November 4, 2021
Feedback found on restaurant review sites can greatly hurt or help your business. Here is why a good review matters and which sites you should pay attention to.
Restaurant review sites influence diners and their opinion of you. In fact, 77% of customers care more about online reviews than they do about reviews from professional critics, and 92% of diners read online reviews. With the culture of influencers and social media, an endorsement online can make or break your establishment. Here are the most popular restaurant review and rating websites you should be checking out and why it’s so important.
Restaurant review sites play a prominent role in shaping your reputation. When a customer is hungry, what do they do? They look you up online to see what others recommend. Therefore, it’s vital to the success of your food establishment that you stay up-to-date on the top review sites. Pay attention to what diners are saying about you and address any concerns right away.
Why Reviews and Comments Matter to Restaurants
Checking out the reviews on your establishment isn’t just about weeding out the trolls. Negative comments will happen (it’s the internet). There will probably be reviews that will make you feel frustrated and annoyed, like when a customer gives you one star because “It was closed on a Monday when we wanted to try the food,” or “I couldn’t find it.”
It’s enough to drive a restaurant owner to throw their computer through the window. But the reality is, restaurant reviews are critical, and reputation matters. So it’s far better to find out about a negative review or comment before customers stop coming in the door.
While you can’t undo every negative comment, reading food reviews offers you an excellent opportunity to interact with your patrons and hear a candid account of their experience. Whether your establishment just opened or has become a fixture in the community, a wise restaurant owner will listen to the comments and extract lessons for improvement. Sometimes all that’s needed for a dissatisfied customer is acknowledgment, and chances are, you can change their mind.
Even better–if you read a nice review from a customer, it’s an excellent opportunity to share and promote the accolades on social media. Thank your loyal customers and boost your ratings by sharing the good news in your social media stories or via a post.
The scary truth is, a good review matters more than you think. Customers are already making up their minds before you have a chance to win them over. So, if the internet is giving the first impression, then it’s crucial you know what’s being said.
How can you find out how your online reputation is faring? Check out the top restaurant review sites, so you stay on top of the conversation.
The Top Restaurant Review Sites Restaurant Owners Should Check
Founded in 2004, Yelp is one of the most popular restaurant review sites out there. As a trusted source for restaurant reviews and ratings, Yelp provides an excellent platform for business owners like yourself to promote your restaurant, make improvements, and measure customer impressions of your food, ambiance, style, and more.
Now, everyone in the restaurant industry has heard horror stories about fake Yelp reviews and nefarious competitors posting about their foes. But Yelp has taken steps toward ensuring the integrity of their site. Yelp prides itself on a “customer first” policy, helping restaurateurs provide a better customer experience. By enabling restaurant owners to better engage and communicate with their customers, they’ve offered a more interactive experience, which is also good for restaurants. As a result, Yelp reported that the majority of customers provide between four and five-star reviews.
When negative reviews happen (and they do), they often feel like a “personal attack.” Yelp advises restaurant owners that by “contacting your reviewer and establishing a genuine human relationship, you have a chance to help the situation and maybe even change this customer’s perspective for the better.”
Yelp’s best piece of advice is for restaurant owners to keep responses simple, polite, and to the point. For example, if you read a negative review when you’re checking out restaurant rating sites, respond with a courteous message like, “Thank you for taking the time to provide feedback. We will do our best to resolve the issue.” And then take the message to heart—when a customer makes a valid complaint or voices a concern, aim for a positive resolution.
Diners have become digital hunters, searching for restaurants by name, cuisine, price, or location. Google has become the go-to source for reviews and ratings because Google is the dominant search engine helping consumers find and get food, primarily through its Maps feature.
Google Maps no longer just provides directions; it now also acts as an all-things food hub. Customer reviews, online menus, links to the website, and owner and user photo uploads all help promote your dining experience. When a user searches for a restaurant via Google Maps, Google includes a star-rating review next to the restaurant’s information. Over 58% of searchers use Google online reviews to help choose a restaurant, and you only need five reviews for Google to start giving your restaurant a star rating. In addition, the increasing use of Google Maps and “near me” location searches provide customers with convenient and instant answers for the hungry diner. Nearly 63.5 billion “restaurants near me” types of searches are performed every month.
Once your restaurant starts rating on Google, having high-rated reviews will help your restaurant become higher ranked in the search pages and get a better chance of Google listing your restaurant in the top 3 options for the search itself. “Google My Business” is a great place to start putting your restaurant on Google’s map.
Zomato is a unique and quirky restaurant review and rating site that prides itself on being part of the “foodie” culture. Zomato provides strict review and photo guidelines to help ensure feedback given to restaurant owners and managers (as well as shared with the public) is accurate and helpful.
Food rating sites like Zomato are fantastic for the restaurant industry because they establish an atmosphere of foodie culture in every town. The focus is on local food establishments and capturing the beauty and joy of dining out.
Unlike bigger restaurant review sites like Yelp, which has expanded to include other small business types, the food industry is Zomato’s focus. As a result, the community is one that both patrons and restaurateurs can trust. Zomato identifies verified users with a special blue badge, so their reputation matters too.
It’s vital to Zomato to maintain the authenticity of their “foodies,” and the verification process is an effective way to weed out the strange and sometimes off-the-wall reviews that are featured on other sites. Zomato encourages reviewers to write unbiased, clear, informative, and helpful reviews that benefit the foodie community.
Community-centric restaurant review sites seem to be a growing trend. The honesty and authenticity resonate with owners and eaters. So when checking Zomato for feedback on your business, look for the trusty blue badge of a reliable foodie to get the most accurate and fair information.
Zagat may seem like an old name in restaurant reviews—in fact, many restaurateurs remember the books and ratings long before there were restaurant review mobile apps. Founded in 1979 in New York City as a guide for travelers, Zagat has continued to grow with the times. This blog-style review site has in-depth, high-quality information and a critical reputation that’s unparalleled in the restaurant industry.
With reviewers expanded now to nearly 40 major cities, Zagat is unique in the way reviews and content are presented. Instead of rating food establishments on a scale of 1 to 5, Zagat rates specific categories. For example, “Best Outdoor Dining in Chicago” and “Best Pre-Theater Restaurants in Chicago” are just two of the many categories offered by the rating site. These specific and relatable topics are a great way to rethink your customer experience and understand when and why customers dine with you.
Zagat also offers a unique opportunity to check out your competitors and peers. What other restaurants are ranking in your category? What are they doing well, and how can you learn from their approach to service? Rating sites like Zagat are great for conducting personal research and setting goals for restaurant growth.
Restaurants still proudly display their Zagat ratings right in their window. If your establishment is lucky enough to rank in a Zagat review, let patrons know on your website and in your window. The authority of a Zagat rating is something to be proud of.
6. Facebook and Instagram
Yes, you read that right! Effective restaurant reviews aren’t found only on restaurant review sites and apps. In fact, Facebook and Instagram have become two of the most effective sources for restaurant reviews and customer engagement. Unlike other restaurant review sites, social media platforms allow interactions with your customers, making it easier to answer questions or improve customer satisfaction.
The biggest benefit to using Facebook is that you can respond to reviews and comments directly and easily, just like a standard post. If any consumer is unhappy, you can privately message them to try to fix the problem. In addition, you can also post photos and videos, live stream events at your restaurant, and link to other websites. Staying connected to diners via Facebook inspires trust and confidence in your restaurant, advocates for your brand, and allows restaurant updates.
It’s important to remember that Facebook recently changed the word ‘review’ to ‘recommendations.’ They have done away with the 5-star rating system, and now users can simply answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the question “Do you recommend (restaurant name)?” Since most people have a Facebook account, these recommendations count. As of early 2021, Facebook has 2.89 billion active monthly users and accounts for a whopping 19% of online reviews used by customers.
Instagram also plays a prominent role in the world of restaurant reviews. Online influencer and restaurant reviewer Felicity Spector said that when looking for places to dine in her area, Instagram is a must.
The best draw of Instagram is that users are connected with all their closest friends plus trusted businesses, influencers, and more. This offers serious engagement potential, unlike any other social media platform. There are no random users or anonymous reviews, just real-life photos, stories, and captions of real experiences from restaurants. Photos don’t lie, and restaurants have worked to make their food more “Instagram-friendly” by more appealing plating or offering unique experiences to draw diners to want to take pictures.
So why do restaurant reviews matter? Your potential customers care about what your past diners have to say, even if they don’t know them. It’s important for your restaurant’s reputation that you stay on top of the feedback on restaurant review sites. Communicate with your customers and listen to what they’re saying about their dining experience, good or bad!
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