Operations – Online Reviews

In our world of constant connectivity, the average person has the ability to review, judge, and critique any particular activity and post it online at any given time.  Restaurant reviews are now not only written by the occasional food critic, but by everyone with a smart phone; and research shows that consumers are listening. 

Restaurants today not only have to deal with rising food costs, changing health care requirements, and the numerous restrictions on ingredients and food packaging bans, but are also under constant scrutiny from everyone with a Yelp.com account.  Although the reviews can be helpful for customers, one negative review can have a significant impact on a restaurant’s business.  This power that has been given to consumers is often not used with the responsibility that one should take while discussing a restaurant’s performance, although this should remind restaurants that every customer is significant, and should be treated as such.

Although every restaurant will undoubtedly receive some bad feedback, online reviews can also be extremely positive.  A study by the Harvard Business School on the effects of Yelp.com ratings on restaurant shows that, “a one star increase in Yelp ratings leads to a 5-9 percent increase in revenue.”  This is particularly important for the independent restaurants as they are more affected more severely by reviews than a chain restaurant.  People are used to the cookie cutter approach of chain establishments, and have already formed their opinions of them while the online world is critical for informing the community of an independent’s location, offerings, specials and more.  Have consumers share a photo on Facebook for a chance to win a prize, or share a picture of your pizza on Yelp for a 20% discount.

Independent restaurants have much more at stake than a chain and are affected by reviews, but equally have a lot more to offer.  As an independent restaurant, you should use the online review community to spread information about your location.  Ask customers who have had a positive experience to write about their experiences.  Ask them to add comments when you make menu changes, offer specials, or have created an exciting new recipe.  By remembering that each and every customer has the tools to write a negative opinion, you can take control of consumer’s experiences and give them a reason to write a positive one.

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