Inevitably, every restaurant operator must address how to deal with online reviews. This study by BrightLocal found that 92% of consumers consult online reviews when making a purchase decision. That’s a very big number and it would be unwise not to take it seriously. It is is also unwise not to stay on top of what people are saying about your brand. After all, your brand is defined by what people say about you and how they feel about your product or service.
However, the level of engagement, if any, you have with the online reviewer is subjective and based on circumstance.
We have clients who do not want on any level to engage with someone who they view as an uncredentialed restaurant reviewer, even though they will bend over backwards to ensure quality and sincere customer service. We have other clients who have an alert on their phone when a Yelp review comes through so that they can respond asap; sometimes that response happens while the customer is still sitting in the restaurant.
As the operator, you need to decide how you want to address the online review model and make your decision how to proceed. Here are steps to having a healthy and productive relationship to online reviews of your restaurant or business.
Step One: Remove Emotion. Understand this review was written by someone who is not in your restaurant as a professional or credentialed reviewer. There is no telling who or what that person is all about. They may have an ax to grind. They may be a total freak. But they may have a point. You have to be level-headed to discern this and take proper action.
Step Two: Evaluate. Don’t rush. Take your time and get the facts.
Step Three: Internal Reaction. Decide if the review is worth the time and energy to react internally. That is, should you move to the next step and address an issue with your staff? If you’re going to address bad reviews, address good ones too. You want your staff to be acknowledged for quality work. This is an opportunity to do that.
Step Four: Reviewer Reaction. Is it worth more time to engage with the reviewer? Do you sense that this is a legitimate review? Is there something you can do for this customer? Responding can have a positive effect on your star rating. Reviewers may change their star rating and update their review after hearing from you. Our recommendation, if you do respond, is to briefly thank them, apologize, and ask for the person to contact you for further discussion. With Yelp & Facebook, you have the option to respond with a private message.
Ultimately, the online reviews are what you make of them. You can choose not to respond but we encourage you to pay attention and look for trends or specific issues that you can address with your staff. Use reviews to make your business better.
If you have a two out of five star rating, it is going to hurt you no matter what you think.
Here is a flow-chart that can help take the emotion out of it and help create a proper system of responding that works for you and your business.
Marketing & Public Relations Chicago. Restaurant, hospitality, retail, events.