happy men in a restaurant with beer

NULLLast week we were lucky enough to attend the New England Food Show in Boston. It’s always great to get out and talk with merchants face to face about the challenges they face and how Upserve can help. While we were there we also made sure to catch a few of the education sessions including “How to Dominate on Yelp” and boy are we glad we did.

Hosted by Laura Briere – President and CEO of Vision Advertising, Laura gave her straightforward and frank advice on how restaurant owners and operators can tackle Yelp… and stop complaining about a platform that, when used proactively, can be one of your greatest allies in attracting customers to your business. Here are some of her insights:

the person most likely to write a Yelp review is a college educated woman between the ages of 25 – 35 with a college education making less than 50k a year.

Why Yelp Matters

Yes, Yelp reviews can skew negative. As a matter of fact, out of all the restaurant review sites popularly used (Urban Spoon, TripAdvisor, Google+ and Facebook) Yelp is the place most likely to find negative feedback about your restaurant. That being said, it’s not as bad as it seems. It turns out 39% of reviews on Yelp are 5 stars, and that’s nothing to turn your nose up at.

In terms of audience, the person most likely to write a Yelp review is a college educated woman between the ages of 25 – 35 with a college education making less than 50k a year. These are reviewers have little disposable income and are choosing to spend their hard-earned cash at your establishment while on a budget – an important factor to keep in mind ie. value matters to these guests.

Things to Remember When Responding to Reviews

  • These are your paying customers – and keeping a customer is much more cost-effective than bringing in new people all the time
  • Your reviewers are human beings – they sometimes have (occasionally unpredictable) feelings – they have bad days like the rest of us
  • They want to feel heard  – especially after a sub-par experience, this doesn’t mean their mind is made up that they’ll never come back… yet
  • Your reviewers are a vocal and opinionated bunch – otherwise they wouldn’t be leaving a review in the first place

Effective Ways to Respond to Negative Yelp Reviews

  • Prevention – the first step is preventing a negative review from happening in the first place by going the extra mile to ensure guests leave happy, that means dealing with issues in the dining room. Of course a negative review is bound to happen on occasion and when it does…
  • Stay neutral – this is not the place to argue or state heated opinions, especially on Yelp where everyone can see your response
  • Growth – see each negative review as an opportunity to grow – although reviews might be exaggerated it is unlikely that a patron would fictionalize an entire negative experience so check your ego and open your ears
  • Kernel of Truth – negative reviews are hard to swallow, but if you look for the kernel of truth in the message (long wait times, cold food) you can find actionable ways to improve

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A Winning Format

When you do get a doozey – take a deep breath and follow this template so you can stay on track and make the most of the interaction. 

  1. Thank them! – Start off by thanking them for taking the time to write you a review, and that you appreciate the feedback.
  2. Validate their input – make sure they know that if they had a negative experience that it’s not what you want for them, and that their enjoyment is your top priority. You can certainly tell them that although their feedback was tough to hear, that you ultimately appreciate it.
  3. Own up to any mistakes – this is the time to tell them that you apologize for any specific incidences that missed the mark.
  4. Offer to correct – invite them back in, ask for a chance to do better.
  5. Keep communication open – invite them back in, ask for a chance to do better.

Good luck out there!