Word of mouth continues to be the largest source of new customers in any restaurant, outnumbering all other sources. Approximately ⅔ of all new customers choose a new restaurant based on personal referrals from friends and family. Most of the other ⅓ comes from the other form of word of mouth – online reviews. In this article we discuss how to get more positive word of mouth and specifically, how to successfully manage your online reviews, automatically.
Restaurants simply can’t ignore the importance of your online reputation, as it is greatly impacting the number of new customers visiting your place right now. When a hungry customer is trying to decide where to eat, many are going to Google / Yelp! / TripAdvisor seeking information from other guests who have already eaten there. The biggest thing they are looking to see is what your overall rating is. If they dive in deeper, they are looking for photos / menu and specific feedback from other customers.
They will notice how interactive you are with your reviewers – are you responding to positive reviews with a simple thank you? Are you engaging with negative reviews, owning up to the problem and offering a solution in a professional, courteous and hospitable manner?
Based on the customer’s findings, they will make a very quick decision on whether or not to give you a try, or move on to to the next candidate.
So, how do you manage this process to improve your chances of winning over those customers? First of all you need reviews. Better yet, you need good reviews. You also need to be actively monitoring all of the main sites on a daily basis to reply to any and all reviews as soon as possible. That’s right, you should reply to not only the negative ones, but the positive ones as well!
Getting more good reviews starts with one thing, and that of course is great food and service. If you don’t check this box, then good luck. Fix this problem before proceeding.
If you have a great product, well-trained staff and create great guest experiences day-in / day-out, then you need a review funnel. A review funnel is a software tool that allows you to contact the guest by email / text and request feedback based on their last visit. You offer them a chance to easily give you a quick star rating, then based on the results you define rules for how to go from there.
For example, if Billy eats at your restaurant for lunch and you are able to track his visit (more on that later) – you will message him a request for feedback. He could get an email with a very simple message saying “How would you rate your meal at XYZ Pizzeria?” with a 1-5 star rating they can click.
If they click on 5 / 5, they are sent further down the funnel to the preconfigured 3rd party review sites of your choice. (configured on the backend) Normally this is going to be Yelp!, TripAdvisor and Google. But there are TONS of review sites available for them to post feedback.
Focus On Reviews
Reviews have become another important form of content. People increasingly rely on reviews to make decisions about the products and services they purchase.
So, while you need positive reviews for
social proof, you also need them as a
pillar of your local SEO efforts.
Google factors review recent activity as
one of the elements that helps
determine which businesses show up in
the highly coveted 3-pack search
results. (believe me, you want to be there!)
- 86% of consumers read reviews for local businesses
- 50% of 18-34-year-olds always read online reviews
- Just 5% of 18-34s NEVER read reviews
Your Potential New Customers are Reading Online Reviews
The graph from the previous page from a BrightLocal survey https://www.brightlocal.com/learn/local-consumer-review-survey/ demonstrates just how important reviews have become in the purchase journey for local businesses.
Just a few years go nearly 30% admitted they didn’t use reviews – today that number is 5%. Meaning – 95% of buyers regularly or occasionally rely on reviews when making a local buying decision.
Restaurant customers rely on reviews for purchasing decisions more than any other consumer category.
You must have at least 5 reviews for Google to display the review stars as a highlighting feature of local results – that alone makes it important to acquire reviews.
Reviews are harder to get than they should be. Even a business with raving fans must work to get those reviews from happy customers.
The key is to ask often and make it as easy as possible for your happy customers to log in to the sites that matter and leave a review. Sure you’ll take a glowing email testimonial from a customer, but far better to push for a Google, Yelp, Facebook or TripAdvisor review.
Many businesses are finding that they need to make review collection a process rather than leaving it to chance. Tools like GatherUp and Grade.us can help automate the process of review collection.
Take some time and make each of the five steps above a priority for your restaurant and you may find that local leads drawn from organic search can become your most potent tactic for gaining new customers.