Did you know 94% of guests will choose your restaurant based on online reviews (source: smallbiztrends)?  You don’t want to ignore your online presence.  It’s worth investing the time to monitor what people are saying about your restaurant.

We’re breaking down tips on how you can increase positive online reviews and what to do about negative reviews.

1. Ask for More Reviews

You can find creative ways to ask guests to leave a review. Depending on your business, you can offer incentives for leaving a positive review, such as 10% off the bill or an appetizer on the house. If your guests thank you for great service, encourage them to leave a good review (and a tip). If you have regulars, ask them to leave a review and let them know how much it helps.

2. Incentivize your Staff

As a fun way to get servers motivated to ask for reviews, make it a competition. The server with their name referenced in the most 4-5 star reviews, gets a night off or a meal on the house.  You’ll be surprised how much they’ll get into it.

3. Respond to Reviews Quickly

Letting your guests know they’ve been heard is a great way to continue the conversation beyond the dining experience. For example, when someone leaves a positive review, be sure to thank them for taking the time to respond back. End with a friendly invitation to come back soon. If the review is negative, apologize and address the issue.  Invite them back to make it up to them. Some restaurants take the reviews offline and will ask guests to email customer support. In private email, you can offer a discount or an appetizer on the house. This will hopefully persuade them to give you another try.  When they come back, a positive experience could change their review.

4. Address the Issues with Your Staff

We highly recommend holding weekly or bi-weekly all-hands meetings to go over the issues underscored in negative reviews and give props for the positive reviews. This should be a collaborative and no-finger-pointing meeting focused on helping each other. Address the mistakes uncovered in the negative reviews and encourage ideas about how to avoid them in the future. 

For example, if a review mentions that it took 10 minutes for a server to greet the table and ask for the drink order, you’ll want to look for solutions to reduce that time.   You might ask: “Why do we feel that it takes us a long time to get to a table?”

There may be cases where this was a one-off mistake, but in some cases you might find that your servers are struggling to balance multiple tables and greet new tables. You can then chat with the host to avoid double or triple seating a servers section. Also, you can create a policy. You might want to instill our golden rule – you must greet the table within two minutes, even if it is just to say hello and that you’ll be right. Check our tips for excellent service here.

5. Focus on building relationships with guests

We get it. You’re extremely busy running around, making sure that everything is functioning correctly. It may be difficult to build relationships with guests with so much going on. But it’s extremely valuable to have strong connections with guests.  When those guests return and bring friends and family, they continue to share by word of mouth. For restaurants, word of mouth is the best marketing strategy. If you have strong relationships with your guests, the people they invite to your restaurant will also be inclined to have a positive experience and leave a nice review.

Iconic restaurateur Danny Meyer wrote in Setting the Table that he likes to think of servers like surfers.  And “Waves are like mistakes. You can count on the fact that there will always be another wave, so your choice is to get back on the surfboard and anticipate it. The degree to which you ride it with better form than the next guy is how you improve and distinguish yourself.”

While mistakes and bad reviews can surely be harmful to businesses (let’s be real, some reviews are ridiculously specific and outlandish) they can also be extremely rewarding for your business. You’re given a birds-eye view of what people think of your restaurant and those 1-3 star reviews give you a blueprint for exactly how to improve. Be sure to utilize them to your advantage. Motivate your staff to take your rating to 5-stars. Anyone would be proud to work at a 5-star rated restaurant.

Table Needs is a wonderful tool for your business that allows you to focus on impressing your guests. How? We take all the guesswork out of what your guests want. Now guests can order everything on their phone, notifying the server without them checking on the table. Learn more about the capabilities of Table Needs.

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