In the world of restaurant ownership, online restaurant reviews can be both a blessing and a curse. With social media (fuelled by the likes of TripAdvisor, Yelp and Google) emboldening consumers, restaurants are more open to criticism and praise than ever before.
72% of consumers now admit to trusting local businesses more based on positive reviews. What’s more, businesses have reported a 5–9% increase in sales for every star on their online rating — they’re pretty powerful pixels.
Unfortunately, there’s a downside to consumers speaking their minds online: bad reviews are inevitably more impactful than the good, and can see restaurants losing favour with consumers.
Consumers (and professional reviewers) also seem to take more enjoyment in writing a bad review than a good one. As Jay Rayner says,
“When a critic takes aim at a lousy restaurant there is a sense that they are exacting revenge for all of us on every bad experience we’ve ever had: we paid good money; we had a terrible time; now someone else is paying the price.”
But do bad reviews really mean lost business? ReviewTrackers’ survey reported that 35.3% of respondents would be dissuaded from eating at a restaurant with a 3-star or below rating, so yes, there are real stakes to this game.
With the side effects clear, it’s essential that the modern restaurant owner takes online reviews seriously, and considers where bad reviews might be stopped in their tracks — and it starts behind the scenes.
While there are other elements to a customer’s experience, like wait time and staff behaviour, online reviews are mainly concerned with what comes from the kitchen. After all, most customers are happy to wait for high quality cuisine.
That puts food front and centre in banishing bad reviews — and how that food is stored, managed and prepared is of the highest priority. Poor food safety, for example, could lead to a poor-quality meal, or worse, an unwell customer.
Identifying food safety as a means of banishing bad online reviews is, however, only the first step. When tackling this subject, there are a few key ideas to take note of:
Don’t wait for a bad review to highlight poor food quality or for a customer to point out something they’ve seen which could damage your reputation — take matters into your own hands.
Compliance is changing in 2019 as the new ‘Scores on the Door’ ratings continue to roll out to the rest of the country. These scores openly display to potential customers the venue’s food safety rating, with lower scores drastically impacting footfall.
Arming your team with the resources they need to better manage food safety will ensure that their proactive approach is both effective and consistent.
Food safety is key to crafting a pleasant dining experience, which in turn encourages a positive review — each part of the business plays a role in reaching this result, and food safety plays into those roles.
The first point forms the foundation for your new food safety approach, and is essential in banishing bad reviews. Fans of getting to the root of the problem, rather than window dressing it, are sure to find being this approach natural. But with the right tools and the willingness to embrace proactivity, it’s accessible to anybody.
Although you may have a system in place — and your customers are satisfied with food safety in one site, you might not be getting the same results across all your sites.
You’re not alone. This is a source of anxiety for many restaurants with multiple sites, and is a true test of your food safety mindset and systems. Maintaining compliance and securing positive reviews across multiple sites requires a great deal of consistency.
Users of the Trail app will be familiar with the benefits of digital checklists for creating consistent processes. Procedures can be put into place covering everything from opening, deliveries, temperature checks, to cleaning and closing. Having these familiar and consistent tasks available on a single app will make raising the food safety standard across all sites a much more manageable and achievable goal.
Consistency will also support your proactive approach, helping you to tackle issues before they develop, resulting in a positive experience — and good reviews from happy customers.
If your restaurant has struggled with negative online reviews in the past, then turning your focus to the kitchen and food safety could be exactly what you were looking for in a solution.
This is especially true when tackling compliance ahead of the final Scores on the Doors roll-out. Instead of something to fear, your score on the door will advertise your commitment to food safety, and encourage customers to walk in off the street (or the nearest review website).
And as for those bad online reviews? If you’ve put in the effort to tackle food safety and bring your sites up to the same standard, it will be easy to expand your processes to other facets of the business, contributing to an even better customer experience (and better reviews).
Trail wants to help your food service business attain more positive reviews, better inspection results and most importantly, more business coming through the door.
Questions? Contact us at Trail.