If you own a restaurant, you undoubtedly understand the importance of online reviews. According to BrightLocal’s Consumer Review Survey, consumers read more reviews for restaurants than any other industry. On top of that, one of the survey’s key findings was that 85% of consumers have just as much trust in online reviews as personal recommendations. Indeed, positive reviews can be pretty beneficial for your bottom line.

Of course, reviews can also be a source of great frustration. Whether the reviewer was having a bad day, just didn’t like the food, or your staff had a bit of a blunder, negative reviews are practically unavoidable. Even the best restaurants in the world can have their share of negative reviews! There are so many factors that are out of your control, and a huge chunk of the bad reviews can happen for reasons you just didn’t anticipate.

While it’s important to be proactive in learning from negative reviews (and encouraging more positive ones), there are a few things to know about online reviews beyond “do better next time!”

First off, make sure you’re keeping up with your restaurant’s online review presence. Understand where you’re listed and which sites you’re getting the majority of your reviews from. Here’s a list of the ones to be aware of.

  • Yelp
  • Google
  • Facebook
  • TripAdvisor
  • Zomato
  • Foursquare
  • OpenTable

By having a more complete understanding of your demographics, you’ll understand which platforms are most valuable to your restaurant’s success. Not all review sites are created equal, as some groups tend to favor one platform over the other. Additionally, some platforms are simply more relevant than others as well. I’ve listed Yelp, Google, and Facebook first by virtue of their sheer popularity over the others.

Now for some professional advice. Erik Shellenberger, author of Restaurant & Bar Marketing: The No Bulls#it Guide To Improving Guest Counts offers some great advice on dealing with reviews. Take a look at these three key points he highlights in Chapter 2: “Keep Your Eye on Yelp.”

Yelp is important, even though algorithms can be unfair. “The Yelp algorithm ‘flags’ and removes some reviews but allows others. When these obviously exaggerated negative reviews get brought to the attention of Yelp employees, they just say, ‘Sorry, man, it’s not my call. It’s the algorithm.’ This is unfortunate, but hopefully not permanent.”

Don’t pay for Yelp sponsored advertising. “I pulled analytics from before buying Yelp advertising and after, using several measurable methods that all referenced an investment of $700–$1,000 a month that failed to move the needle—and this includes several different locations and concepts.”

Respond to every review on every platform. “Facebook, TripAdvisor, Yelp, and Google—respond to ALL reviews, good and bad, in a timely manner. In sickness and in health. Don’t get in the habit of “putting out fires” on Yelp and ignoring the positives. Of course, you need to fix the bad reviews and get that customer back if at all possible. But get in the habit of thanking your fans for their positive feedback!”

Want more from Erik? Be sure to check out his book on Amazon here. Check out his Facebook page here.

Restaurant reviews have a very direct impact on your success. According to research from Michael Luca, of Harvard Business School, a restaurant can increase its rating on Yelp by just one star and see between a 5 to 9 percent revenue increase. Yelp and other review sites matter, whether you like it or not. It’s important to keep monitoring the reviews you’re getting, and make sure you’re doing what you can to get those scores up. It can make all the difference.

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Tailored directly to your restaurant, CoGoBuzz features a built-in custom landing page, accessed automatically through a one-time connection to the HotSpot. From there, you’ll be able to promote and incentivize customers to provide feedback. Let them know which review sites you’re on! To top that off, CoGoBuzz even comes with a fully-digital, text-based loyalty program, allowing you to connect with your loyal customers wherever they go. Engage and reward them to help promote more positive reviews!

Check out the rest of our website to learn more about CoGoBuzz!

How has your restaurant dealt with review sites? Sound off in the comments!