By Brian Casel
Founder of Restaurant Engine
It’s difficult to say that customer reviews are “important” for restaurants. A study found that a one start rating increase on review site Yelp leads to a 5-9 percent increase in revenue. It’s hard to ignore something that can have such a big impact on the top and bottom lines.
This means two things for restaurants: First, it means doing what you can to get positive reviews from your customers. We’ll show you how to do that in the following 5 steps, but first there is one other point. Second, once you have customer reviews you need to showcase those on the homepage of your restaurant website and on other pages on your website.
Reviews have a large impact on dining decisions. One study found that 79 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation. When your customers read reviews on your site, it makes them buy.
Now let’s get you more raving customer reviews so you can put them on your site.
Step 1: Have Your Staff Remind Customers About Reviewing
Sometimes to get more of something all you have to do is ask. Your wait staff is closest contact with your customers. Make it part of the their routine to remind customers about ways they can leave reviews online. For example, you could have the following script for each waiter:
Thanks again for dining with us today. We would love if you would leave a review of your experience. It helps us to improve all aspects of your experience. You can review us on our website, or on any of the major review apps like Foursquare and Yelp. Thanks again!
Make sure they don’t request positive reviews. You want to encourage reviews and all feedback. If reviews come back with suggestions or negative responses it’s a sign that something else needs to change.
Step 2: Put Review Requests On Receipts Or On Printed Handouts
You can also improve the in-person review numbers by having printed materials throughout your restaurant. You can put review reminders on receipts, which nearly all customers will receive at the end of their meal.
Some restaurants offer a discount or promotion to entice more reviews. You can do this if you choose, but by simply asking and having the reminder on the receipt you’ll usually increase the number of reviews.
You can also have printouts throughout the restaurant. It might be a pop-up on the tables or a larger post on the door so people see it on their way out.
Make it as easy as possible. Give the URL for your website where reviews can be left or even include a QR code so those with smartphones can instantly bring up an app or website page. And a reminder about the popular review apps reminds people to review and they can quickly do it if they have the app on their phone.
Step 3: Add A Review Widget To Your Website
Your website is a great place to include a review call-to-action. Some of the people coming to your website will have visited before. They might especially be looking at your online menu to see if there are new items. Or they might check out your news and updates section to see if there are any events coming up.
On these pages, include an image or widget asking people to review their last visit. You can direct them to a review form on your website or to your profiles on review sites like Yelp.
The call-to-action can be something as simple as:
Have you dined with us before? We’d love to hear how it was! Please leave us a review here.
Step 4: Setup Automated Review Requests For Online Ordering Customers
I know you’re busy with all kinds of tasks. Automation can help and you can automate a process to ensure you get more reviews. If you have online ordering for your restaurant, you’ll have the information you need to ask for a review. You’ll know when customers order and you’ll have their email address.
With an email provider like Aweber or MailChimp, you can setup auto-responder emails to send an email to your customers after a certain amount of time has passed since their order.
If you’re more of a quick-meal restaurant, you’ll want to send the email within a couple hours of the order so the customer has fresh memories of their meal. If you’re more of a sit-down restaurant you can send the email the following day; maybe 12 to 24 hours later.
You can setup the email one time in your email provider and the same email will automatically send. All you’ll have to do is check the email from time to time to see if it needs changes to encourage more reviews.
Step 5: Ask For Reviews In Your Regular Email Newsletter
Finally, you can ask for reviews in your regular email newsletter. Many restaurants use email marketing to improve their brand and their revenue. These emails often go out monthly, but can be sent even more frequently.
In these emails, share new blog posts. Also include updates about your menu or information about events you’ll be hosting in the coming weeks. And at the end you can ask customers to review their recent visits if they have visited.
Restaurant reviews are no longer a nice-to-have part of the restaurant business. When we’re talking an increase in revenue because of reviews it’s time to place a high priority on getting more reviews and especially getting more raving customer reviews.
Follow the steps above to start getting more reviews for your restaurant. If you offer good food with good service you’ll get rave reviews. And if you notice any trends in the reviews that are negative you’ll be able to make changes and turn more reviews into raves.
Brian Casel is the founder of Restaurant Engine, a website design solution for restaurants. For more advice on how to win more customers from the web, visit the Restaurant Engine Blog and get the free email course for restaurant owners.
Photo provided by Wikipedia.