Yikes, It’s Yelp! — Making User-Generated Review Sites Work for Your Restaurant

Yelp and other user-generated review sites aren’t usually viewed favorably by restaurateurs and restaurant management. It’s understandable, given the penchant for customers with the strongest opinions to post their experiences all over the internet. However, that doesn’t mean that management can’t utilize these reviews to identify issues and better business for both employees and customers. 

Use these three tips to make Yelp reviews a valuable business tool rather than a pestering nuisance. 

1. When Possible, Respond to Every Review 

At my restaurant, we strive to respond to every single review – whether it be negative or positive. While some people might view this as overkill, I’ve found it truly humanizes your brand and reminds your guests that there are very real people behind the service and product they’re receiving. 

For the positive reviews, we always respond by thanking the guest for taking the time to write and visiting us. This demonstrates a genuine appreciation for their patronage. When appropriate, restaurants should also take the time to address any specific questions based on the review and emphasize to the guest that staff will continue to ensure they have the same great experience time after time. 

For negative reviews, which will happen no matter how good you and your team are, it’s important to also show gratitude to the guest. Thank them for taking the time to write the review and let them know that their feedback is valued and heard. From there, address or answer the issue stated and detail how it will be remedied. If you feel the issue was genuine, offering an incentive (free meal, discount, etc.) is a great way to demonstrate your dedication to proving your commitment to the guest. 

2. Use Reviews to Help Staff and Training

One time, a regular left a three-star review on Yelp that detailed how they were disappointed by how a takeout order was handled. This review genuinely upset me given that the guest was a regular, we had a strong team working that evening and proper customer service and food guidelines were not followed. Of course, we responded to the customer, apologizing and remedying the situation. But we also used this as sign that we needed to refocus our training efforts. 

It can be tempting to want to throw free food at guests to immediately rectify the situation, but be sure to take the time to look internally and make sure the source of the problem has been addressed. Whether that means additional training or retooling company protocol, be sure you’re nixing customer service issues at the root. 

3. Take Every Review with a Grain of Salt

I sincerely believe that, in almost all cases, you can win back a guest if you handle the situation promptly and professionally. But at the end of the day, we’re still all human and people will be people. 

Whether that means accepting that sometimes even your best-trained staff will make mistakes or simply have an off day or understanding that sometimes people just want to complain loudly and aren’t in search of a solution. Make sure you don’t take anything said online or otherwise too personally. If you’ve done what you can to rectify the situation and taken steps to ensure it doesn’t happen again, that’s all anyone can ask. 

No one ever claimed the restaurant business was easy and management is tasked with juggling a lot of different responsibilities. But it’d be hard to argue that there’s anything more important to a restaurant’s success than guest experience. User-generated review sites are great tools to help ensure guest experience always merits five stars.