Reply constructively to every review.
It can be terribly tempting to voice your frustrations with that one grumpy customer who showed up later than his reservation, only ordered things that weren’t on the menu and afterwards even had the nerve to leave a negative review on TripAdvisor! Please keep your composure when publicly replying to that review.
It’s not about this one guest, it’s about all those future guests who will see that you deal with every comment — even unreasonable ones — in a dignified way. Not replying to a complaint will seem strange too; that gives the impression that complaints aren’t considered important, and then the complaint may end up taking on a life of its own.
And possibly the biggest mistake you could make is not replying to positive reviews. Not replying can come across like you’re ignoring them. Behind every positive review, there is a potentially returning guest who selflessly went to the trouble to let the world know — and who might even refer more people to you, elsewhere online or in the offline world! Imagine how nice it would be to receive a word of thanks from (or on behalf of) the chef themselves.
From the chef?
Yes, from the chef. Usually it’s the owner or the (assistant) manager who replies, but does that make sense? For complaints, it’s a good idea to reply on behalf of the chef and the (general) manager or owner. We are taking your complaint very very seriously, is what that says.
Show your awards.
Some of the restaurant owners we’ve had the pleasure of meeting are just so modest! Show any special distinctions that the restaurant or (one of) the chefs has or have received — your (future) guests would be interested to know and it could be an extra reason to choose your restaurant too. If you can’t do it in text, make sure you can show some good photos in high resolution:
Invest in a professional photographer.
Close your eyes and think of your favourite dish. Take a moment to visualise the details. To smell it. Is your mouth watering yet? Surprisingly enough, not many restaurants take up the effort to have good photos taken of their most popular and best looking dishes, to show on their website and on TripAdvisor. Don’t forget to add a good portrait of the chef in his kitchen. If you don’t, then what people will see instead will be the badly lit, blurry photos from the shoddy cellphone cameras of your guests. Not exactly the impression you want to be known for, is it?
The chef as a rock star
More and more restaurants are also choosing to invest in a professionally made video clip showcasing their chef, kitchen and dishes and the ambiance of the restaurant. Take a look at this video — do we need to say more? Guests also really appreciate it if you continue this theme in the restaurant, for example with a note on the first page of the menu, personally welcoming them on behalf of the chef.
A TripAdvisor card (only) for happy guests when leaving
Remind your guests that they might leave a review on TripAdvisor as they’re leaving the restaurant. You could do this for example with a little card that you hand them at the end of their visit. Of course, you should only do this if you’re sure that those particular guests loved everything about their visit to your restaurant, to increase the probability of only getting top-rated reviews.
Is your restaurant a fine dining restaurant?
In that case it would be better not to hand your guests a card when they leave, but instead send them an email the next day, thanking them for their visit, asking for a comment and incidentally mentioning the possibility to leave a review. For example: Dear Mr./Mrs./Miss <last name>, dear <first name>, Thank you so much for visiting <name of restaurant>. We were very honoured to have you as our guest, and we hope you have thoroughly enjoyed your time at our establishment. We value the opinions of our guests very much, and would like to invite you to share your opinion on us, in order to help us perfect the quality of our service and our menu! The link to our page on TripAdvisor is given below. http://www.tripadvisor.com/…
We look forward to welcoming you to <name of restaurant> again in the future!
<First name Last name>
Chef <Name of Restaurant>
In what categories is your restaurant listed?
Are they all the categories that apply? We often see restaurants that have various vegetarian dishes on the menu, or where the dishes on the menu can easily be adapted for vegetarian guests. Advising our clients to make a separate menu or menu page for vegetarian dishes, and to have the restaurant listed in the ‘vegetarian’ category on TripAdvisor as well, has let us fill up many a restaurant in the past. Don’t forget it’s often vegetarians in a group who decide where the whole group is going to be dining. By accommodating vegetarians too, you can gain many new guests. People often underestimate how common vegetarians are, and they’re quite common: in the Netherlands it’s an estimated 4.5% of the populace.
Seeming expensive scares people off.
We often see restaurants that are very reasonably priced, but still show up in the most expensive pricing category ($$$$) on TripAdvisor. When people can choose between two restaurants with roughly the same cuisine and the same number of positive reviews, you can bet that the (seemingly) cheaper one is going to win. Think about whether it’s wise to classify yourself into the most expensive category, or whether you should pick a pricing category at all if you could just leave it out too.
Don’t let your guests leave empty-handed!
Do you want to have a positive influence on your guests after their visit as well? Then don’t let them leave empty-handed! Give the enamoured couple a rose, exquisitely wrapped in plastic with the logo and name of your restaurant printed on. Give small families a little box (with your name and logo, obviously) of freshly baked cookies or filled chocolate treats. Or think of something more original!
NewTeam has worldwide experience helping restaurants optimise their TripAdvisor pages. We can do this once, every four years or continuously. See TripAdvisor consultancy and management for more information.