Sign up for restaurant insights

Word-of-mouth marketing has always been critical for the restaurant industry. In the digital age, it’s more important than ever — online reviews spread like lightning, impacting how customers perceive your brand. These reviews live forever on the internet, so they can boost business just as easily as they can take it away.

Soliciting restaurant feedback is essential for every food service business. When you generate a conversation, you can build brand awareness and find opportunities to improve.

Why do restaurant reviews matter?

Before someone decides to dine at your restaurant, there’s a good chance they’ll do a quick Google search. The reviews are the first thing they’ll see — Google automatically displays the star rating from your Google Business profile and sites such as TripAdvisor or Yelp.

Those reviews can impact customer behavior; 72% of consumers say online reviews are “important” or “very important” when choosing a food or drink business. A glowing report or a five-star rating can convince a potential customer to give your restaurant a try.

Positive reviews indicate to diners that your restaurant business is worth their time and money. They build trust with your target audience, inspiring new customers to try your menu and others to come back again and again.

Negative restaurant reviews have the opposite effect; they can be extremely detrimental to your business. These reviews are a poor reflection of your brand. They create distrust, call customer loyalty into question, and scare away would-be diners. If you experience a pattern of negative feedback, it can impact your revenue.

Reviews can also affect your search engine optimization efforts. Google has confirmed that star ratings are a factor in local search ranking — in other words, they influence the search results for people in your area. Restaurants with more reviews and higher star ratings tend to have higher positions.

Tips for encouraging restaurant feedback

Many customers don’t bother to leave feedback or online reviews unless they’ve had an extremely negative or positive experience. The solution? Actively encourage customers to leave honest reviews.

Ways to solicit authentic, quality customer feedback include:

  • Surveys. Create a basic net promoter score (NPS) survey using an online form or comment card; it can help you quantify customer satisfaction. Questions such as “how likely are you to recommend our restaurant to a friend?” or “how happy were you with the food/service today?” can provide a clear idea of where you’re succeeding and where you need to improve.
  • Promotions. Run promotions on your delivery platform or restaurant website that offer a discount in return for valuable feedback. It’s an easy way to get customers to participate — just make sure you ask guests to be truthful.
  • Social media. Integrate feedback requests into your social media marketing strategy. You could post a poll on Instagram, include a link to a contact form or restaurant survey, or pose a question and ask customers to leave their answers in the comments.
  • QR codes. Print QR codes on your menus, table tents, receipts, and delivery packaging; the code should link to your restaurant feedback form. Customers can scan the code quickly and offer suggestions while they’re waiting for their meals.
  • Influencer marketing. Invite local food bloggers, food critics, or social media influencers to try your restaurant and share their experiences online. You can even offer a list of social media post ideas or templates.
  • Social listening tools. To find out what guests are saying about your restaurant on their blogs, social media profiles, and online review sites, use a social listening tool. It will find brand mentions across the internet and aggregate them for you.

How to analyze and act on customer feedback

Once you have a large volume of customer feedback, it’s time to evaluate and analyze it. This process unearths valuable insights that can help you refine your operations. Some ways to approach this process include:

  • Look for common themes. If you notice a pattern in customer responses, it probably indicates a larger issue. Trends aren’t limited to problems; positive feedback patterns provide useful information, too.
  • Prioritize feedback. Rank guest feedback trends by importance. Take action on the most urgent matters first — it’s usually where you can make the biggest impact on the customer experience.
  • Resolve underlying causes. Look at your highest priority item and find out what’s causing it. If guests complain that their sodas taste strange, your dispenser might be on the fritz, for example. As soon as you find the source, find a way to resolve the problem quickly before it has a chance to fester.
  • Implement changes. If you’ve uncovered larger, systemic issues, such as concerns with food quality, you might need to implement more extensive solutions. If restaurant customers are complaining about slow service, for example, it could be due to understaffing, inefficient kitchen workflows or employee performance. Don’t ignore these issues; by investing in a solution, you can prevent the challenge from affecting future ratings and reviews.
  • Showcase your results: Any time you resolve a customer concern, let them know. Respond to the review, send a personal email, if possible, or post a note on your social media profiles. It’s a small way to show appreciation for their feedback and show you’re listening.

Responding to restaurant reviews

Responding to both positive and negative reviews is a great way to prove you take customer input seriously. It also shows you’re committed to providing the best possible dining experience, both in store and on platforms such as the Grubhub Marketplace. For the best results, craft your responses carefully. 

Respond as soon as possible

Any time you receive a good or bad review, it’s important to acknowledge the feedback quickly. Doing so demonstrates that you’re engaged and paying attention. In the case of good reviews, a speedy response shows appreciation for the positive reinforcement.

When the review is negative, a fast response can defuse the situation before it gets out of control — something that can happen rapidly in the online space. When other customers see you’re taking the problem seriously and acting to resolve it, they might be less likely to react with outrage.

Writing responses takes time, which can be challenging when you’re running a restaurant. To speed up the process, you can create a set of response templates. Alternatively, embrace AI in restaurants and use ChatGPT or other tools to generate your comments.

Don’t take negative feedback personally

It’s normal to feel hurt or angry after bad restaurant reviews, especially if you feel the feedback is unfair or unwarranted. When that happens, take a break and give yourself time to cool down. Return to the response only when you can remove emotion from the equation — it’ll be easier to approach the situation with empathy and respond professionally.

Remember that other customers can see your response. When it’s rude, defensive or unprofessional, it reflects poorly on your restaurant. If you’re struggling to separate your feelings, it may help to run your comments by an objective third party.

Address concerns and explain how you’ll resolve them

The core of your response should address the customer’s feedback directly. Thank them for taking the time to let you know about their experience. Where appropriate, validate the person’s experience by apologizing or taking responsibility. Then explain exactly how you’re going to rectify the situation.

If a customer complains about a strange-tasting menu item, you can say, “Thanks so much for letting us know about your experience! We’re committed to using the highest-quality seasonal ingredients, and I’m sorry your meal wasn’t up to par. I’ve spoken with our vegetable supplier, and we’re investigating the shipment we received that day. We’d love it if you’d give our restaurant another chance; please call me at [phone number], and I’ll send you a gift card to cover the cost.”

In some cases, problems happen due to circumstances outside your control. In that case, you can simply explain the situation and apologize for its negative impact on the customer. “I’m so sorry you experienced slow customer service; there was a power outage in our neighborhood earlier that day, and it took us a while to get through the backlog of orders.”

Invite reviewers back for a better experience

After you respond to a negative customer review, invite the person to give your restaurant a second chance. This strategy shows that you hold no ill will and helps customers feel safe leaving honest feedback. While that specific person might not return, you’ll create a positive impression with others who read your response.

Increase customer satisfaction with Grubhub

As a restaurant owner, one way to create a better customer experience and get better reviews is to partner with a reputable food-delivery service such as Grubhub. The familiar interface, easy ordering system and convenient payment processor streamline the delivery process so customers can get their food faster. If you choose Grubhub Premium, you can respond to reviews directly on the platform.

Partner with Grubhub to curate a 5-star dining experience your customers will love.