In the past, a restaurant’s reputation was largely built on word of mouth. While a review in a local newspaper might help bring in new clientele, most business came from customers who loved the food and told their friends and family about it. In this way, the success of a restaurant was largely based on goodwill in the community where it operated.

Today, things are very different. While local opinions matter, the methods for obtaining those opinions have shifted. One of the top ways that people choose a restaurant is by looking at online reviews. If an establishment doesn’t have many reviews – or the reviews that they do have aren’t great – then potential customers may decide to skip it in favor of a place with a larger amount of 4 and 5 star reviews. According to one survey, 97% of customers check out online reviews before making a decision about where to spend their money.

Knowing that you need online reviews is the first step – actually getting them is something else entirely. Below, we outline some of our top tips for earning more online restaurant reviews to build your business. 

Claim Your Profile on Review Sites

It may not be obvious to all business owners, but you can – and should – own your profile on review sites like Yelp, OpenTable, and Google My Business (GMB). Taking this step helps you take control over your online reviews. It also shows customers that you are a real, active, and trustworthy business.

When you claim your business profile, you will be notified when a customer leaves you a review. This gives you an opportunity to respond to reviews, which can be critical to show that you are listening to guests. Responding to reviews in a thoughtful or even funny way can also boost your business. 

For example, in 2014, a woman left a scathing review of the Kansas City eatery Voltaire after the restaurant did not provide a service (take-out food) that they do not offer. The owner’s response was calm, measured, and even a bit humorous – so much so that it garnered over 1,000,000 likes on Facebook and a slew of write-ups across the internet. 

Of course, you don’t have to pen an epic takedown to benefit from claiming your profile on review sites. Simply responding to customers – such as by thanking them for coming to your restaurant – adds a personal touch that can’t be beat. In addition, when you claim your restaurant profile, you’ll be able to ensure that the information available on these sites is up to date and accurate.

Broaden Your Horizons

When thinking about online restaurant review sites, it is all too easy to focus on the big players – like Yelp and Google. While it is vital to have a profile on these sites, casting a broader net can help you get more reviews. After all, your customers may simply prefer one website over another – and having a number of options increases the likelihood that they will leave a review.

In addition to Yelp and Google, consider claiming (or creating) business profiles on sites like:

  • Zomato
  • TripAdvisor
  • CitySearch

Don’t neglect social media, either – the review feature on sites like Facebook can be abused (such as when a business does something unpopular) but can be important to capture customers who primarily get their information from social media.

Make It Easy to Leave a Review

While most Americans spend a large portion of their day online, that doesn’t mean that they will want to leave a restaurant and go find a review site to help your business. If you want to increase the number of online reviews that you get, make it as easy as possible for your guests to find the review sites.

The best way to do this is to link review sites to where your customers already are: on your social media, website, and even in your emails. After all, these people already have an interest in your business, so it is the right audience to ask for a review. Including the link to a site like Yelp will allow your guests to leave a review with just a few clicks.

You can also add a QR code to your menu, table top signs and advertising, or even on your to-go bags or coffee cups. The code can take users directly to your website (where review sites are listed) or even to a specific review site. All that customers have to do is scan the code with their smartphone cameras and it’ll take them right to the appropriate website.

Ask Your Customers

The simplest way to get more online reviews? Simply ask your guests to do so.

Most people understand the power of online reviews. After all, they probably looked at OpenTable, Google, or Yelp reviews before deciding to visit your establishment. If they had a good experience at your restaurant, they are probably willing to leave their own review. According to one survey, 70% of customers will review a business when asked to do so.

It may seem awkward to ask guests for an online review. But doing so is incredibly important, especially as a guard against bad reviews. While you cannot control whether or not someone leaves a bad review, having plenty of reviews can make sure that one bad review doesn’t drag your average down.

Online review sites give you stars based on your average reviews. The more reviews you have, the less impact a single negative review will have on your total score. For example, if you only have five 4-star reviews on Yelp and someone leaves a 1 star review, it will drop your average to 3.5 stars. But if you have 25 4-star reviews, then your average only dips down to 3.88 stars. 

Respond to Online Reviews

As noted above, it is critical to claim your online profile for your business for a number of reasons. Perhaps most importantly, claiming your profile gives you the chance to respond to reviews.

Responding to online reviews – both positive and negative – lets customers know that you care about them. It can also be a chance to set the record straight when someone leaves an unfair review, or even offer to make it right if a customer had a bad experience. After all, mistakes happen – and most people will take the fact that you offered to fix an issue as a positive sign that your restaurant can be trusted.

Of course, you will want to be careful when it comes to responding to online reviews. In some situations, it may be better to respond privately instead of online. Keep in mind that what you do write can cause your business harm. Even if you are steaming about a review that you perceive to be unfair, take some time to cool off before replying so that you don’t end up making the problem worse.

Develop an Online Presence

Beyond claiming your review profile, you should also have a presence on the internet to help earn reviews. You can do so by building a website, making sure that your menu is available online, setting up social media pages, creating landing pages, and sending out email newsletters. Doing this is critical for marketing – and for getting online reviews.

Having an online presence allows you to easily link to review sites. If a customer wants to leave a review, but has a hard time finding information, they might give up before finding out the information that they need. Putting the information in as many places online as possible can help you get more reviews. 

Offer an Incentive

If you want to earn more reviews, one of the best ways to get them is by offering customers an incentive to take the extra step after visiting your establishment. This can be as simple as giving out coupons in exchange for leaving a review. While you shouldn’t require a positive review in exchange for the incentive, simply offering something for reviews can motivate people who otherwise wouldn’t bother.

Take Your Marketing Further with Budget Branders

In 2021, marketing your restaurant isn’t as easy as putting a big sign up or taking out an ad in the newspaper. A multi-pronged approach that includes both digital and traditional methods is necessary to your business’ success. Whether you are working to get more online reviews or figuring out the best way to increase foot traffic, Budget Branders is here to help.

As a small business, we understand the needs of restaurant owners. We offer high quality custom-printed disposables at prices and in quantities that make sense for small and medium-sized restaurants. Our goal is to work with you to help your business thrive.

If you’d like to learn more or request a quote, reach out today by filling out our online contact form or pressing the live chat button on the bottom right of your screen.