The influence of review platforms is powerful and just a few bad reviews can hurt ratings.

Restaurants may be losing guests before they ever step foot in the door.

Guests aren’t just looking at the menu ahead of time to see what they might order or necessarily looking for the most convenient option. They’re looking to see what other diners have to say about the restaurant. Sixty-four percent of people Google a business before stepping foot inside, and almost all (94 percent) say that bad reviews make them avoid a business before they’ve ever even tried it.

Yelp, OpenTable, and Google continue to grow more popular as reputable, easily accessible sources of information for today’s consumers. As some sources suggest, guests are spending less at restaurants altogether and are pickier than ever about where they’ll dine. The decision to dine is not just based on the quality of food—guests are also looking to those restaurants that create great experiences.

The influence of review platforms is powerful and just a few bad reviews can hurt ratings—especially if the guests who DO have great experiences aren’t sharing positive reviews. It’s critical for restaurant owners to gain valuable feedback from guests in order to address negative reviews before they erupt into bad press. Here’s how restaurant owners can gather insightful feedback from guests and make the most of it:

Optimize the feedback experience

Guests may be eager to share a bad review on Yelp, but our research shows that the majority of them—70 percent to be exact—still want to provide direct feedback to a brand. Survey fatigue is real and more and more customers are turning away from traditional, long-form surveys. That’s because too many businesses continue to ask for feedback in ways that are burdensome and don’t provide the kind of real-time insights that can help them improve their business.

To be effective, restaurant owners should use technology that enables them to create intelligent conversations with guests by asking them relevant, meaningful questions that show they actually care. That requires segmenting audiences based on what they purchased, where they purchased it from (i.e. a physical location or a third-party delivery app), demographic information, or more. It also includes encouraging the customer to tell their own story…in their own words and ask relevant follow up questions based on their story. 

The experience of providing feedback should also be easy and enjoyable. A beautifully designed survey that is easy to understand and respond to is a positive extension of the experience that was provided while in the restaurant. It should also allow guests to tell their story in the way they want to tell it. Including more engaging options like recording a video or voice message, or allowing them to upload an image, enables more meaningful and productive conversations. It also provides you with more rich and relevant content to share internally and goes a long way in the effort to build a customer-centric culture.

Collect feedback at all touchpoints           

Guests are interacting with restaurants along more touch points than ever: physical location, mobile app, website, social media, and presences on third-party sites like Yelp or Grubhub … the list goes on. Collecting feedback across all of these channels enables companies to understand the multiple ways that guests engage with them and helps to prioritize CX efforts. Relying on feedback about one or two touch points can be valuable and can help to improve those experiences but will not give the company the entire picture.

There is another, often overlooked, population that has the most knowledge and power to steer a restaurant on the right path. This population intimately understands every detail of the customer experience: the employees. Employee feedback is just as critical when it comes to the operation and success of a restaurant. By providing a method to enable employees to provide feedback about their customer experience you can tap into the vast knowledge they have from talking with guests every day.

Make guests feel special

Like I mentioned earlier, survey fatigue is a major hindrance when it comes to gaining good feedback from diners. One way to reduce it is by asking better, more relevant questions and allowing them to tell their story. But these efforts go further if guests feel like their opinions are valuable and their voices are heard.

Guests want to engage with the restaurants they are loyal to and are excited to help them improve. They want to feel like their feedback matters and actually helps. Ensure you are communicating what you are doing with feedback, what changes have been made because of it, and celebrate those amazing experiences that they tell you about.

Restaurant owners will hear how their guests feel one way or another. It’s better to hear about a negative experience directly from them then find it on social media where it can scare away potential guests. Creating an effective listening strategy that gathers the voice of guests and employees is the best way to uncover issues and recover guests before they end up as bad reviews.

Andrew Park is the VP of Customer Experience Strategy at InMoment. With numerous high-profile awards and over a decade of customer experience expertise to his name, Andrew Park has had a profound impact on both CX and the business world at large. He has lent his perspective and skills to Fortune 1000 companies, helping them connect to their audiences in new and meaningful ways. Andrew currently serves as a Vice President of Customer Experience Strategy at InMoment, where his thought leadership helps power the company’s formidable Architect Team.

Consumer Trends, Expert Takes, Feature