Super yummy salad made with dressing from Eau Claire market Oil & Vinegar bar
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…
Tray of goodies at the Butchart’s Afternoon Tea
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’?
Watermelon, feta & mint salad at the Argyle Attic in Victoria, BC
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
An assortment of strange things to eat in Lake Mývatn
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?
My companion’s tuna and salmon sashimi in the foreground, and our individual pieces in the background – from Hana Sushi in Calgary’s Mission district.
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!