Online restaurant reviews are a double-edged sword. On the one hand, they offer an unprecedented opportunity for prospective guests to read unfiltered accounts of your business before visiting it. 

On the other hand, online reviews can make or break your business in ways that no other marketing can. As such, you must be equipped with strategies for capitalizing on the benefits of online reviews while mitigating their potential downsides. 

The tips below will help you leverage the power of online reviews to their fullest extent.

Online Reviews for Services

Before we dive into online reviews for restaurants, let’s take a quick look at online reviews for other types of businesses. If you own a service business, you’re likely already familiar with the power of online reviews. The same logic that applies to growing restaurant reviews also applies to growing online reviews for any type of service. 

Services like Thumbtack and GetFive allow you to ask your clients for online reviews. You can also encourage your clients to leave reviews on the platform you used to transact. You can even embed the review widget on your website so that your clients will be prompted to leave a review each time they leave your website. 

The most important thing to remember when it comes to growing online reviews for your service business is that it’s a long-term game. Online reviews take time both to write and to accumulate. Since the payoff of online reviews is so significant and long-term, it’s worth investing in strategies for growing online reviews.

Online Reviews for Restaurants

We’ve already established that online reviews for restaurants are a powerful marketing technique. But how can you get a head start on growing reviews at the same rate that you’re growing your restaurant’s business? The simplest way is to ask your current customers to leave reviews. 

You can use email, text messages, or even snail mail to do this. You can also reach out to your customers via the restaurant’s app. This can help expedite the process of generating reviews since you can notify your customers during their digital interactions with the app. Another way to expedite the review process is to give your guests a prompt and easy way to send a review right after they’ve visited your restaurant. 

This can be as simple as putting a tablet at every table with a prompt to visit your app or website to leave a review. Whatever strategy you decide to implement, it’s important not to put pressure on your guests to leave reviews. The most effective way to get reviews is to make it as easy and painless as possible for guests to do so.

Growing Reliance on Online Reviews

There’s a lot of controversy surrounding the use of online reviews for restaurants. While the effectiveness of these ratings is undisputed, how these reviews are used has been called into question. Unfortunately, there are a few unscrupulous businesses that use reviews as a form of blackmail. 

This occurs when a business solicits a positive review in exchange for a discount or special treatment. Another unethical practice occurs when a business solicits a negative review in exchange for a bribe or special treatment. If you ever receive a bribe or threat of a negative review in exchange for a bribe, you should report the business to the consumer protection agency in your area. 

You can also report the business to review platforms like Yelp. If you ever receive a bribe or threat of a negative review, you should report the incident to the review platforms on which the bribe was intended to appear. You can also try to circumvent these types of practices by making your business’s intentions known from the get-go. 

Getting the Most Out of Online Reviews

Good Reviews Should Be Celebrated Immediately

One of the best ways to celebrate positive reviews is by mentioning them in future reviews. When you receive a glowing review, be sure to share it with your team and guests immediately. 

You can either include it in a weekly or daily email newsletter or display it prominently on your website or social media pages. When you publicly recognize good reviews and act as if they are the most important things in the world, you’re setting a precedent for how you’ll handle bad reviews. 

People pay attention to these things. If they see that your business only celebrates positive reviews while ignoring negative ones, they’ll be much less likely to leave a negative review in the first place.

Negative Reviews Should Be Addressed Immediately

No matter how carefully you screen guests or how well you screen your employees, you will eventually receive negative reviews. When these reviews appear, be sure to publicly address them immediately. 

Ideally, you would want to respond to negative reviews before they are even published. You can do this by sending a private message to the reviewer, offering to rectify the situation and asking them if they would like to publish a modified review in exchange for a discount. Once the review is published, you should respond to it on both your business page and the reviewer’s page. 

Share the reviewer’s original review on your page, then follow it up with a detailed explanation of how you plan to rectify the situation. It is important to respond to bad reviews as promptly as possible.

Leverage Partnerships With Food Delivery Services

If one of the most important review sites for your business is a food delivery platform like Grubhub, Postmates, or UberEats, then you have a unique opportunity to leverage your relationship with them to encourage guests to leave reviews. 

Be sure to remind customers that they can leave reviews either on the delivery platform’s website or on the business’s website. The best way to leverage your relationship with these platforms is by providing incentives. 

Promote your partnership with the platform and offer a discount or free product to guests who leave a review.

Run a Loyalty Program

If you already have a significant customer base or are just getting started, you can encourage guests to leave reviews by offering a loyalty program that rewards users with points for each transaction. 

Sending out a review request on behalf of your guests is an excellent way of encouraging them to leave a review for your business. The best way to leverage a loyalty program is to offer additional perks such as discounts or free food for guests who leave a review.

Run a Promotion on Review Day

Since most people are looking forward to receiving gifts on special occasions, you can leverage this to your advantage by running a promotion on Review Day. You can offer discounts or freebies for any positive reviews left on your business page. 

This would be the ideal time to partner with a gift card company and offer gift cards as rewards. What better way to kick off the holiday season than by encouraging people to review your business and rewarding them with gifts?

Create a Great Atmosphere for Guests

When guests have an exceptional experience at your restaurant, they will often be eager to let everyone know about it. Equipping your business with systems and procedures that help your guests leave happy should therefore also equip them to write a review for your business. 

One way to encourage this is by posting signs that read, “We value your opinion.” This way, you can show your guests that you want to hear their thoughts on your business, but you don’t have to be so blatant. You can also use the design and layout of your restaurant to create an atmosphere where guests want to leave reviews. 

One way to do this is to prominently display your current online reviews, making them an ever-present reminder of how great your business is. Another way is to create an area where your guests can log in to leave reviews, like a tablet station at the host stand.

Become a Trusted Source of Information

Online reviews exist because people are looking to get outside opinions on businesses. This means that your guests are reading reviews not just to find out about the quality of their dining experience, but also to find out if their experience is representative of the type of business or brand that you are. 

This means that you need to be careful about how you respond to negative reviews. While you should always be respectful towards your guests, you also need to demonstrate that you are working to resolve the problem. 

Positive reviews can also be useful here, helping to illustrate that you are not just solving problems but also providing consistently positive experiences.

Final Thoughts

Online reviews are a powerful marketing tool, but they also come with significant risks. You need to be vigilant about monitoring online reviews and adjusting your business as necessary. You should also be proactive about soliciting reviews from your guests and making sure that they know they are important to you. 

While online reviews will never be 100% accurate, they are still the best source of information that prospective guests have when deciding where to eat. By leveraging the benefits of online reviews and minimizing their potential drawbacks, you can make sure that your business benefits from this marketing tool.

Knowing how to harness that power, however, requires foresight, diligence, and attention to detail. Use the tips above to ensure that your restaurant’s online reviews are as impactful as possible.

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