It is almost overwhelming, the amount of social media sites and tools for chefs and restaurateurs to use to generate business. How do you choose which one to spend your valuable time?
I am going to cover one of the more popular and useful sites out there… Yelp
As with most review sites, there are always going to be folks who complain about everything! Some of the comments are valid, others may be completely out of the restaurant or its staff’s control.
But there can be a lot of good and constructive information gleaned from reviews. Yes, not every review is going to be divine inspiration of what you can do to better serve your customers, but you can see and find trends if you do have even a dozen reviews. (and this goes for monitoring other review sites as well.)
Yelp gives restaurants owners (after they have claimed their business listings at http://www.yelp.com/business/unlocking ) the ability to both respond publicly and privately to reviewers and while many reviewers are anonymous, at least you have a venue to respond. Some of the other sites have no way for a business to respond or defend a less than stellar review.
To a restaurant, this is not just a one off comment, it should be clear that they are having some serious service issues and take steps to remedy this ASAP.
A Few Other Trends I Came Across Browsing Reviews From Around The US:
Specific menu items consistently were mentioned as being awful/terrible in many places. This should be a number one priority for restaurants monitoring their reviews to address and fix.
If 15 out of 18 reviews mentioned the fries were terrible, they tasted like cardboard etc. perhaps its time to change the brand you’re using or if they were frequently mentioned as soggy, your frialator may not be making temp or may need oil or frymax changed more often.
Several places had great reviews about the food and service but had repeat mentions that the coffee was terrible. Changing brands is one option, or if it’s a good product, look at how long before service the coffee is being brewed and has it been sitting on a burner for hours instead of being re-brewed frequently. Even the best coffee is awful with burner burn.
Another example: burgers here at night are always well cooked, don’t go for lunch, always over/uncooked (in a nutshell) several dozen reviews in one place about this. Do you think perhaps your lunch line cooks need a little education on doneness?
Restaurants had dirty silverware, glasses and/or plates. (repeated mentions) This should be a clear tip off to management that you have problems in two areas (possibly three) your dishwasher is not checking flatware and other items for cleanliness, your actual dish machine may need some attention and as well your waitstaff and/or bartenders aren’t paying attention when they are doing table resets or pouring drinks.
Any type of comment that is mentioned more then once (even the positive ones) need to be monitored and tracked. Yes Yelpers can be a thorn in any restaurants side, but it can be useful as well because it is a voice of the customer. While the customers may be not your cup of tea necessarily, they are the paying public and more then a dozen foodies mentioning your drinks are watered is a problem (usually with your bartender).
Use Yelp constructively to improve issues in your restaurant, you don’t have to like it but you do need to listen to it and learn from it how to improve your business.
Until Next Time,