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How to Improve Your Restaurant’s Yelp Star Rating

As a restaurant owner, you probably don’t need us to tell you the power that Yelp has in the food industry. A great Yelp rating can propel a business to the top of search results, spread positive word of mouth and drive new customers through the door. Alternatively, a lower star rating can result in fewer customers because your Yelp page might actually be driving people out the door.

Perhaps you’re hoping to bump up your overall star rating by a star or two, or maybe you want to focus on holding strong at a solid 4-star rating. Either way, we have some tips for you below!

#1: Forget about your star rating.
I know, I know. You’re confused. You thought this was the whole point of this blog. You probably don’t even know if you should keep reading. Hold tight. Here’s why you shouldn’t be solely focused on your star rating: it’s just a reflection of what happens inside your restaurant. You have a lot of control over what happens inside the walls of your business. You don’t have a ton of control over what people are going to write about you on Yelp. It’s a much better use of your energy and time to focus primarily on what you can do to improve your menu or training program than to spend everyday refreshing your Yelp page and getting frustrated your star rating isn’t going up. So now that you’ve completely let go of caring about your star rating (it’s so easy, right?), let’s move on.

#2: Claim and optimize your Yelp Business Page.
Now that you’re in the right mindset to handle your Yelp page like a pro, it’s time to claim your restaurant’s Yelp Business page if you haven’t already. Once you’ve done that and have set up a Business Owner account (remember, to manage your business page you’ll need to log in via biz.yelp.com, not yelp.com), you’ll want make sure all of your business information is up-to-date. It’s critical that your business hours, address, phone number, website, and information about reservations, delivery/carry out options are current. The more information you can provide, the better! This will make sure that people aren’t showing up at 9pm when you close at 8pm. That kind of misinformation will leave a bad taste in their mouth and they might even write a negative review or swear off trying your restaurant again. These types of incidents are entirely avoidable – so make sure your business page is up to date!

#3: Focus on customer service and be open to feedback.
By all means, read those 1 and 2 star reviews (or perhaps have a manager read them and report back to you with common themes), but keep in mind that your first priority should be to provide excellent customer service to these reviewers. You most likely make customer service a top priority when it comes to dealing with customers inside your restaurant, so why shouldn’t that same philosophy apply beyond the walls of your business? If you focus on providing honest, clear, and helpful service to the people who are reviewing your business, it will show.

#4: Respond to every single person who leaves a review.
Sounds obvious right? For many restaurateurs, it’s too much work to keep up with all of the reviews their business gets. For others, it’s too draining and emotional for them. We totally understand both reasons. However, 26% of consumers say it’s important that a local business responds to online reviews according to Marcel Digital. So simply the act of sending a reply is already showing that you care about what they have to say. In fact, the Harvard Business Review did a study that suggested that improved ratings can be directly linked to management responses. Many times, people who write negative reviews just want to feel like they’re being heard. Start with a private response first. Use your reply to educate and empathize (and maybe even apologize – we all know things happen) with challenging reviews while showing gratitude to positive reviewers. If you’re someone who recognizes that you get upset when reading negative reviews, delegate this task to a manager who can write well and apply their excellent customer service skills to review responses. If there’s a review that is completely off base or there’s something you want to set the record straight on, we recommend posting a short and sweet (but nice!) public comment.

#5: Understand Yelp’s Content Guidelines. Use them to your advantage.
Yelp does have some rules for user reviews. Read them a few times and bookmark that page. You’ll want to refer back to it. When you log in to your Business Owner account and are looking through the reviews, you have the option to report any review by clicking on the flag icon located at the bottom left of the review. Yelp will give you some options that correlate with their Content Guidelines. Now, this does NOT mean you should try to report every 1 or 2 star review. Many are legitimate and will require an honest and open reflection about where you might be able to improve as a restaurant. However, there are reviews that are completely appropriate to flag. Yelp requires a written argument when reporting a flag, so keep those guidelines handy and put together a respectful argument for why you believe the review violates a guideline (or 2 or 3) and why. Pro-tip: Pull language directly from the Content Guidelines when you can to argue your case. Yelp will email you (usually in within 2-4 days) with their decision. If they don’t remove the review, you can report it for a second time here. Remember, do not abuse this feature! If you do, Yelp has no problem denying report after report. 🙂

So – are you ready to start taking control of your restaurant’s Yelp star rating?

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