Why Review Sites Are Important
Restaurant critics are a necessary evil those in the food industry have to endure in order to help acquire and maintain reputation. They’ve been around forever and still hold various levels of importance depending on your community.
But what if the widely read critic is your regular customer? Or worse, a customer who happened to stop by one time when your kitchen was having an off-day? That’s essentially what’s begun to happen with the prominence of user-based review sites like Yelp and Urbanspoon.
Reviews – positive, negative and everything in-between – are being written by regular Joes and Janes. And those reviews are easily accessible by internet-savvy diners with access to a search engine. Between Yelp and Urbanspoon alone, approximately 80 million people are looking for restaurant insight each month.
As horrifying as it may seem, some of the most important recommendations potential customers solicit when deciding where to spend their entertainment diner are anonymous ones on social media. On these sites they’ll read about your customer service, the cleanliness of your bathroom and whether your filet is too tough.
To some degree there isn’t much you can do to influence this opinion. Obviously the better your product is, the better public opinion will be. But we’re assuming you are already striving excellence.
What’s in your favor is the average person is more likely to write a positive review than a negative one. With that said, there are a few things you can do to help your cause.
One of the keys is to join the party. At least occasionally you should be contributing to what is essentially a conversation about your restaurant.
Has ‘YelpNinja B.’ posted a cutting rant following what he deemed an unpleasant experience? A proactive step would be for you to respond, apologizing for what happened and invite him to return, perhaps with a discount of some kind. That kind of patience (particularly if YelpNinja is clearly a buffoon) will go a long way when viewed by other readers.
And why not touch base with somebody who seems to love your product? If they’re providing such glowingly positive free advertising now, there’s a chance they could become even more valuable if you buy them an appetizer.
Make sure your business has an accurate page created for each review site. There is no reason for you to get bad feedback because you neglected to mention you don’t serve breakfast on Saturdays. ‘UrbanSpencer’ can’t rip your lack of draft beer if you’ve made that point clear.
And make sure you’re connecting your review profile to other resources. Obviously your website should be on there, but how about your Facebook page or Twitter handle? Make it easy for people to explore all of the information you have out there.
You can also take the step of placing a link to your Yelp profile on your website. This will make is easy for someone who had a great time to quickly share their thoughts. It’s worth mentioning that on a few of the sites there are paid advertising opportunities.
As with virtually everything associated with the social media, the key is making it a two-way street. Be involved and ensure that you’re participating in the dialogue already taking place about your restaurant.