In an age of data-driven, laser-focused marketing, word of mouth is still king. Actively encouraging people to talk about your business is an effective way to generate buzz and can often be a free form of advertising, which is ultimately invaluable. Today’s digitally-focused world often dictates that these conversations about your business are happening online in the form of reviews across the web. Dedicated review sites like Yelp, reviews on Google, and your business’ social media pages can all influence your current customer and either attract or deter new ones. As you begin to craft a strategy to manage and improve reviews for your restaurant or bar, it is important to start by taking stock of how you currently rate.
Take Stock of Where You Stand & Set Goals
As you begin to craft a strategy to manage and improve reviews for your restaurant or bar, it is important to start by taking stock of how you currently rate. Take some time to dive deep into your social pages, presence on Yelp, Google reviews, and any other pertinent spot where customers are talking about your bar or restaurant. Where do you stand on each site? Is there one site that is more frequented by your guests than another? Is there one site that seems to host more positive or negative reviews than others? Make a quick spreadsheet or jot down notes for each site, and be sure to quantify your average rating and number of reviews for each platform.
After you have dissected and analyzed your current digital clout (or lack thereof), it is time to set goals for your establishment’s review strategy. Do you want to increase review count, or ratings? Or, should your goal be to simply reply to more reviews, if customers are already reviewing your bar or restaurant frequently? Base your strategy on your gaps; if you have a fair amount of reviews but low ratings, dig into the reviews to see why customers are submitting low ratings. If you do not have many ratings on a popular platform, focus on how to increase your reviews on that specific platform. Be prescriptive with your goals so you can hone in on clear action items.
Incentivize Your Customers to Review Your Bar or Restaurant
Even if you have a good number of reviews on particular sites or pages, you will want to keep momentum going, and keep reviews consistent and current. Incentives do not have to be costly, but can provide motivation for customers who value your business and may not otherwise leave a review. Offer a discount on a future visit, create a prize raffle, or just simply offer appreciation when customers do leave a review by responding with thanks. Make sure to be specific about where to leave reviews, and how customers can cash in on the offered incentive.
How to Respond to Negative Reviews & Why It's Important
The internet can feel like anarchy. Without face-to-face interactions and the social fears of another’s opinion that come with it, many people can be emboldened to express their feelings in less-than-polite ways. Negative reviews are unavoidable on a whole, but they can be useful and mitigated. Negative reviews can provide essential and direct feedback on your services, atmosphere, menu, and the way in which your employees are interacting with guests at your bar or restaurant. Reading these reviews is crucial, but responding to them is just as vital.
45% of consumers say they are more likely to visit a business if negative reviews are responded to and addressed. The first step in addressing a less-than-stellar review is to be objective, and remember the review is not personal. Remain polite and professional in your responses, no matter how cantankerous the reviewer might be. It is key to acknowledge their experience as true, and then follow up with any actions and next steps you can take to make their experience better in the future. If it is appropriate, offer the reviewer a direct email address or contact so you can personally address them and their issue. A personal touch will go a long way into turning a negative experience into a more positive one, and hopefully retaining that customer’s business.
How to Deal with a Fake Reviews
Another unavoidable aspect of the internet and reviews are fake, often malicious reviewers. While these reviews should not be your focus, you will need to address them if they become too frequent or are obviously detracting from real reviews. The first step in addressing these reviews is to look at the site’s review policy. Major platforms will have policies in place for this kind of thing, and will likely have a process in place for you to report the fake reviews. Red tape and bureaucracy may be burdensome, but be persistent in following up. Gather as much information as you can to show fraud, and do not hesitate to get legal involved if the malicious reviews continue or increase.
Consistency is Key
Once you identify how your restaurant or bar is currently perceived and discussed online, you can use this info to set clear goals for how and why you may need to increase your reviews, address low ratings or negative reviews, and/or spend more time responding to reviews. Implementing a strategy is paramount for your business, but remaining consistent with your strategy (and making tweaks as needed) is just as important. Design incentives for your guests to review your establishment, be sure to analyze and respond to negative or fake reviews, and spend time each week focusing on your digital presence.