How is it that I’ve been through Gasoline Alley in Red Deer going back and forth to and from Edmonton for years… and it was only recently that I visited the Donut Mill?
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I write for Happy Sushi Belly for a few reasons, 1) I write for a living and constantly writing keeps things flowing when I just have to pound out that 45 page proposal in 2 days (true story) 2) I love to share my experiences with others who have similar interests, 3)It’s good experience with my camera – when I can remember to bring it! and 4) It’s a good way to remember what I liked and didn’t like… for when I go back and am sitting down wondering “did I like the gyoza here?”
As I’ve mentioned before, I prefer to keep my reviews pretty positive, though sometimes that’s hard and I have to give a bad review. (I’m looking at you, Schanks). I know that reading good or bad reviews makes a difference if I choose to visit a place or not (and sometimes I wish I had read the reviews first after finishing a meal..) but what is the difference to restaurants, cafes, and other places that get reviewed?
Do good reviews guarantee a good meal?
There’s an article in the Ottawa Citizen by Peter Hum about ‘the numbers game’ on review sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor and other review sites. The author concedes that sometimes a place with a bad review actually gives him a good experience, and vice-versa, sometimes a well-reviewed place is lackluster in person. Changes in suppliers and staff could make a big difference in this, not to mention the personal bias of the reviewer. (After all, no place that gives me onions is going to get a glowing review, no matter how good the food might be otherwise!)
But a lot of positive numbers do have at least one effect…
However a high number of positive reviews does have one obvious effect – it moves your business up to the top of the list on those reviewing sites. For instance, on a review site Fine dining list, the following restaurants are at the top of the list:
- Bolero Fire Grill
- Gaucho Brazilian
- Vero Bistro Moderne
- Japanese Village
Does this mean that Japanese Village is far better than the little strip mall Japanese place close to home where you’ve been going for years? Nope, but it does mean that if I hop onto a review site and am just looking for a place to eat fast, and don’t want to do a lot of searching, Japanese Village is more likely to get my business than your around-the-corner favourite.
Peter goes on to illustrate a restaurateur who really did want to get the ‘numbers’ for one of his restaurants up – looking to increase the rating from 62% to 75% as his goal. His plan to ask for up-votes from his friends backfired, as a particular review site saw a huge rush in traffic to vote for his restaurant as potential spam. Instead of his percentage of positive “thumbs up” going up… it actually went down.
Do a lot of positive reviews get ‘butts in the seats’?
Social media & search engines has made it easy for people to find out what other people think – just type something into a search bar or post a question on Twitter and you’ll have loads of responses. We’re also more likely to believe the review of someone we know than someone we don’t, and more likely to believe the review of someone we don’t know than the marketing of the business owner. In his article “Boost your Yelp Rating… and your sales with these six steps” Arment Dietrich quotes a Harvard Business School study that concluded that one full star books on Yelp can increase sales by 5-9%. That’s a lot more sushi.. or tea.. or hamburgers..
How can restaurants get good reviews?
While it’s true that people are possibly more likely to tell their friends “oh, don’t go there.. they’re terrible!” than to log into a review site to put their name behind their opinion, but there are a few tips that can get restaurant owners & managers on the right foot to getting ‘that extra 5-9%’.
1) Serve good food, at a good price, and do it well.
It might seem pretty obvious, but if your staff are lackluster, your dishes are spotty, your food is overpriced, and the menu is boring… you’re not going to get rave reviews. Consumers have a whole wealth of options to choose from, and at the end of the day they WANT to be glad they picked your establishment.
2) Live up to your promises
If you say that you have the ‘best ribs in Calgary’ – is that true? Do you regularly check out the competition to evaluate your price, quality, speed, service, cleanliness and all of those other factors to ensure that you really are the best? If your menu has photos, does the plate on the table really resemble the photograph? Don’t expect positive reviews after the bill has been presented if what they bought is nothing like what you promised they would get.
3) Monitor your reviews
Monitoring your reviews is an amazing way of seeing if you’re living up to your promise. For example; Are bloggers taking photos of your food? How much does it look like your menu photos? Sign up for the different review sites (more about that below) and sign up for a Google Alert to get the news from news sites, bloggers, and more. Follow your own hashtag on Twitter, and Instagram and read your comments on your Facebook page. Pay attention to who is leaving you great reviews or posting mouth-watering photos – and reward them! Likewise, if you see that a particular customer had a bad experience – respond and make it better!
4) Own your own review pages or set them up yourself
There’s nothing worse than having a hundred people show up at 10:00 a.m. because they read that your establishment was open for breakfast… when you actually don’t open until 11:00. If you own your own review page you can update it with hours, maps, address, phone number, along with sync it with your own Twitter feed so that viewers can get an automatic update about your restaurant – without you having to do any additional work.
What do you think?
Do you pick a place to eat based on reviews, or are you more likely to dine wherever is closest? What would you recommend places do to improve their reviews? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!
Unfortunately I don’t have much in the way for new posts for you right now, but in the meantime, here are two photos from The One Sushi, one of my new favourite AYCE sushi places in Calgary – largely because along with sushi they also have a wide variety of other dishes too – really excellent for when going out with folks who don’t love sushi.
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 32,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 12 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.
Private for Happy Sushi Belly contributors: Click here to see the complete report.
The other day I shared my unexpected happy surprise with the flavour and texture of gyoza at Joey’s Seafood. While writing that post, I also happened to be looking at my news feed – and saw that another popular seafood chain is totally re-vamping their menu in order to focus more on seafood… to get their customers back and increase dwindling sales. The thought is that people are opting not to visit Red Lobster because they no longer seem to specialize in the seafood people used to go there for. News reports also indicated that they’ll also be reducing the discounted prices for BOGO meals, and plating their meals differently moving forward with these changes…
My last experience with Red Lobster wasn’t a good one. In fact, it turned me and my companion off returning. Was it the plating? No. Was it whether or not the food was on top of the rice or beside the rice? No. Was it the cost of the meal – nope.. not that either.
It was the service, and the food. Both weren’t great. There weren’t enough servers/staff, and the food came out cold, overcooked, and underwhelming.
Other than the biscuits – the biscuits were still great.. but who goes to Red Lobster just for the free biscuits?
It kind of reminds me of another restaurant – where they keep tweaking things, changing menus, changing the decor.. but at the end of the day, I don’t go because 3/4 meals I’ve had there have been bad. (Oh, and in one of those menu changes, they took off the 1/4 that was ok…)
So what do you think?
Have you been to Red Lobster recently? Will a more seafood-heavy menu bring you back if not? (or are you just going back for those biscuits?)
Want to read more about these changes? Check out this article on WTVR.
Are you a culinary traveler? Do you explore exciting destinations with all of your senses – including your tastebuds?
Travelocity just published a top 10 list of amazing places to visit – based largely on the cuisine they’re known for!
So… who made the list?
Top 10 travel destinations for amazing food: (According to Travelocity)
A while back on our Facebook page there was a bit of a discussion about children (specifically babies) in fine-dining establishments. This was brought about by an article on NBC news when a chef at a high-end exclusive restaurant tweeted a question if babies should be in an establishment where the price tag starts at $200 per person.
There was a lot of debate about the topic on Twitter, and a few comments on our Facebook page as well (click the link to join in).
While everyone can probably understand the frustration of finding a reliable sitter even if they don’t have a child, there are certain times and places where a screaming infant, tantrum-throwing toddler, or teething tot. Romantic dinners, catching up with long-unseen friends over coffee, or sharing a meal with soon-to-be in-laws comes to mind just for starters.
What do you think? When you go to “family restaurants” it’s natural to expect a variety of kids there, but what about when you want to go out for a really nice meal? Do you ask your hostess for a table in the the “no children zone”?
Let us know in the comments below or join us on Facebook!