A good review from a well-known food critic has always had the ability to increase the profitability of a restaurant. Traditionally, providing VIP treatment to a professional reviewer may have been enough to garner a good review. Today, things are a little different. Poor reviews from professional food critics are no longer the only type of reviews restaurants need to worry about.
Food blogs and numerous online review sites now allow any diner to write a review, which may be read by hundreds, or even thousands of potential customers. Many restaurateurs have felt the backlash of negative online reviews, and regardless of how they feel about the legitimacy of these types of reviews, a smart restaurant owner needs do all he can to protect his restaurant from any form of bad publicity.
Although it is impossible to avoid all negative ratings, restaurants can stack the cards in their favor by mastering the basics, and imitating a few “tricks of the trade” used by some of the highest-rated restaurants.
Master the basics. Even if a restaurant follows all of the other tips, if it can’t deliver on the basics: food, service, and cleanliness, it will be very difficult to get more positive press. Making sure that service is prompt and courteous, the quality of the food is consistently good, and the location is clean and comfort is critical for laying a strong foundation for positive customer reviews. Guests are often willing to to look past small disappoints, but are unlikely to be impressed when a restaurant can’t manage to get the basics right. Disappointed guests won’t be shy in sharing their poor experiences online.
Give guests something to talk about. A good restaurant must offer it’s guests impeccable basics, but a great restaurants should give them something more impressive. Creating a “wow moment” doesn’t mean a restaurant must dazzle guests with glamor, but it does require that the restaurant surprises them with something memorable. When a restaurant chooses to create a one-of-a-kind decor, offer a table-side visit from the chef, or present a gift of cookies or pastries after the meal for diners to enjoy the next morning for breakfast, or whatever it is, it is highly appreciated. A diner who decides to review the restaurant online will remember these wow moments, and is more likely to write a positive review.
Speak with regulars. Acknowledging and engaging with the most frequent diners of a restaurant is great way to build a stronger devotion. These regular guests are more likely to post positive reviews, but it is important to encourage them to write one. Restaurants can motivate regulars to write a review by simply asking. If a restaurant owner does not feel comfortable being so forthright, there are other ways. Restaurants which utilize an email list, can include a link to their listings at major online review sites in each newsletter sent to customers. A link on a restaurant’s web site can direct old and new customers to review sites and make it easier to write a review.
A great review can increase business, but a bad review is not fatal. At the end of the day, it is simply not feasible to please everyone. However, all negative reviews should be examined to identify and repair any potential problem areas, such as poor service or an ill-equipped kitchen. Overtime, a restaurant with 80% or more positive reviews should consider themselves successful.
For more tips on customer reviews, check out our blog on Dealing with Negative Customer Reviews.
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