Online reviews are the bread and butter of any successful restaurant. In today’s connected world, 60 percent of consumers read online reviews before choosing a place to grab breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Surprisingly, people also tend to prefer reviews written by customers, as opposed to food critics.

Knowing this, online reviews suddenly become more important than ever. Getting people to review a restaurant is easier said than done, even if they had an excellent experience. Here are four steps that every restaurant can take to encourage more online reviews, and ultimately, more business.

4 Steps Toward Encouraging and Enticing Online Reviews

These four steps don’t need to be done in any particular order, but together they can create an atmosphere, both in the restaurant and online, that encourages more customer reviews than ever before.

1. Know Your Audience and Their Preferences

The first step is to find out where your customers are most comfortable posting reviews. It could be Yelp, or TripAdvisor, or even Google. There are plenty of online review platforms, but you don’t need to create pages for all of them. Instead, you should find out where your customers tend to post their reviews and focus on those.

That being said, you should start by covering your bases. It’s smart to have complete profiles on the major review sites like these:

  • Yelp
  • Google Local
  • Yahoo Local
  • LinkedIn
  • TripAdvisor
  • CitySearch

2. Establish an Online Presence

Once you’ve created profiles on review sites, the next step is start directing people to those pages online You do this by forging an online presence for your business. This includes the following elements:

  • A website/blog
  • Online menus
  • Email newsletters
  • Social media profiles
  • Landing Pages

Setting these things up is a process, but it will result in far more engagement and reviews. As you build up these things, be sure to create recognizable links to your review profiles so customers can easily find them and write feedback.

In particular, landing pages can be a great marketing tool to encourage reviews. When someone clicks a link on the site or social media, they can be redirected to a landing page that includes links to all your major profiles.

Feature some 5-star reviews here and offer an incentive to increase engagement. Perhaps the customer gets a small coupon for their next visit if they leave a review? The most important takeaway here is to make it easy to find the restaurant online and write a review.

3. Respond to Every Review (Including Negative Ones)

Reviews will range in quality, and every restaurant will eventually get some negative ones. It’s important to respond to any and all reviews you come across. If the experience was great, you have an opportunity to engage with them further and build trust by thanking them for their time.

In the case of negative reviews, you can sometimes find valuable feedback, or an opportunity to remedy the issue and turn the experience around for the customer. When it comes time to respond to reviews, follow these guidelines:

  • Read the review in its entirety and place yourself in the customer’s shoes
  • In the response, include specific words and phrases from the customer’s review to show that it was read and understood
  • If the issue is something that can be remedied, offer to compensate them with a credit on their next visit

By responding to every review, restaurants can show that they value feedback and don’t ignore the ways they could improve. It’s better to acknowledge negative reviews and own up to mistakes, than ignore them. The former strategy builds trusts, while the latter makes the restaurant look disingenuous.

4. Ask For Reviews (The Right Way)

Today’s customers understand the power of reviews, and it’s not outside the realm of possibility to simply ask them to provide feedback. The important part, is not being overly solicitous in your approach.

If they had a great experience, asking them to write a review is perfectly reasonable. The best approach is to ask for the review quickly, as the chances of them writing one goes down as time goes on.

Another great way to incorporate a review request into conversation is to mention reviews when customers compliment the business. If someone says they loved the food on Facebook, respond with a “thank you, we would love if you wrote a review for us on Yelp!” or any other site of your choice.

Restaurants with an email newsletter can also easily ask for reviews in their emails. Friendly reminders are always welcome, and the occasional incentive works as well, but don’t go overboard.

If customers don’t write reviews when asked to do so, take a look at the process and ensure that there aren’t any unneeded complications. Make it as simple as possible for customers to find and review the restaurant.

Final Thoughts

Restaurants have a lot of checklists to manage on their way to success. Earning online reviews is just another process to master. With these steps in place, the reviews will come in consistently and your restaurant will enjoy the benefits of an online presence more than ever before.

Matt Banner is a seasoned blogger and entrepreneur with a decade of experience in the online world of blogging, SEO, and marketing. You can find him online @BlastYourBlog
Compliance, Outside Insights, Story