The growth of online restaurant reviews make every customer a potential critic.  And they’re not just interested in your food. Customers are taking note of the ambiance, service, personality and attitude of staff, and the cleanliness of online-restaurant-reviewsyour restaurant. These all paint a picture for potential customers that help them anticipate what their overall experience at your restaurant will be.

Your star rating in online restaurant reviews can be even more important. It allow consumers to form an immediate impression of your restaurant, good or bad.

Simply put, online reviews can help make or break your restaurant’s success. So, making sure you know what people are saying and replying to concerns are nearly as important as getting food out of your kitchen.

Why Online Restaurant Reviews Matter

Sites such as Yelp, Open Table and TripAdvisor are transforming not just the online restaurant review business but the entire restaurant industry as a whole. They offer a platform and an opportunity for nearly every restaurant in business to build and develop an online reputation.

In the past, restaurant owners were skeptical of such online review sites. They felt that the reviews were false, misleading or written by competitors just wanting to post bad online reviews about them.

But with so many sites in the business of providing customers with online restaurant reviews, it doesn’t really matter what restaurant owners think. Consumers will visit review sites and will form an opinion before ever visiting a restaurant. If the majority of the reviews are positive, then consumers will form a positive impression and decide where to spend their money. If reviews are negative, they will move on to another option.

Online restaurant reviews are the top category of reviews researched and read online. And consumers are reported to read online restaurant reviews more than twice as often as doctor and/or dentist reviews, which is the second most popular category.

Also, more than half (53 percent) of 18- to 34-year-olds use online restaurant reviews to make dining decisions. In addition, 47 percent of frequent full-service restaurant customers read online reviews before choosing a dining establishment.

Online Restaurant Reviews Transform the Industry

In a recent study by Professor Michael Luca at the Harvard Business School, he researched the impact of Yelp ratings on independent restaurant revenue in the Seattle area.

Luca found that there was a significant relationship between a restaurant’s average online rating and revenue. He also found that a rating improvement of one star led to an increase in revenue of between 5 and 9 percent. In addition, he found that the average rating impacted a restaurant more than the review itself. This was credited to the fact that Yelp visitors are often overwhelmed by the number of reviews listed, so using the star rating alone significantly impacted consumer decision making.

Not surprisingly, for independent restaurants, market share rose with increased Yelp usage. Luca’s research points to the power of online restaurant reviews and their ability to raise the profile of independent eateries. This gives the internet the ability to spread the word about hidden gems like no other ‘word of mouth.’

Is it important to generate new online reviews? Yes it is. Online restaurant reviews create trust and credibility with consumers which turns into loyalty and ongoing sales.

The Financial Impact of Star Ratings

Let’s use Professor Luca’s research findings to consider the financial impact of a restaurant’s star rating. Revenues for a 3.5 star quick service local restaurant with four locations was $2,30,000 in 2014. Through active engagement with customers, requesting online reviews, monitoring online reviews, and taking customer concerns into consideration, this restaurant increased its online rating to 4.5 stars.

Making such progress would be great in terms on online reputation, but the financial gain could deliver revenues of $2,500,000. Using 9 percent in this example, that’s an increase of over $300,000 from taking common sense steps to not just monitoring your new online restaurant reviews but from actively requesting new ones.

Use Online Restaurant Review Sites to Build Your Online Reputation

Why is continually accumulating new reviews important? A 2013 BrightLocal Consumer Review Survey determined that the number of reviews matter. A 4-star rating for a restaurant with ten reviews carries less weight than a 4-star rating for a restaurant with 200 reviews.

Freshness of reviews is also important. A 5-star rating for a restaurant with the latest review being from 2014 makes it old news. You want to demonstrate that your customers continually have something good to say about your restaurant and that there is a steady stream of people eating at your restaurant and leaving online reviews.

Number and freshness of reviews also factor into search results in Google. The more online reviews you have, and the fresher they are, the high you will rank in search engine results.

Actively Monitoring Online Reviews

Monitoring online restaurant reviews can quickly become very time-consuming, and you do have a business to run. Periodically checking reviews is a good first step, but it really requires an active and ongoing commitment to be effective.

Using an online review monitoring or reputation management platform just makes managing your online reputation easier. Nobody restaurant owner has the time to chase down every review left by consumers, but every single online review is important and you should know what is being said.

The software pulls online customer reviews from multiple review sites, listing them in a single dashboard where you can read them in one sitting. You can track a single location, multiple locations or even multiple brands under one umbrella.

Why is this important? Because it allows you to quickly see exactly what customers are saying about you by logging into one platform.  Then you can use the information to take decisive action and build your reputation along the way.

RepUvue allows you to do just that. Contact us today to learn more.

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