Cureat offers users the chance to research the best restaurants in their area, leave feedback, and follow local chefs, functioning almost like a culinary social media.
Owen Scott Jordan

Cureat offers users the chance to research the best restaurants in their area, leave feedback, and follow local chefs, functioning almost like a culinary social media.

Why Restaurants Should Interact with Review Sites

It's a smart way to engage guests and drive sales.

Forget food critics. These days, diners are far more likely to trust the likes of Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Google in helping them pick the perfect spot to eat. In fact, based on research from customer review software company ReviewTrackers, more than a third of customers surveyed won’t eat at a restaurant with less than four stars on review sites. It’s more important than ever for restaurateurs to interact with these sites and apps in order to engage current customers, attract new ones, and increase their revenue.

“The world of online word of mouth will only continue to grow,” says Devon Wright, Yelp’s general manager of restaurant marketplaces. “We can help small-business owners join the conversations that are happening about them online.”

By engaging with guests on online review sites and apps, restaurants are better able to steer consumer dialogue and acknowledge feedback that’s taking place in the digital world. Wright says that responding to reviews is a great public way for restaurants to reflect customer service practices and show potential customers how much they care.

Not only is it critical to respond to guest comments in a positive and professional manner, but it’s equally important to do so in a timely fashion, Wright says. Yelp research shows that restaurants that respond to comments on their Yelp page within 24 hours increase their likelihood of receiving an upgraded review by 33 percent.

But it isn’t just the negative reviews that warrant attention and response. CurEat—a relative newcomer to the review app scene—is dedicated to creating a marketplace solely for positive feedback about restaurants, encouraging users to create and share lists of only the dining options they love and visit most.

“We want to build a positive community of people who want to find, talk about, and share restaurants and their favorite places,” says founder Steve Mangano. “We focus on independent restaurants and have this sort of peer-reviewed platform.”

Cur Eat

Cur Eat.

Free to all users and available nationwide, CurEat allows diners and industry professionals to search for local spots to eat in places they live or visit, while also granting them the ability to follow various CurEaters—restaurateurs, chefs, and foodie influencers who create best-of lists of bars and restaurants.

“One of the things this app does really well is it encourages positivity,” says Eric Montagne, the chef of Locals Oyster Bar in Raleigh, North Carolina. “If there’s something negative to be said, it won’t be heard. If there’s a restaurant that’s performing poorly, you just won’t hear about it.”

Mangano says the curation aspect also allows chefs and restaurant owners to become influencers of sorts, gaining a reputation as an expert among their followers and customers. “If you’re this great Italian restaurant in Houston, you can say, ‘Here are the places that inspire me or that I’ve been to in other parts of Texas,’” he says. “That’s a really interesting way for your customers to feel like you’re giving them more value, and then they become more loyal to you.”

Review apps like CurEat not only allow concepts to respond to customer feedback, but they also provide restaurateurs with free marketing. “We have a menu that changes weekly, so I can go on my CurEat page and make sure all of my information and photos are up to date and I’m not promoting dishes that are no longer on the menu and then disappointing someone when they come in for those,” Montagne says.

Similarly, the Yelp Connect feature allows restaurants to share updates with local diners on their business page, letting guests know about new menu items, happy hour specials, and limited-time offers. Once they’re ready to dine, Yelp’s Waitlist feature helps customers join the line right from the Yelp app, revealing an up-to-the-minute wait time, how many parties are ahead of them, and what time they should check in with the host, Wright says.

Both Yelp and CurEat allow users to make reservations directly from the app. CurEat syncs with OpenTable, while Yelp’s proprietary online reservations system assists restaurant partners with setting up floor plans, taking reservations, and seating guests.

All of these tools result in a more seamless customer experience and offer restaurants the opportunity to manage their online reputation while also boosting their bottom line. Case in point: A study from Boston Consulting Group shows that small businesses that use Yelp’s free business owner’s accounts see an average increase of $8,000 in incremental revenue each year.

Local Oyster Bar’s Montagne says CurEat has helped increase sales and find new customers in the two-plus years the restaurant has been using the app. Just this past August, for example, the concept partnered with CurEat to host a fundraiser for local public school food programs.

“That brought in a significant amount of business. So much so that a bunch of other restaurants saw it and tagged along, too,” Montagne says.