More and more consumers are discovering great restaurants through social media. Once they find an interesting restaurant, their next step is to look for reviews. As an experienced restaurateur, this may not be news to you. However, do you wonder if there are ways that you can leverage social media and online reviews to bring more diners to your restaurant?
Impact of Reviews on Restaurants
Based on the 2018 Local Consumer Review survey, consumers are more likely to read reviews for restaurants than any other business type. Of the top five industries chosen by survey respondents, restaurants lead the way in influencing consumers’ decisions, no matter if a review is negative, positive or neutral. In fact, even more consumers read restaurant reviews in 2018 than they did the year before. The impact is huge with 75% of the US consumers surveyed stating that negative online reviews about a restaurant changed their mind about trying it out for the first time.
The fact is that without online awareness, it is very difficult for restaurants to capture the attention of potential patrons - more than any other industry. The 2018 Local Consumer Review survey also revealed that 73% of surveyed individuals look at a restaurant’s reviews prior to considering a visit. It’s easy to see that responding to these reviews is very important. By responding to your customers’ online reviews, addressing negative feedback and showing appreciation for positive reviews - you can strengthen your restaurant’s online reputation on review sites and social media. Responding to reviews also shows potential customers how your management handles criticism online. Even if you’re unable to respond to 100% of your existing reviews, it’s important to spend time addressing critical customer feedback, attempting to turn around your relationship with customers who may not have had a positive experience.
Some additional findings from the 2018 Local Consumer Review Survey to consider:
- Overall, 86% of consumers read reviews for local businesses. 91% of those in the youngest demographic, 18 – 34 year-olds, trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation. In addition, 80% of these 18 – 34 year-old consumers have written online reviews – compared to just 41% of consumers over 55.
- 40% of consumers only take into account reviews written within the past two weeks – up from 18% in the previous year’s survey. Consumers read an average of 10 online reviews before they feel that they can trust a local business and 89% of consumers read businesses' responses to reviews.
- 81% of females would not visit a restaurant with reported cleanliness issues and 57% of consumers will only choose a business if it has 4 or more stars.
- All restaurants who increase their review rating by only a half-star will see increased traffic and will be more likely to fill up during peak dining times. According to a Berkeley study, a half-star rating improvement on Yelp makes it 30 to 49 percent more likely that a restaurant will sell out seats during its peak hours. Meanwhile, a Harvard Business School study found that a one-star increase in a restaurant’s Yelp rating can result in as much as a 9 percent increase in revenue.
Tips to Manage Your Profile and Respond to Online Reviews
It’s extremely important that your profiles and listings on all review sites contain information that is complete, correct, and up-to-date. Each site has options for editing your listing in case you need to make operational changes or whenever you move to a new address. You may want to enlist the help of a young staffer to check out your listing on all the review sites that they personally use. Have them make any corrections that are necessary and add as much information about your business as possible:
- Restaurant name
- Restaurant category/cuisine type
- Phone number & address
- Hours and days of operation
- Social media links if possible
Here are a few tips to stay focused and responsive to your customers’ needs:
- Be active in monitoring and reading reviews posted by your diners. It’s a great way to find out what they love about your business, as well as where they think improvements may be needed.
- Be sure to respond to reviews professionally, promptly, and politely. This shows that you’re a business owner who values customer feedback, and that your establishment takes the time to listen to what customers have to say
- Don’t take your diners’ negative feedback personally, especially when you do not agree with it.
- Always thank reviewers for taking the time to give you their feedback.
- Make adjustments based on what you learn and let them know in your response what actions you have taken based on their valuable feedback.
Restaurateurs who keep their fingers on the pulse of evolving diner demands and expectations are the ones most likely to succeed. Take the time to make adjustments based on what you have learned. This can spell the difference between dining experiences that delight and experiences that don’t.
Which Review Channels Are The Biggest Drivers?
Traditionally, many restauranteurs have considered Yelp as the most important review channel to dedicate their time to manage. However, the tide is changing. Google My Business has experienced tremendous growth and is rising to the top as the most important channel that restaurants should be focusing on. Google grew its review volume by 75% in 2018 according to the 2019 Reputation Benchmark Report.
There are a number of factors to explain Google’s review growth:
- Google’s huge scale, visibility and primary purpose as a search engine means that every time someone searches for a local business, they’re offered the option to leave a review.
- Google’s integration into Android phones means that it’s able to get Google My Business reviews in front of a very large number of smartphone users.
- Google has been significantly pushing for more users to leave reviews, with a notable increase in the number of notifications users receive after visiting a business.
However, we don’t want to ignore the importance of Yelp as a secondary focus because it is still a powerful review channel. If a consumer doesn’t find enough feedback through Google, they will turn to Yelp.
Having a presence on Facebook is our third recommendation – both for responding to Facebook Reviews and for marketing your restaurant. We also recommend that TripAdvisor reviews not be ignored. It is vastly used by consumers doing a significant amount of research looking for restaurants to visit during their travels.
In addition, there are several other important channels to pay attention to when engaging with your patrons: Zomato, OpenTable, Zagat and Foursquare. As mentioned before, these are the channels where it is very important to check your information to be sure that everything is accurate AND to make sure that you are monitoring and responding to reviews on these channels.
Google My Business Insights
We mentioned Google’s phenomenal growth in reviews and that they are constantly evolving. Google has been collecting information about what users think about businesses for a very long time, and now restaurants can see these ‘subjective attributes’ in their Google My Business Insights. Richard Holden, the Vice President at Google for Product Management made this announcement on Twitter about “subjective attributes” and how it can help restaurants and cafes: "We’ve launched subjective attributes to provide more information in your insights tab! Customers of restaurants and cafes can submit subjective attributes to help you and their fellow customers."
Attributes in Google My Business are statements that say something about your business in very few words and help searchers decide whether your business is what they’re looking for. All Google My Business managers have the option to add and edit objective, factual attributes in their listings information to let customers know more about what they offer. For example, a restaurant can show they accept credit cards, have a happy hour, offer late night food, or serve comfort food or other types of cuisine – as this screenshot shows.
It’s important to note, however, that searchers can also make suggestions about these objective attributes. When there is enough supporting input from users, then Google may “suggest” these changes in the Google My Business dashboard. As a listing manager/owner, you should monitor these suggested changes on a regular basis to ensure your business is being accurately represented.
Subjective attributes are a little different in that they are characteristics or experiences assigned to the business by consumers, such as cozy, romantic or notable cocktails and others. Google is now plotting these subjective attributes for restaurants to see in their Insights report.
While Google My Business managers can edit objective attributes, subjective attributes cannot be controlled by businesses. These are things that rely on the opinions of Google users who have visited the business. If several customers say your business is “popular with locals,” for example, then this is considered a subjective attribute. This new section “What your business is known for” has been added to your Insights analytics on your Google My Business dashboard. Google says, “Since customers' opinions are based on their experience, the information is subjective. It's considered to be valuable to other customers, as it describes the feel & ambiance for a place. Unless proven false, we won’t remove this information.”
Since this information gives you a good snapshot of what people think about your business, you can use this data in many ways: you can use these terms for search optimization on your website, you can use this same wording in social media posts, and you can use these snippets when you are responding to reviews. Reinforcing these attributes in all of those key places will let searchers know that your brand is known for when they see these messages consistently in multiple places.
Social Media Marketing Trends & Tips
We mentioned how you can use the Google My Business Insights such as subjective attributes in your social media posts to reinforce those key terms of what your business is known for. Below are some additional tips that restauranteurs can use when managing their social channels.
One of the most effective ways to promote and market your restaurant on social media is by sharing great food photos. Let your food take centerstage! Regardless of the platform you’re using - Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Yelp, Google - be sure to develop a plan around regularly uploading good-quality, mouth-watering shots of your menu items.
If social media marketing for bars and restaurants starts with photos, video content can help take you to the next level. A quick location video tour – you can also use Facebook or Instagram Stories for this - can give potential guests an idea of what it’s like to dine at your restaurant. Or shoot the items that are going to be part of your next set of promotions. Consider posting live videos on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, engaging followers real-time. Stream parties, fundraisers, and special occasion events or go behind the scenes in your kitchen.
Share Your Best Reviews
The best marketing in life is free. One of the most powerful ways to turn your happy customers into brand ambassadors is to share their reviews and experiences on social media. Not only do you get to publicly show appreciation for the people that matter most to your restaurant; you also create the kind of social proof essential to driving in new customers.
Join In On “Foodie Holidays”
Most restaurants will prepare something special for traditional holidays like the Super Bowl or the Fourth of July. But a fun way to distinguish yourself on social is to plan some posts and content around food-related holidays, too — particularly if it’s relevant to your menu offering, i.e. New England Clam Chowder Day or National Teachers Day offering Apple Martinis. Don’t forget to add visuals and hashtags!
Don’t let your menu sit idly on your website and update periodically. Make sure you share it on social too. Include a link to your menu in Tweets and Facebook posts so potential customers can take action, browse for more information and engage. Sharing your menu on social media is a great addition to your restaurant marketing toolkit, especially if you offer delivery.
Showcase Your Chef’s Work
If someone is a fan of food, they’ll have an interest in how a certain dish is prepared or would love to know more about the chef behind a restaurant’s innovative menu. Social media is one of the best ways for restaurants to satisfy this interest of foodies. Give customers a sneak peek of the kitchen prep via YouTube or Facebook. Or have your chef or mixologist sit down in front of a camera for a Twitter or Instagram Live Q&A. By showcasing the behind-the-scenes preparation by your team, you allow customers to feel more connected and engaged with your restaurant.
Add Your Location on Your Posts
Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are getting better and better at offering various search capabilities. Hungry users can narrow down their searches or hashtags by looking for posts “near you.” By adding your restaurant location on your social media posts, you can improve your visibility on social media and help customers find you more easily.
Reach Out to Influencers
There are a lot of foodies on Instagram, each with their own community of fans and followers. Look up those that are located near your restaurant and try to build relationships with them. Invite them to dinner. Send them samples of menu items. You may want to ask them to create sponsored posts or give a detailed review of the experience at your restaurant. They don’t need to have thousands of followers. There are many micro-influencers with a smaller number of followers that can still make an impact. You can even let them take over your Instagram account for a day, or instantly turn them into brand ambassadors by providing a custom discount link or code to share with their audience. Incorporate Instagram as part of your customer experience marketing strategy.
Customize Your Social Channel Image
The cover image on your restaurant’s Social Pages is prime real estate, so make it count. Take advantage by uploading a great food shot, or information on your specials or latest offers. You can even use a video as your Facebook Page Cover. Worried that your visuals might get cut off? According to Buffer, if you want to use a single image that works well on both desktop and mobile, the ideal size is 820 pixels wide and 462 pixels tall.
We hope you are able to leverage some of the information we have provided such as the Google My Business Insights and social media research to help you better understand your customers and inspire loyalty to your restaurant. Your restaurant’s success is impacted by positive restaurant reviews and an active engaging social presence. Savvy restaurateurs have a clear strategy for managing these important channels and reap the rewards.
For more information, download our Infographic on Tips & Ideas to Attract Diners to Your Restaurant here.
For more information on this topic, watch our webinar Tips & Ideas to Attract Diners to Your Restaurant.
Are you overwhelmed by the thought of creating all of your restaurant’s review responses or social posts yourself? Hiring an in-house social media specialist or doing social media on your own is not your only option. Many restaurants choose to outsource their social media to a partner such as iResponze to create and implement a crafted strategy specific to their business. Contact us for a free consultation.