By Josh Franklin, Revel Australia MD. Originally published online at hospitalitymagazine.com.au - 20.8.14
Word of mouth. These three little words have never been so important to restaurants than now.
Before the internet and social media, customers would share their dining experiences with a handful of friends and family.
Today, ‘word of mouth’ has taken on a whole new meaning and is more pervasive and powerful than ever. Customers share their opinion online and rather than make a passing comment to a friend or two, reviews remain on the internet for all to see.
One of the most valuable tools a restaurant can have is the ability to hear and respond to customers’ problems, suggestions and ideas.
Aside from Urbanspoon and Eatability, a widely read restaurant review site is Yelp. Acting as a local urban guide, Yelp is an online resource for consumers to find anything from hairdressers and mechanics to dentists and cafés.
If you run a local business like a restaurant, Yelp is essential to your online presence. It provides a great place for both customers and businesses to voice opinions and share their thoughts publicly.
However, in order to have a truly successful Yelp page, there are a few things to keep in mind:
1. Create an Account
To be involved in the conversation and have the ability to respond to reviews, you’ll need to create an account. Yelp makes it really easy to sign up and start the conversation about your business.
The most important part will be to add details about your restaurant and tell your story. Sharing the history of your restaurant and uploading menus are both important details that will draw customers to your Yelp page.
2. Show off your restaurant
A picture is worth a thousand words so what better way to promote your restaurant than through posting images of a new Spring menu or signature dish!
For customers reading up on your establishment, pictures can also show what type of atmosphere to expect. Make sure you also include a picture of the outside of the restaurant so customers can easily spot it when they are coming in to dine.
3. Share news
Does your restaurant have daily specials? Did you just introduce a new menu or Monday night deal? With Yelp, you can upload posts as frequently as you need to and keep customers in-the-know on the latest updates about your restaurant.
The best part about creating announcements that are seasonal is that it makes your restaurant easier to find within the Yelp search results.
4. Don’t ask for reviews
It isn’t a good look to solicit reviews from customers. Positive reviews are best when it comes from customers who had a great experience and can’t wait to share their thoughts about it.
Fake-looking reviews will do nothing but turn off potential customers. Just provide a great experience while customers are in your restaurant and they will take care of the rest.
5. Respond to customers
Love a review a customer gave? Respond to them! Customers love knowing they are being heard so make sure you are responding to reviews. It also establishes a rapport to build loyalty and customer retention.
Also, always make sure you stay on top of reviews. It’s a good idea to task a staff member with checking and responding to reviews each day. There is software available that can alert you to new reviews.
Revel for example has an integrated Yelp Dashboard that sees reviews pop up on the point-of-sale screen in real-time. That way if a customer posts a review about delayed service while sitting in a café, such as their lunch taking too long, the Yelp Dashboard will enable business owners to address the issue right there and then.
The importance of knowing what customers are saying about your business is crucial. By reading Yelp reviews you can see what customers like and what isn’t working so well. While some Yelp reviews can be disheartening, ignoring Yelp won’t make it go away and users will continue to write about your business anyway.
And while the truth is that we can’t always please everyone, it’s much better to take the proactive approach and be part of the conversation. Put your best foot forward and share useful images and updates for customers checking you out. It will mean there’s a wealth of information for them to make up their own mind.