Last month’s column focused on inventive social media campaigns as a way to target local business and increase foot traffic during slow periods. I wanted to stay on that subject, as there are many different ways to bring in customers into your business.
Recently, I had a conversation with other industry leaders and the subject we focused on were the customer reviews on the various online review sites. We love the positive ones but the bad reviews always hit a special spot in our gut. Most of those negative reviews often focus on things that we cannot control as restaurant proprietors.
So how do we prevent them from happening or even learn from them?
Top 4 Restaurant Review Sites To Keep An Eye On As A Restaurant Owner:
Why do people leave reviews that are positive or negative? The answer is simple, people like to be heard and they will write about it no matter what. Why not control how that review will read by how we train our Front Of The House.
Key Steps to improve your customer experience and control the 5-star review you deserve:
- Whether the customer calls in the reservation or makes it online you have a great opportunity to set the stage. Most POS (point of sale) systems have the customer history in it and many have ways to personalize each customer that goes in the system. The one we use at the restaurant even tracks what they order, a great opportunity to create a special small plate when they arrive. That’s setting the stage.
- The host/hostess holds all the cards, this individual is vital to your restaurant success. The host/hostess should have the following qualities; excellent communication skills, outgoing, energetic, friendly personality, positive attitude, team player, attentive, and most importantly has great hygiene. As a customer, I want to be greeted with a warm smile that hugs me, I want to feel welcomed to your home. This interaction sets the stage for that customers evening, it puts them in a good mood if they were not in one already.
- Next layer of the onion, this is where the customer history comes in. Let’s say the party of 2 that just sat down on table 5 is a frequent customer, they always order the same small plate and as the waiter approaches the table, he/she already have that small plate in hand and on the house. That customer will be happy and now have experienced next level customer service. To me the small things matter and will lead me to write a great review about your place. Once that check is delivered at the end of their complete meal, the opportunity of the ask comes in for that 5-star review.
- From that point, the FOH staff needs to make sure everyone is working as a unit, everyone is on top of the drinks, orders, clearing the tables, and making sure we have no mishaps during service.
- The last mile, the customer is walking out happy and full; your host/hostess guides them out of the restaurant with a friendly smile (extra bonus calls them by their name, you have that access) and one final ask, “Don’t forget to give us that 5-star review”.
The steps above might seem simple but I am surprised at how many restaurants miss the bus.
Reading through reviews:
Once a week I look through my list of online review sites and read the to find the good, bad, and ugly. The reason is obvious, I need to find what people are saying about the restaurant. Reading the reviews gives me an honest look at how the FOH is operating, customer experience, and if the training that is done is transferring to the customer. Have a pen and paper ready, write down all the pro’s and con’s.
Responding to reviews:
Responding to positive reviews is easy, the words come easy but responding to a negative review takes grit. Here are some tips on how to craft the perfect response to a negative review and help bring more customers in.
- Address the reviewer by their name, Yelp, Google, Facebook, and Open Table provide the first name.
- Bring up the issues in the response, show in your response that you read the review and their opinion matters. Be thoughtful.
- Take ownership of the issue, apologize to them. At the end of the day the customer is writing about their personal experience and we must respect that.
- Provide your restaurant contact information to take the situation offline and discuss further.
- By addressing negative reviews, it shows you care about what the customers have to say but it shows you are also willing to take ownership of a bad customer experience.
- Once the customer sees you responded to the review a couple of things happen, it shows your audience and customer the response, the unsatisfied customer sees the response, the customer could now update the review, depending on your response they could come back to your business, and here is a bonus; online studies show customers that read responses to negative reviews are 45% more likely to visit your restaurant.
Tip: How an owner responds to a negative review will help me in my dining decision. So start responding to those negative reviews.
Here are some stats I found online that are very surprising and prove the importance of responding to negative online reviews just in case you still need some convincing:
- Over 90% of consumers say that a bad review has convinced them to avoid a restaurant.
- Over 50% of customers expect businesses to respond to negative reviews within a week.
- Over 60% say that a business has never responded to their review, why because no one likes to admit they are wrong.
- 45% of customers are more likely to visit a business that responds to a negative review.
Customer service is not rocket science and that formula has never been easier with all the free tools we have at our disposal, use those tools, attend free online workshops, webinars, and classes. It all falls on you, so create a system that simplifies your life so you could focus on what is important; family and health.