Online reputation management – pretty much everyone working in hospitality knows the importance of it. In fact, having a positive online presence can make or break your business, with a staggering 76% of UK consumers admitting to checking internet reviews before choosing an establishment to eat or drink at.
Think about it, if a potential customer searches for your business online and the first review that pops up is from an unhappy or indifferent patron, it’s natural that the customer will look to go elsewhere – to a competitor, most likely. Additionally, in the absence of a properly maintained website, this review could be the very first entry that shows up in search engine results. This could be disastrous for new or smaller establishments trying to build up a customer base.
On the other hand, if the first result to crop up is a shining five-star review – one regaling the merits of your operation – your impression in the eyes of potential guests is safe. In fact, given recent circumstances, and the cautious easing of lockdown at the end of this summer, I’d say that being able to demonstrate trust signals in this way is more important now than ever before.
With many of our customers in the hospitality sector, we wanted to discover the factors that comprise most five-star reviews. Looking at 2,000 TripAdvisor reviews, we set about helping prepare restaurants and bars for reopening this summer by finding the factors five-star reviews have in common and what this might mean for businesses out there hoping to score better critiques. Here are some interesting findings to bear in mind:
Not surprisingly, nine out of ten five-star reviews we analysed mentioned good customer service or friendly staff. In other words, it doesn’t matter how delicious your food and drinks are if your staff aren’t top-notch too. As a business owner, it’s impossible to be everywhere at once, so ensure you have reliable and courteous staff that are well–trained and empowered to handle difficult or unhappy customers. The best staff are honest and trustworthy – even when something goes wrong. Teamworking skills are also essential, so you might consider ways to team-build and maintain open communications between managers and team members, even if it’s just weekly check-ins.
Following on from the importance of good customer service is food safety. After all, creating a safe and hygienic environment is part of the service you offer, and with Covid-19 still on everyone’s mind, there’s an increased emphasis on good health and safety practices, including keeping up to date with food safety qualifications.
Whilst a good cocktail selection cropped up in many of the reviews we analysed, this particular offering seemed especially important for customers in London and Nottingham, where it was mentioned in one out of three five-star ratings!
With alcohol bringing in good revenue for many bars and restaurants, ensure your bar-staff know the classics and can whip them up with a flourish. Creating a new cocktail ‘special’ might also be a good team-building exercise for your staff; something a little different they can work on together to perfect and that will set you apart from the competition.
Don’t underestimate the importance of ‘experience’ or ‘good atmosphere’ – phrases that cropped up time and time again across the 2,000 reviews we looked at; often linked with ‘good music’ (which, admittedly, is rather subjective!).
A good tip to bear in mind in this respect is to know your audience and what makes them tick. This may mean undertaking some market research – even a simple customer questionnaire to help you hit the mark by making small adjustments to suit your guests’ taste.
It’s also worth considering the impact of Covid-19 here, as customers will be looking forward to venturing out again and enjoying the ‘atmosphere’ a social setting can provide. The key here will be to add as much density as possible whilst still adhering to social distancing guidelines. Implementing signage explaining new protocols and managing the flow of people will also help maintain a respectful and safe experience for everyone – clearly communicating that you take the wellbeing of your customers seriously.
During lockdown, many restaurants, pubs, and bars decided to offer takeaway options – a pivot that has clearly gone down well with TripAdvisor commenters. Once again, offering a dine-out option for customers that don’t want to or don’t yet feel safe eating/drinking on-premise is a sign of respect and trust that puts you in good stead to receive top marks in online reviews.
Remember, people looking to online reviews to inform their decisions are looking for representations of real use – not marketing messages or finessed websites. Reviews are a way to instill confidence in your brand, something many people need at the moment if they’re going to leave the safety of their home.
By James Walton, marketing manager at DeltaNet International