Why the Restaurant Industry Needs a Response Management Service for reviews

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Do you read reviews before going to a restaurant? If you answered yes, you’re not alone.

According to the research, most people consult reviews before they will even set foot in a restaurant. More specifically, 58% of customers use reviews to help make a restaurant selection at least one-quarter of the time, with 36% saying reviews inform their decision half of the time or more.

Reviews are essential to every industry, but more so in the restaurant industry. Why? Because for the past six years, research has shown that consumers consistently read reviews for restaurants and cafés — more than any other industry. As the number of consumers using reviews to make dining decisions continues to grow, the restaurant industry must address the need for a Response Management Service to stay on top of reviews.

1. Engagement: Your customers want to be informed

To truly understand the importance of why restaurants need help with review management services, it’s helpful to know how and why customers engage with reviews.

The four main reasons why customers read reviews are:

  1. Gather knowledge. Unfettered consumer review access has shifted market power from businesses to consumers. Product and service reviews are now easy to find; they are no longer a convenience or novelty. They are a consumer expectation and exemplify the shift in market power.
  2. Avoid disappointment. Consumers are more likely to seek external sources of information when purchasing services, such as restaurant experiences. To mitigate the risk of disappointment and avoid “buyer’s remorse,” consumers often seek information such as peer reviews to determine quality and satisfaction for which they do not have direct information.
  3. Save time. Today, most consumers have a perceived or real lack of time; as such, they want information that is both immediate and accurate. Because of this, consumers regularly access user-generated reviews to more easily find expertise on a good or service.
  4. Be “on trend”. Individuals perceive a benefit in knowing a group’s opinion of a restaurant. For this reason, “group influence” is identified as a motivation leading to the consumption of online reviews.

For these reasons and more, your customers are looking to reviews for restaurant recommendations. The more positive reviews you can gather and the more negative reviews you respond to, the more customers you will attract. The perception being, “if you are this attentive to your customer reviews online, how great might you be to your customers in person?”

2. Influence: What your reviews say influence whether or not people eat at your restaurant

While there may seem to be a straightforward informing role that reviews play, they also play roles that are more nuanced. Vermeulen and Seegers (2009) state that hotels with reviews will have increased bookings, suggesting reviewers are both informers and gatekeepers. The roles of critics can be of great importance to restaurant managers. If critics are positive in their reviews, people are more likely to visit the reviewed restaurant; however, if the reviews are negative, consumers may stay away. (source)

Research says positive reviews make 68% of consumers more likely to use local businesses, while negative reviews stop 40% of consumers wanting to use a business. When a business owner responds to a review of a poor experience, it’s possible to save the customer. In fact, seven out of 10 consumers changed their opinion about a brand after the company replied to a review, according to Marketing Charts.

Simply stated, if you don’t have someone monitoring your reviews and responding to them daily, you run the risk of losing business. If every missed sales call is a missed sale, then every review unresponded can also be considered a lost customer.

Here is an example of a Crumbl customer updating their review to a positive one after receiving a response.

updated restaurant review example
updated restaurant review example

Here’s another example.

updated amazon product review example
updated amazon product review example

After the customer left this review, the merchant responded, reached out to the customer, and made things right. The result? An updated review and a retained customer!

3. Marketing: Another tool in the toolbox

While traditional marketing channels are still viable tools for advertising and marketing, the ever-growing presence of consumers online has made the internet and more specifically, reviews, a new vehicle for marketing directly to your exact customer.

Besides developing a great online reputation and influencing your customers’ decisions, online reviews also work as a marketing tool by providing the following:

  • Higher Local Search Engine Rankings: Online reviews are believed to make up 10% of how search engines decide to rank their search results.
  • Free Advertising: Having your business listed on online review sites increases your exposure to customers who are looking for businesses like yours.
  • Develop Customer Relationships: Online review platforms provide a great way to interact with your customers and increase brand loyalty.

By leveraging your online reviews to gain exposure, you increase your chance of getting in front of your potential customers when they are looking for the services you offer.

4. Differentiation: How to make your franchise location(s) stand out

Owning single or multiple locations of a franchise has both positive and negative influences. While benefitting from corporate large blanket marketing campaigns, each owner must still carry the weight of protecting their individual stores’ reputation. But with advances in digital and local marketing tools — including online reviews — franchise owners can differentiate their stores from others with the same name on the door, but different ownership.

With reviews, individual franchises within multi-franchise businesses are viewed as their own entity by consumers. For example, a customer isn’t going to read an overall review of Mcdonald’s; they are going to read a review of the specific McDonald’s located by their house. The main benefit of local reviews is the ability to differentiate yourself from nearby franchise locations that might not be as good as yours.

So why should an individual franchise owner hire a Review Response Manager when they have the resources of a corporate entity? Good question. The answer is because there are unique challenges for local multi-business locations:

  • Oftentimes, corporate marketing lacks the resources to manage reviews across all locations (as reported by 36% of multi-location marketing leaders polled)
  • Corporate regularly struggles to properly assign local questions, reviews, etc. to appropriate parties within their organization for resolution (as reported by 25% of multi-location marketing leaders polled)

Outsourcing the work to a trusted Response Management Team solves both of these problems. Learn more about how to create a strong management and response strategy as a local multi-business restaurant.

Bottom Line

The story is clear: consumers use to reviews to decide where to eat. If you are actively responding to customer reviews, showing you people you care about their experiences with you, and doing everything in your power to right any wrongs, people will not only eat at your restaurant, but most likely tell others to do so as well.

Originally published at https://www.letusrespond.com on April 26, 2021.

Co-founder of LetUsRespond.com