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Consumer Trends

How to snag more guests from online review sites

online customer review

Three out of four consumers turn to an online review site when when they’re hunting for a place to eat, according to Nielsen data included in a new study of which casual restaurant chains are most likely to get checked out. So which of the investigated places is most likely to end up with the business?

The one that’s most active in maintaining its listing, according to the report, which was published last week by Yelp. The data shows that price, menu and location are the most powerful influences in steering a casual restaurant shopper to a particular brand. Ensuring that the correct address and a current menu are posted, along with appealing and up-to-date photos, are the most effective ways to tip a decision in a chain location’s favor, the study concludes.

“The advice is: Get engaged, claim the listings,” says Dylan Swift, Yelp’s director of national marketing. “You can post photos, you can respond to reviews. It doesn’t cost you anything, so why not do it?”

He recommends that the individual locations of a casual chain respond immediately to user reviews. If one is positive, send a private message to thank the poster. If it’s negative, acknowledge publicly that the restaurant is sorry and will fix the problem, and then resolve the issue privately.

Photos are particularly important influences, Swift notes. He cites using professional shots as a best practice, instead of going with blurry or off-centered phone snaps. “Make sure the page really pops,” he says. “Use the page to merchandise,” with limited deals played up.

The study cites a Harris Poll finding that 24% of diners belong to a loyalty program. Yet the opportunity to accumulate points was rated as a low influence on dining choice by the 900 participants in the Yelp study. Decor and the ability to be waitlisted for a table were scored just as high.

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