Today, it’s virtually impossible to exist as a successful restaurant business without having a presence on online review sites. Potential diners are likely to check out your business’s rating on multiple restaurant review sites before they make a booking.
In fact, 94% of US diners are influenced by online reviews – especially when they’re looking for something new to try. And 33% would never eat at restaurant with less than four stars. Review sites give potential customers ways of measuring social proof and helping customers decide where to eat when and for what type of occasion.
Restaurant review sites also amplify your business’s visibility in Google search results. High rankings are vital for helping new customers discover your business. Ensuring you have a presence on the most important restaurant review sites and optimizing your profile will help boost your restaurant’s performance in search results.
In this post, we’ll explore why reviews are so important to restaurants, how customers use them to find new restaurants, along with which review sites you should pay attention to.
Why are reviews important to restaurants?
Online reviews have become today’s equivalent of word-of-mouth recommendations. Instead of asking friends, colleagues, or family members, people are increasingly likely to turn to online customer reviews.
In fact, 66% of Americans trust an anonymous, online review more than they trust a recommendation from an ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend.
Online reviews are a powerful form of social proof for your restaurant business. If you own or run a franchise business, online reviews can also help customers differentiate your locations.
Reviews are also especially important for small restaurant businesses looking to boost their online reputation and grow their customer base.
People actively look to a restaurant’s online presence to determine whether it matches what they’re looking for in terms of quality, experience, and menu.
This is especially true for younger generations. When choosing a restaurant, Gen Z and Millennials are 99% more likely to rely on social media and online reviews than are Gen X and Boomers.
Read more here on how reviews influence customer decisions.
How do consumers use restaurant review sites to find new restaurants?
Consumers trust user-generated content to help them make purchasing decisions. The same is true for restaurant businesses.
Positive online reviews are more important to the success of restaurants than other types of businesses, with consumers reading more reviews of restaurants than any other industry.
Overall rating is the most important element to 41.4% of consumers when reading reviews to select a restaurant. To help them build a better more in-depth picture of your restaurant experience, potential customers also like to see clear images and menu information.
This is why optimizing your profile and presence on popular restaurant review sites is so important for grabbing potential customers’ attention. A detailed profile with optimized information will help encourage customers to choose your restaurant as opposed to the competition.
There’s also the discoverability element to performing well on restaurant review sites. Top-performing restaurants generally rank higher in search and are more likely to be discovered by consumers.
Top 8 most important restaurant review sites
It’s a good idea to ensure your restaurant has an online presence on multiple review sites. First, take some time to check if your restaurant is listed on the following sites. If you haven’t already done so, you should then make sure to claim your restaurant listings as your own.
Claiming your restaurant listings will then enable you to optimize your profile and increase your chance of ranking well in search and being discovered by your target customers.
Google is unsurprisingly the number 1 site in terms of global internet traffic. With 3.5 billion searches made per day, listing your restaurant on Google My Business opens it up to a huge potential audience.
Registering your restaurant here boosts your business’s chance of appearing in relevant search results. In fact, reviews account for 15.44% of how Google ranks a local business. They’re an important ranking factor for how Google chooses to show restaurant businesses to the relevant audience.
For instance, if someone searches for “taco restaurants in Miami”, Google displays three high-ranking options at the top of the search engine results pages:
Having a high number of top-quality reviews would increase your restaurant’s chance of landing one of these three top spots.
Taking the time to improve your customer experience and therefore boost your ratings will ultimately enable more customers to discover your business and result in more conversions.
Locations that move their Google My Business profile’s rating from 3.5 to 3.7 stars experience conversion growth of 120%.
Going back to the taco restaurant example, clicking through to Coyo Taco opens up a summary of ratings, reviews, commonly mentioned attributes, and some customer photos:
This user-generated content gives potential customers a clear idea of the menu and food they can expect if they choose to dine here.
Google My Business also allows business owners or managers to reply to customer reviews directly within the dashboard.
Thoughtful responses show customers that the restaurant values their time, feedback, and business.
Learn more about how to reply to reviews and take a look at our free templates.
Guide: Confidently Reply to Customer Reviews
Yelp has more than 178 million unique monthly visitors across mobile and desktop devices.
29.2% of people reading restaurant reviews are most likely to read them on Yelp. For those reasons, Yelp is one of the top sites to focus your review strategy on.
Yelp’s advanced search brings up top-ranking restaurants that are close to the searcher’s location and brings up a map:
Yelp has a reputation for longer, more in-depth, and sometimes snarkier restaurant reviews. The unique character of the site and its reviews encourage potential customers to spend time browsing reviews.
Business managers can easily respond to reviews within the platform too, helping customers see that their review has been acknowledged.
Yelp’s “ask the community” feature is a great way of using UGC to answer common customer questions and build social proof at the same time. This feature is particularly relevant during periods of uncertainty like the COVID-19 pandemic.
That said, you want to make sure that you’re answering your customer’s questions. Otherwise, your silence doesn’t look good to a public audience:
As the most widely used social media platform, Facebook has more than 2.6 billion monthly active users.
You may already be using a Facebook Page to promote your restaurant business on social media channels. First, make sure that all of your business details and contact information are up to date.
Facebook has now merged its recommendations and review functions to enable reviewers to say whether they recommend the restaurant as well as write a detailed review.
The top benefit of Facebook is that you can easily interact with users who leave reviews and feedback. Given that it’s a social media platform as opposed to a dedicated review site, it’s much easier to directly interact with your customers.
Business owners can like and comment on customer reviews, just as they would on a regular Facebook post.
Equally, if you notice a negative review, you can easily request to send a DM to the unhappy customer and ask for more information about the experience.
TripAdvisor may be focused on travel-based experiences, but these days it’s well-known as a restaurant review site. You may notice that popular restaurants often showcase TripAdvisor badges and stickers on their premises to show their approval.
TripAdvisor has an average of 463 million monthly visitors and some of the top keywords driving site traffic are “restaurants near me” and “food near me,” making it an essential review site to monitor and optimize.
Take a look at these TripAdvisor restaurant reviews and how the platform enables users to filter them by keywords.
In addition to restaurant reviews, TripAdvisor also enables customers to book reservations online. Within the platform, business owners can:
- Add photos
- Respond to reviews
- Customize their restaurant details
With an average of 11.2 million monthly users, Zomato claims to have 1 million restaurants listed on its site.
Its search bar is similar to other online review sites and enables customers to search by location, restaurant, and dish.
Businesses can display their opening times, location, menu, and photos on their restaurant listing.
As well as customer reviews, Zomato also pulls in reviews from food bloggers and critics.
Positioning itself as a kind of review site social media platform, other users can like and comment on customer reviews as well as share them on other platforms. Business owners are also able to respond to reviews to show customers that they value their contribution.
Once synonymous with NYC dining, Zagat (also known as the Fine Dining Explorer) was the go-to site for honest opinions on restaurants. Zagat is a public survey where anyone can provide scores to a restaurant.
It was purchased by Google in 2011, and since then has somewhat faded in relevance. The Infatuation then later purchased Zagat in 2018 from Google and has been rebranding it as a millennial-friendly restaurant review platform.
In 2019, it was pulling in 4 million monthly views.
While it’s no Yelp or Google My Business, it’s still worth paying some attention to the site, in case your business is pulling some traction.
Currently, it’s worth noting that Zagat is only operating in Miami but they’re looking to expand to more cities soon.
At the moment, Zagat allows diners to rate different elements of their experience including:
Right now, there’s no function for leaving detailed reviews of the business or experience, but that may change as the business expands its offering.
7. Open Table
Since its introduction in 2008, the OpenTable Reviews program has generated more than 97 million reviews by verified diners. And now it’s one of the leading restaurant reservation platforms.
Built as a restaurant reservation platform, it makes it easy for diners to find restaurants with availability for the number of diners at the time they require:
Restaurant listings are visual and user-friendly.
The customer review function is, however, fairly basic. Customers can sort reviews by ratings and newness as well as by certain keywords.
Business owners or managers can also publicly or privately respond to reviews too. Remember even if a customer review is negative, it’s best to respond to it publicly to show potential customers that you value their feedback and you’re taking action.
Starting out as a city guide, Foursquare is quite similar to Yelp in the way it enables users to leave reviews and ratings for different businesses including restaurants. But it differs in the style of review and type or rating – Foursquare uses “tips” to help rank restaurants.
With 50 million active monthly users, the platform allows people to leave short tips about different areas or establishments.
Users can then vote these tips up or down depending on how helpful or relevant they find them to be.
Given that it’s not used purely for online restaurant reviews, Foursquare doesn’t enable business managers to respond to tips.
How have delivery apps changed the restaurant review game?
Many food delivery apps and sites now have their own restaurant review system in place.
In the past, someone reviewing a restaurant might have gone directly to Yelp or Google without thinking about any other alternatives. However, with the increase in people ordering their meals from delivery apps, many customers will use these apps directly to write reviews.
The rise of food delivery apps also means consumers are now looking out for different attributes. In the past restaurants may have seen their ranking predominantly affected by staff friendliness and food quality. Now though, as a result of reliance on delivery, customers may be more likely to rate their experience based on attributes like speed, efficiency, and whether the order was correct.
Apps may also showcase the most popular menu items and show customers their rankings. This is likely to encourage potential customers to order more of what previous customers have rated highly.
Grubhub is an online and mobile app food delivery platform, connecting diners with nearby restaurants. Grubhub had over 31 million active diners in 2020, positioning it as one of the world’s leading food delivery platforms.
Reviews tend to be short, with the main focus on the quality of the delivery service.
Customers can also say which dishes they ordered.
Business owners can reply to reviews within 14 days of the review’s publish date. They can also report reviews with inappropriate or inaccurate content to Grubhub.
Around 28% of DoorDash’s 18 million user base are considered monthly users.
A quick search on the app shows results for restaurants with the quickest delivery.
Along with cuisines and food types, it also allows users to filter options based on their convenience.
Customers are encouraged to leave star ratings which DoorDash then takes an average from and displays within the restaurant’s listing.
Different from other delivery sites, customer feedback is private to the restaurant and not published alongside the listing.
Managers may respond, and customers will receive an automated email detailing your response. But customers themselves will not then be able to respond to this email.
As of March 2021, restaurant owners can see all customer feedback, known as a lifetime rating, for their restaurant in one place.
2020 saw UberEats reach 78 million active monthly users, and the platform continues to outdo its ride-hailing counterpart.
The app’s interface shows users the top categories and most popular restaurants in their area:
For such a widely used food delivery app, UberEats has a fairly simplistic customer review and feedback process.
Upon receiving their delivery, customers are prompted to give it a rating out of 5 stars on the app. They can then also leave a comment if they choose to.
These star ratings are then displayed next to restaurant names in the search.
The comments however are not displayed publicly within the restaurant’s listing.
Business owners can view all of their customer ratings and feedback within the Reviews Page on the backend of the site. UberEats also compiles data on whether the customer is new or returning and their total number of orders.
You can also see tags related to compliments or areas for improvement.
Owned by DoorDash, premium food delivery app Caviar is known for offering quick delivery times from a curated list of the best local restaurants.
With a flat delivery fee of $9.99, Caviar is on the premium end of the food delivery business:
Sticking to their theme of curation, Caviar presents users with their staff picks.
Caviar doesn’t currently display customer reviews or ratings on the app or website. They do however show each restaurant’s most popular dishes.
Combine Reviews with SMS Marketing
Use restaurant review sites to reach your target customers
A strong presence on restaurant review sites will help potential customers better understand your restaurant’s offering and why they should choose you over competitors.
Taking the time to implement an effective restaurant review strategy will help you build brand visibility and help your restaurant appear in “near me” style searches.
If your restaurant offers a delivery service through third-party apps, keep in mind how these ratings and reviews impact how potential customers view your brand.
Start by ensuring you have a presence on the most important review sites and then gradually optimize your listings.
Restaurants and retailers depend on getting a steady flow of new and repeat customers. There are traditional advertising and marketing tactics you can deploy, but to be truly successful you need strategies that immediately engage customers — without burning through resources.
With GatherUp you can extend the impact of SMS marketing by combining your text marketing strategy with your reputation management — gather and listen to customer feedback — such as reviews — then send targeted text campaigns, track performance, and glean valuable insights to drive better customer experiences.