2020 was a challenging year for the restaurant industry, which experienced a debilitating financial decline due to COVID-related restrictions on indoor dining and travel. According to the National Restaurant Association, the restaurant industry reported meager sales of just $659 billion last year, “down $240 billion from expected levels,” while industry-wide employment was “down 3.1 million from expected levels.” By the end of 2020, more than 100,000 restaurants were either “temporarily or permanently closed,” leaving countless businesses, communities, and families economically devastated.
Whether you represent a well-known franchise or an emerging new brand, you can’t afford a second bad year on the heels of 2020. To keep your restaurant business alive and position yourself for financial recovery, you’ll need to fight back with every available tool at your disposal — not only great food and exceptional service, but also the way you engage with consumers and manage your brand’s reputation online.
One of the most efficient techniques is responding to customer reviews, which enables you to simultaneously improve your brand’s image, appeal to new customers, retain current customers, and even rank higher on Google — all of which are goals that any business plan should strive to achieve. For example, did you know that “85% of TripAdvisor users are more likely to dine at a restaurant that responds to reviews”? Or that, according to the same TripAdvisor survey, “65% of users agree that a thoughtful Management Response to a bad review improves their impression of the restaurant”? In fact, a recent survey by BrightLocal identified restaurants as the #2 industry for which reviews were most important, surpassed only by medical or healthcare services. (Perhaps that’s unsurprising, considering that restaurants were tied with home service businesses for the most reviewed business category on Yelp as of December 2020.)
Unfortunately, despite a profusion of data demonstrating clear benefits for businesses, many restaurateurs overlook the strategic importance of replying to reviews, as we’ll explore in this blog post. Don’t hamper your brand’s financial potential by making the same mistake. Instead, help your restaurant business thrive by responding to reviews — even when they’re negative.
How Often Do Restaurants Respond to Customer Reviews (And Why Should They)?
Statistics show that some industries are, on average, more likely to respond to online reviews than others. For example, regular visitors to the Shout About Us blog might recall that the auto industry boasts some of the best review reply rates, a trend that we explored in an earlier article. Unfortunately, the restaurant industry lands on the opposite end of the spectrum, with a staggering 88% of respondents to one survey reporting that they did not reply to any customer reviews.
But why is that a “problem,” anyway? Why does it matter whether your restaurant responds to its customers’ reviews?
First, let’s consider a few statistics. TripAdvisor reports receiving more than 280 review submissions per minute, with over 880 million reviews and opinions amassed as of 2020. Over 10,400 restaurants currently have TripAdvisor reviews in Los Angeles alone, with another 11,200 reviews for restaurants in New York. With figures like these, TripAdvisor’s data is worth paying attention to — and as that data has shown, responding to reviews can have a dramatic impact on customer engagement with real financial impacts for your business.
For instance, one TripAdvisor survey revealed that not only did “up to 94% of respondents read a Management Response to a TripAdvisor review” — even more importantly, the “majority” of these reviewers stated “they found it helpful and that it encouraged them to try a restaurant, despite a bad review” (italics our emphasis). In other words, replying to your reviews — including the negative ones — can help convince new or undecided consumers to give your restaurant a chance. In a fiercely competitive industry struggling to rebound from record losses, closures, and rates of unemployment, that’s a competitive edge you can’t afford to ignore.
But these findings don’t just apply to TripAdvisor. It’s also crucial for restaurants to reply to reviews that are posted on other sites and apps, including Facebook, Google, and — considering its significance to the restaurant industry, which accounts for 11% of its advertising revenue — particularly Yelp. The latter, in fact, may hold special importance for independent restaurants, with an earlier study by Harvard finding that “a one-star increase in Yelp rating[s] leads to a 5 to 9% increase in revenue.” Since responding to reviews can help increase your star rating, it can also indirectly increase your revenue — especially if your responses are crafted in a way that successfully attracts new customers.
Of course, Yelp and TripAdvisor aren’t the only review sites that can affect your business. Additional restaurant review sites that business owners and managers should monitor include Foursquare, Gayot, OpenTable, The Infatuation, Zagat, and Zomato (which you might remember as “Urbanspoon” prior to its acquisition in 2015). If you’re just getting started with your review management strategy, here are a few monthly visitor statistics that might be useful to keep in mind:
- TripAdvisor — 490 million
- Yelp — 178 million
- Foursquare — 50 million
- Zomato — Over 11 million
- OpenTable — Over 8 million
- Zagat — Over 500,000
Ask About Our Review Reply Service for Restaurants, Bars, and Cafes
So now that you’ve seen the data, what’s the next step for your restaurant business? We suggest taking a deeper dive into the benefits of review response, then exploring some of our recommended strategies for responding to feedback from customers. For example, our blog offers tips on how to respond to a negative review, how to respond to a positive review, or even how to reply to a 1-star rating, depending on what type of feedback your business received.
Of course, the easiest (and most efficient) strategy is to work with an experienced response scribe from Shout About Us, who will ensure that your customers receive friendly, custom, on-brand replies within 24 hours of rating or reviewing your restaurant. No matter how many locations you manage or how many time zones your business covers, our dedicated team of responders has you covered.
See why Jersey Mike’s and thousands of other restaurants and businesses choose to work with our review response service. Book a demo for your restaurant today. We serve digital agencies and brands in the restaurant industry throughout the U.S.
Emily Homrok is a freelance copywriter with more than seven years of writing experience. She joined the Shout About Us team as a content strategist in 2020.