Master Online Reviews: Boost Your Food Business’ Reputation

Let’s delve into the crucial role online reviews play in shaping your success, winning you more customers and profits. Online reviews are your customers' honest opinions about their experiences, shared on platforms like Google and other trusted review sites. In a cross-generational survey from the US, a staggering 73% of people reported being moderately, very, or extremely influenced by online reviews when exploring their options. Especially true of Millennials and Generation Z— and these reviews are more than feedback; they're a form of social currency that can enhance your visibility and credibility both locally and online.

Remember, when it comes to food, customers love to share their thoughts—and reviews are candid reflections of their experiences, making them invaluable for your business growth and profits.

 1.       A good food business review strategy is social currency


Online reviews are like gold for your business's reputation. When you tackle them head-on and keep working in your restaurant or food service to make things better, they’re not just feedback; they're a golden ticket to more customers. Did you know a one-star increase on Yelp can mean a 5-9% revenue jump (said this Harvard Business Review Study). That's huge, especially for indie spots over large chains. And since customers often shout louder about bad times than good, great reviews are worth concentrating on.

Make sure your eatery's listed on a few review sites and keep an eye on what's being said. Chances are, you’ve already been added by your customers and it’s up to you to stay on top of them! Here’s an example list for starters:

  • Google My Business
  • Tripadvisor
  • Booking
  • Yelp
  • Facebook
  • Open Table
  • TrustPilot
  • Foursquare
  • Delivery services local to your country
  • Country-specific localized review sites (check Google for these).


2.       How to get good online reviews 101


There are a few easy ways to make sure that your online reviews are as good as they can get. Of course, there will always be days that a customer’s hard to please, or a time that one dish on the menu isn’t very popular. But generally, you want to aim to get more good reviews than bad ones, so your average review score remains high. Here’s a quick list of elements to check when looking at your reviews.

  • Quality of food – as a food professional, you know that fresh ingredients put together in a tasty way is always top of the list for everything, including reviews.
  • Service – fast service is usually what people want, but not at the expense of quality. How fast depends on your business: a takeaway delivery service can take a little more time than an in-person burger and fry joint.
  • Value for money – customers want to feel they’re getting good value, this usually comes down to size of portions and quality of food.
  • Train your staff properly – for both the above points, it’s important that your staff are trained to deliver what you want quickly, with a smile (if customer-facing), and to check-in with people’s experiences daily.
  • Truthful offering – make sure your service lives up to its promises whether that’s the best/quickest/tastiest/most unusual fries around. Or a combination of all of these together.
  • Special offers are…  — if your special offers change, make sure they are still up to standard every time and check reviews more often. If one special is consistently unpopular then ditch it, quick.
  • Utilize Influencers / local food bloggers – influencers can help spread the word when they sample your food and drinks, and if they post to their own social following it can help with good reviews. Mostly this kind of partnership is unpaid except in offering a free meal. But if it is paid, then you’ll have to disclose a paid partnership clearly within the posts.
  • Take time to tackle reviews — set aside time each day to look at your online reviews. No time? Train a server or employ an expert to do it for you instead.


3.       Brief intro to Google My Business and reviews


Google My Business (GMB) is by far the largest search engine and most important business profile you can set up for a good food business review strategy.

  • Your company’s reviews will appear automatically on your GMB page whether you want them to or not.
  • A high rating with rave reviews is much more likely to encourage customers to visit you.
  • If your Google My Business listing is littered with poor or mediocre reviews, new prospective customers are more likely to seek out an alternative place for food instead. Customers can review directly on your GMB page.
  • You should check your GMB profile regularly, make sure that all your details are up to date, like opening hours, and that your reviews are generally good.
  • If they’re not, take immediate steps to figure out why and improve them.
  • You can set up google alerts for customer reviews through your GMB profile, so you can immediately deal with them.
  • In some countries, there may also be review aggregators for all your online reviews in one place.
  • Remember to periodically google yourself and check your reviews.


4.       Stimulate reviews where you can, and deal with negative ones quickly


There are a few things you can do to stimulate customers to leave you good reviews. They are much more likely to happen in your restaurant than when your customers gets home.

  • Some food services print a line on their receipts and give the URL of their most popular review site.
  • You can also print cool postcards with a URL, leaving them on tables to stimulate reviews.
  • Print a QR decal and paste that onto the top of your table—this links to a review site with a line asking customers to leave you a good review if they enjoyed your offering.
  • You could add a line in your email newsletter that encourages customers to review you via certain sites if they had a good experience.
  • Negative reviews are going to happen, here’s what to do if you get them:
  • Always answer bad reviews on the site – most review sites, including GMB, offer a chance for the restaurant themselves to answer, apologize, and give an explanation if there is one.
  • If the customer has a point, you can always offer them a complimentary experience as a chance to make up for it.
  • If you’re getting too many bad reviews about the same thing, it is definitely time to act on them.

Download our handy online reviews checklist.