Online reviews can make or break a restaurant. As a restaurant owner, it can be very frustrating to see bad reviews come in. Many times, you weren't present when the bad experience happened, maybe the customer misunderstood the situation, or maybe your employee just didn't know what to do and ended up saying or doing the wrong thing by accident. Whatever the case may be, there is only one way you can fix this problem online and we are going to show you exactly what to do to start increasing your positive reviews.
The tricky part of online reviews is that you pretty much have zero control over the reviews themselves. If you don't like a review, it takes an act of congress to get it removed, right? And you can't stand over someone's shoulder to ensure they say what you want them to either. So there is really only one way to improve your reviews and ratings online, but before we dive in, you first have to understand how the review process even takes place. What are the consumer behaviors driving reviews?
The first thing we tell clients is that you shouldn't feel bad about getting a bad review—everyone gets them and there is just no way around it. I know, it stings every time. But here is what your customers are doing.
When they transact with your business, they have expectations. Their expectations are exactly what they have formulated in their heads, regardless of how you operate or what your standard operating procedures include. You can't change what they have formulated in their head, and, unfortunately, you also can't read their minds.
So, let's call their expectations the baseline because that's what they are expecting, right? Anything less is a let down, anything more is a surprise.
If you deliver on their expectations (bear in mind their expectations are probably already above your own baseline, especially your employees' baselines) then the experience is satisfactory—nothing more, nothing less. And for hitting their baseline expectations, they do not feel the need to leave a review.
BOOM, it's as simple as that. You worked so hard to make them happy and in return, you get nothing.
Here's the secret to getting better restaurant reviews
Your customers are having positive experiences everyday, but they just aren't compelled enough to take the time to share a positive review. They are people just like you and they have things to do other than worry about your online review ratings. Shocker!
So you have to ask your customers to give you a review and this will increase your positive reviews. "Duh!"—Yeah, I know. But if it were that easy, then you would get those reviews, right?
Here's how you get those positive reviews.
Step 1. Gather customer contact into: First you are going to need a way to capture your customers' contact information. The more the better, but at the very least, you need to get their email addresses. Ideally, you will get their mobile phone numbers too. You can do this by setting up a newsletter or email marketing program using a simple platform like Mailchimp. You may already be gathering this info through your POS system and can export the data from there.
Step 2. Setup the systems to send out review requests: Depending on what data you have, you will need a way to send out a mass email or text message campaign to all of your customers. In order to do this, you are going to need an email marketing platform like Mailchimp and an SMS texting platform like EZ Texting.
Step 3. Ask for their help: Here's where it gets tricky. You can't control what people say and you also can't control who give you a review. There's a good chance that you are going to the message to someone who isn't your biggest fan. So we need to craft the review request message in a way that communicates how important the reviews are and what kind of review you need. We are going to do this without begging for a 5-star review. Depending on what info you have and the systems you put in place, you will want to setup both of these communications to go out to everyone. We're taking a two-pronged approach. If you have other ways to reach out in mass form, add those as well. Remember, people are busy and are going to quickly forget about you. Don't feel bad about reaching out to them multiple ways because it tells them 1) you care about them 2) this is important.
Here's is the email you want to send out:
"Hi [First Name],
I wanted to reach out to say thank you for your continued support of our business. Being a small business owner has many challenges, especially during these challenging times. Customers like you allow us to continue to employ people in the community and buy from other local businesses, and for that I am certain that all local small business owners are grateful.
While I know it is difficult for our community to visit us at these times, there is one way that you could really help us out right now.
Our restaurant depends heavily on our online reputation since many new customers read our reviews online.
It would be very helpful for our business if you would take a minute to leave us a review of your favorite thing about dining with us. I know you are very busy, so please consider it at your convenience. This kind gesture will help us continue to operate and grow in the future.
You can click here to review us on Google: [insert link]
Thank you so much for your support over the years and I look forward to seeing you in our restaurant very soon!
Feel free to modify this based on your business, but this gives you a general structure. You first want to start by thanking them for their business. Let them know how valuable they are to you. If this is during COVID, you want to acknowledge the challenges they are facing in visiting you and give them an alternative way they can continue to help you. Explain to them why reviews matter so much, then present the ask. Notice the wording of the ask—we want them to share a good memory. We didn't ask for a good review, but instead for them to think about their favorite thing about dining with us. Be considerate of their time and let them know how that simple gesture can make a large impact. Lastly, make it easy for them to get to the place where you want them to leave a review. Probably one of the most important tips is to only give them one link—don't provide a list of multiple places you want them to leave a review. Finish by giving a genuine thank you and signing off personally, not as the brand/company.
Now that your email is out the door, it is time to send the text. You are not going to have as much room for text, so this is going to have to be shorter.
Here is the text you want to send out:
"Hi [First Name],
This is [Your Name] from [Your Restaurant]. I wanted to see if you would mind taking a few seconds to do us a huge favor.
Obviously right now is a challenging time, but it would be very helpful if you would leave us a review of your favorite thing about dining with us. You can leave the review here: [insert link] Thank you so much for you help!"
Now obviously these are tailored toward COVID and the challenges we are facing during these times. As society reaches a level of normalcy (post-COVID or with COVID), you may need to adjust and remove the reference to how challenging times are at the moment.
That is the basically process and you can continue to do this throughout the year because you will get new customers who did not receive the previous messages. At a minimum, I would recommend doing this quarterly. But, you could potentially automate this entire system to automatically send out the review requests at the time you gather the customers information. That process will require a much longer blog post.
Does your restaurant have what it takes to grow?
Would you like to get more customer in your doors or orders placed online? It all comes down to a handful of factors that drive more sales to your restaurant. And of course your amazing food!