Customer taking a photo of food with their phone.
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Every touchpoint with your customers is a chance to encourage reviews.

10 Ways to Boost Your Restaurant's Reputation

Customers care about your business and want to see you succeed.

There couldn't be a better time to be thinking about your restaurant's reputation and online presence. In 2021, more people will be thinking about going out to eat, both locally and while on vacation, and will want to take a quick look at your ratings.

How do you boost your reputation? Get more customers to leave positive reviews. Positive reviews increase your visibility on Google and other search engines, makes your business seem trustworthy, and differentiate you from your competitors. All this has been proven to boost sales.

People are well aware that restaurants have suffered disproportionately during the pandemic. They want to help. And many of them will be more than happy to leave an enthusiastic, glowing review to help you build back your business. But oftentimes, they need to be prompted.

What review sites matter?

There are many recommendation sites for restaurants, but only four sites really matter for restaurants in the U.S. These are Google, Facebook, Yelp and TripAdvisor. Of these, Google is the No. 1 site with the largest quantity of recent and relevant reviews. Google has the advantage of being able to spotlight restaurants in its own search results, and ranking other review sites lower down on the page. It may not be totally fair, but you can make the most of it.

Here’s how:

1. Have an Online Presence

Make sure that your restaurant has a basic website, or at least an online menu. If you are new or rebranding, you may not have one yet. Or maybe you sat out the past year of the pandemic for business reasons. In 2021, though, you will need some kind of an online presence. Otherwise you can’t exist on the review sites, and your customers won’t have anywhere to leave their sparkling reviews.

2. Ask for Reviews!

The first step to boosting your online reputation is to make the ask. Customers often need that extra prompt to take the additional step of writing and posting about their experience at your restaurant. Along with the ask, it helps to explain the benefits to your business. Experienced restaurant goers or marketers will understand the inherent value of a review, but the average person probably will not. Let them know how much a (positive) review can help with other customers finding your business online.

3. Return the Love

This is a great call to action for your customers, especially during COVID. You want reviews from your happiest customers, and if they enjoyed your food and service, they will more often than not be willing to return the favor. Your call to action should remind them of their positive feelings. For example, "If you loved your food today, please let us know on Google Reviews."

4. Ask for a Rating

You want to appear very excited at the prospect of getting a great review. Try asking for the best rating. "Delighted with our service? Please give us 5 stars on Yelp!" The main benefit of this strategy is that it minimizes the perceived ask. Writing a review can sound like a chore, but giving a rating can be easy as a single click! And while reviews help potential customers make an informed decision about your restaurant, the ratings are really what boost your reputation in the eyes of Google and Yelp.

5. Act of Kindness

Remember that your customers care about your business and want to see you succeed. Remind them that it would be an Act of Kindness with all the COVID changes if they would leave a review.

6. Include a Reminder in your Takeout

With the majority of restaurant business restricted to off-premise, you lose that in person chance to ask for a review. To combat this, you can include a “Thank You” note with every order that contains a brief (but heartfelt) request for reviews. Make sure you specify which service, or services, you’d prefer the review on.

7. Ask for Reviews on your Website

Make sure your website has a link to all of the key review sites, with your call to action. Have the links prominently displayed along with some heartfelt messaging about how much it would mean to your business. This is especially important if you host your own online ordering through your website (which you should) and receive lots of customer traffic.

8. Ask for Reviews on your Social Media

Every touchpoint with your customers is a chance to encourage reviews. You don’t need to spam your Instagram and Facebook feeds with requests for reviews, but consistent reminders increase your chances of catching loyal customers at a moment of free time when they can quickly leave a nice review.

9. Link QR Codes to Review Site

Make posting a review as easy as possible for your customers by linking a QR code to your preferred review site. This way, when a customer peruses you menu or website, it's very convenient and easy for them to stop and leave a review.

10. Use Previous Reviews to Encourage More

Put a 5-star quote on your takeout and dine-in menus from a previous customer. Use it to seed the idea for other customers to do the same act of kindness. Use a QR Code link to take customers directly to your favorite review site.

Mark Plumlee is the senior editor for MustHaveMenus, a menu template design service. He writes about restaurant marketing and design.

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