A terrible incident occurred in the US early in 2018 when the manager of a Connecticut restaurant, driven to distraction by a poor food review, shot his head chef.
Horrific, and thankfully unusual – but it goes prove that online reviews can cause high passions in the trade.
Restaurateurs are operating in a competitive world that’s getting tougher all the time.
These days, to get new customers you need public recognition of the fact that you have a good location, fantastic food and great customer service.
That’s where you need review sites ranging from TripAdvisor to Trustpilot and Yelp are the modern equivalent of word-of-mouth – always the best potent marketing tool.
As revenue online reputation and revenue expert Sanj Naha says, online reviews count.
As Sanj says: “Would you do business with a company linked to ratings of 1 out of 5 and phrases such as: ‘Bad service’, and ‘Terrible experience’?”
So how do you encourage customers to leave positive online reviews? Number 1 point: ethics are extremely important, and you should never consider fake reviews.
So to do things the right way, you need to start by making sure your restaurant is operating a reliable and attractive service that makes and making your customers happy.
Obvious, yes, but the only real way to get good reviews…
Savvy businesses keep their operations in excellent shape with the support of restaurant EPOS software.
These restaurant management systems capture data in real time to help restaurateurs check how every aspect of the business is running, from online reservations to stock and labour control.
Restaurant EPOS software also provides great insight into customer preferences, which allows you to provide a personal service – a valuable commodity.
Crucially, restaurant EPOS software includes social media reputation management tools to help you monitor online reviews. The system creates alerts if a guest is posting negatively from tableside, which allows your team to correct issues before diners even leave the restaurant.
So once your business is operating efficiently and delighting customers, how can you encourage them to post reviews that persuade others to follow?
Sanj says modern diners demand personalised offerings, communication that genuinely responds, and staff who give them excellent customer service.
They want mobile access, and they want their dining experience to be quick, with no delays.
Sanj recommends these tips:
- Create superb food and service
- Maximise your listing content
- Go for a great first impression
- Build picture power
- Make sure you are contactable
- Take responsibility to your reputation
- Give them free wi-fi
- Up the number of reviews
- Engage with every single review
Create superb food and service: The restaurant POS software helps.
Maximise your listing content: Own your page and add information and identity to it.
Go for a great first impression: What do customers see first? Make sure it represents you positively.
Build picture power: Everyone looks at posts with interesting images. Source them from free-of-copyright websites.
Make sure you are contactable: Make your contact details plain to see.
Take responsibility for your reputation: Ask loyal customers to post reviews in support of your restaurant, and minimise bad reviews by taking action to correct negative experiences right before customers post bad reviews.
Give them free wi-fi: A wi-fi service can help you capture data and encourage Facebook likes and posts.
Up the number of reviews: Your restaurant EPOS software can collect email details for TripAdvisor Review Express, a free email service that enables restaurants to send customisable emails to up to 1,000 guests at a time, requesting reviews.
Engage with every single review: If it’s negative, respond in a way that shows empathy, and provides an explanation. Say thank you for positive reviews, offer further information and identify any cross-selling opportunities.
Do all of these things regularly, or get a trusted member of staff to do it for you.
Sanj says you can also use review feedback to enhance your value proposition.
“Track which review sites your online traffic comes from, and learn about how people actually navigate your website,” he says.
“Then use the information to optimise the user journey, and also use the review information to target messaging that will convert your online traffic into leads, bookings or calls to action.”
Social media; it’s there, it’s popular and it’s cheap – and it’s definitely worth your restaurant spending some time on.