attract other potential customers.
You can improve your brand image even more by highlighting and reinforcing the positive aspects of the reviewer’s experience. That will allow you to hype up a specific dish, drink or service that you want to sell. For instance, if a customer mentions that they particularly enjoyed a steak at your restaurant, you can reinforce that by adding more information about the producer, the cut, or the preparation of that steak.
When a reviewer identifies someone by name or position, make sure to pass along the compliment and mention it in your response. This will improve your team’s morale and make your restaurant more relatable and personable.
Of course, you should invite happy reviewers for another visit to your restaurant. It will help you to turn one-time customers into regular customers. You can also mention other dishes or drinks that the person might enjoy in order to highlight other items on your menu and build excitement. The recommendation should be sincere because you don’t want to come off as salesy.
Customers trust word of mouth much more than they trust paid advertising, which is why testimonials are an extremely powerful marketing tool. Sharing positive reviews beyond Yelp will allow you to build more social proof around your restaurant. You can add them to your website, post them on social media, or use them in the next email marketing campaign.
Besides the free option, Yelp also offers paid advertising for restaurants and other businesses. You can set your budget, define the target audience, and customize the ad. Then, Yelp will highlight your restaurant in the search listings and on your competitors’ pages.
Advertising on Yelp is not cheap. According to MarketWatch, independent restaurants spent approximately $7,200 a year on local ads but made only $4,600 in revenue on Yelp. However, the study did not consider how many of those customers became repeated customers and how much they spent on their subsequent visits.
In addition to targeted ads, Yelp also offers Upgraded Profiles that include Branded Profiles and Enhanced Profiles. These options give you a higher degree of control over what your Yelp page looks like.
Should you pay for Yelp ads? That depends. If you have the resources to explore new marketing channels, advertising on Yelp is worth trying. However, you should be ready to invest a few hundred dollars before seeing any results.
To sum up, Yelp is a vital resource for any restaurant. It creates an opportunity to reach millions of consumers who are looking for a restaurant to visit. It can also be a tool to position your brand through positive reviews.
In order to use Yelp to your advantage, you should achieve and maintain a high rating. To do that:
Next, we discussed responding to negative and positive reviews. While responding to negative reviews:
The best practices regarding positive reviews are a little different and include:
Last, we discussed advertising on Yelp for restaurants. Yelp advertising is quite expensive but can be a way of reaching a broader group of consumers, including people who are interested in your close competitors.