In a recent survey, we found that Eat Out readers valued reviews by other users just as much as they valued reviews written by critics. Research in the USA suggests that consumers check as many as four review sites before making a decision. So, if your restaurant listing lacks recent reviews, it’s likely your customers will go elsewhere. But how can you encourage diners to give you the thumbs up online? Here are 9 tips on harnessing the tremendous power of user reviews for your restaurant’s benefit.
Active Sushi is one restaurant that has been very successful in getting its customers to write reviews. In previous years, the eatery has run competitions to encourage diners to comment online, but this year they’re having success with a simpler strategy. “Our branch manager, Russell, interacts with guests a lot and encourages them to share their experience on Eat Out and other restaurant review sites,” says Asie Ghorbani, managing director for the small restaurant group. He says this simple act is proving almost as effective as running a competition.
Lance Hambly, GM of Karibu at the V&A Waterfront, says his team has found success with simply mentioning it to customers. “We have a big staff, and they ask if customers would be happy to leave us a review.” It should be done subtly though, he cautions, or it can backfire. Customers don’t want to feel pressured, he says.
It can be a simple matter of including a reminder with the bill, or having a sign on the table. “We have table talkers on each table, with the request that diners share their experience, and then links to the different review sites,” says Asie. Most review sites have a stationery page that allows you to download a branded billfolder to encourage reviews. You can download ours here.
Customers who book via Dineplan on the Eat Out site are automatically prompted to write a review after a meal.
As all restaurateurs know, the best way to circumvent negative reviews is to fix the problem before the guests leave the building. Of course, some patrons will be too shy to bring up issues, but if they’re asked for their opinion, they’re less likely to be vitriolic in their complaints.
Research in the USA suggests that review sites like Yelp might actually be changing the kind of restaurant that survives, and helping great, independent restaurants to garner more of the market share. Offering a personal experience – whether it’s a signature dish made with Nonna’s recipe or the owner simply being present in the restaurant – will make people more likely to review online. If your restaurant is part of a bigger brand, think about how your branch could have its own flavour, or about how your staff can make the corporate brand seem more human.
An individual Facebook or Instagram post might have far lower reach than a review posted on a review site, but, according to research, this kind of referral is very persuasive. 70% of people trust recommendations by friends.
It’s a simple thing, but if cell signal is an issue, chances are that tweets, Instagram posts and reviews about your restaurant will be few and far between. Consider making it easy for patrons by offering free WiFi – and telling patrons about it on the menu.
“The best route is to first take a gulp of your favourite tipple and calm down,” advises Ian Manley of Manley Communications, who provide PR services to some of SA’s top restaurants. “Then, divert the feedback off the public platform into a space where you are exclusively dealing with the complainant.” This can be achieved by simply asking for an email address and taking the conversation offline.
Make sure your restaurant is in the running for this year’s Eat Out Mercedes-Benz Best Everyday Eateries by encouraging happy customers to rate you and write a review on Eat Out. All ratings posted between 1 October 2015 and 30 September 2016 will count towards the final results.