What Restaurateurs Need to Know About Online Reviews

What Restaurateurs Need to Know About Online Reviews

Online reviews posted by consumers on sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, Google, and Facebook have changed not only the ways diners search for and discover places to eat, but also how restaurateurs today market to their audience.

This underlines the need for executives to keep customers’ needs at the forefront in order to build a community of loyal patrons. Sure enough, winners and losers in the industry will be determined by their ability to manage and monitor online reviews, harness customer feedback, and deliver 5-star-worthy guest experiences.

Let’s dive into some of the ways online reviews and ratings are shaping restaurant-going behavior.

Consumers really depend on restaurant reviews

Online reviews are particularly influential in the restaurant industry. According to the National Restaurant Association, more consumers (61 percent) have read online reviews about restaurants than about any other type or category of business.

Moreover, almost twice as many consumers reported reading restaurant reviews compared to doctor and dentist reviews, the second most popular category.

Star ratings matter, even to the hungriest of diners

When diners search online for a restaurant, they’re keeping an eye out for something more than mouth-watering Instagram food photos or business-card-in-a-fishbowl loyalty programs. They are assessing places based on star ratings.

According to research, 33 percent of frequent restaurant-goers stated they would not eat at a restaurant with an average rating of 3 stars out of 5 on review sites. And findings from an online reviews survey found that 80 percent of consumers say the star ratings they trust the most are 4.0, 4.5, and 5 stars.

Facebook is the fastest-growing review site for restaurants

Yelp and TripAdvisor are not the only review sites worth monitoring. A social media giant is among the top of the list, too.

Customer feedback software company ReviewTrackers analyzed online reviews of 250+ restaurants over a 6-month period and found that, among major restaurant review sites (including Yelp, Google, TripAdvisor, Zomato, and Foursquare), Facebook reflected the highest growth rate in reviews, with new reviews coming in at a pace that’s 4 times faster than on other restaurant review sites.

Responsiveness matters

A restaurant’s methods of engagement with diners shouldn’t stop after they leave the restaurant. Engagement should extend to cover the entire customer journey, which means that execs must stay responsive on platforms where customers are sharing their feedback.

According to ReviewTrackers, 53.3 percent of customers expect businesses to respond to their online review within 7 days. This marks an increase from 51.7 percent in 2017.

But there is a gap between review response expectations and reality, with 63.3 percent saying they have not heard back from the business they reviewed.

Tech is shaking up the industry, but hospitality remains paramount

The explosive growth of online reviews is part of an overall trend in which customers are embracing technology before, during, and after the dining experience.

  • Diners believe that customer-facing technology offerings like menu software, online ordering, and digital loyalty programs should be high-priority items for restaurant companies.
  • 7 in 8 consumers routinely turn to technology to discover dining destinations, and 86 percent regularly check out menus online before they eat out.
  • People are 25 percent more likely to consult reviews from other diners than from professional critics.

More than ever, the end-to-end guest experience — from research and reservations to ordering, delivery, consumption, and payment — can now happen in a handful of screen taps or mouse clicks. But technology is simply expanding the range of crucial touchpoints. At the every restaurant’s strategy should be making a fierce commitment to the dining experience, and to meeting the evolving demands and expectations of today’s customers.

Megan Wenzl