For any modern restaurant, keeping up with your reputation is difficult and time-intensive. Customers may be posting reviews on Yelp and other sites instead of voicing their criticism to the restaurant staff directly, and unless you stay on top of the business’s online presence, a bad reputation can develop beyond your control. Understanding how to keep track of online reviews and respond to them is critical to dispelling false or misleading information that can damage your business’s reputation in the long term.
Understanding Online Reviews
Customers may be posting online reviews of many of the places they visit, especially local businesses. Local businesses, in particular, can have their public reputation swayed by feedback from individuals more easily when compared to large companies with established brands. According to the National Restaurant Association, 51% of customers are likely to choose a restaurant over similar options based on online reviews.
Customers can post reviews on third-party websites such as Yelp and TripAdvisor, where anyone can browse and locate information about businesses in the same area. People may have different habits for posting reviews; some customers may post reviews frequently for every restaurant they go to, and others may only do so if their experience was especially good or bad.
Getting Online with Your Business
In order to respond professionally to a review on Yelp, businesses can ‘claim’ their Yelp page by going to https://biz.yelp.com/. It is valuable to do the same on Google by making an account at https://business.google.com/create to manage location information and customer reviews on Google Maps and Search. Yelp and other services allow you to sign up for notifications and get emailed when a new review is posted, allowing you to stay on top of what people are saying about the business. Google Alerts for specific search terms can be used to monitor if the name of your business is being mentioned online. But in order to make sure negative reviews are not remaining visible without a response, manual checking of sites is often recommended.
Promote Positive Reviews
Dealing with negative reviews is only part of the process of having a good online reputation. A few detailed, enthusiastic reviews can sway customers to choose your establishment over others that lack clear positive feedback. If your staff deals with satisfied customers, it helps to make them aware of how they can help the business by spreading the word. When customers do post great reviews, respond with a personalized “thank you” message for each one to acknowledge the time they took to share their experience.
Responding to Reviews
Negative reviews should be responded to in some way, otherwise, their statements will seem like an accurate representation of the business. On Yelp, businesses can comment publicly or directly message reviewers. Generally, responding to reviews should be done carefully, to make sure not to offend reviewers which might deter them from changing their opinion of the business. Engaging politely can be the start of explaining that issues the reviewer listed as negative could have been misunderstood and did not accurately reflect the policies of the business, or acknowledging mistakes and saying they will be corrected. Offering coupons or discounts to reviewers who had a bad experience gives them an opportunity to return and write a better review based on the next visit.
Some reviews may seem to be fake or written in bad faith. In some cases, these can be reported for rule-breaking qualities and removed by the review platform, but businesses should be wary of bad publicity if they try to remove reviews from actual customers. In general, businesses should expect reviews being removed even if they seem to contain blatantly false or unfair descriptions. All they can do is respond publicly with their perspective and accept that some low ratings will remain on their business’s page no matter what they do.
Staying aware of reviews and addressing them is vital to staying in touch with potential customers who rely on online postings as the new word-of-mouth. Restaurants and other local businesses should be prepared to respond with an open mind and respect for customers whose reviews can influence others.