Yelp gets a lot of hate. It usually comes down to this problem:
It’s a review site, but business owners aren’t allowed to ask for reviews.
Lots of restaurant owners get stuck on that idea. They see Yelp as a big scary thing that’s out of their control and potentially dangerous.
But in truth, it’s the biggest review platform in the world (178 million monthly users!), and reviews are powerful marketing tools.
If you own a restaurant, you need to be on Yelp. And you need to use it the right way!
Here’s are four actions you can take today to improve your results on Yelp and grow your restaurant business:
#1) Respond to your reviewers.
People don’t just pay attention to customer reviews – they also want to see how a business responds to its reviews.
Each review is an opportunity for you to engage with a customer (in public).
People want to see how business owners deal with their customers. Positive reviews should be highlighted and thanked, while negative reviews are a chance to engage and solve a problem.
Positive review + response example:This simple thank you to a positive review probably took 30 seconds to write, but it’ll make the business owner look good forever.
Negative review + response example: This response to a negative review is friendly and offers extra customer service to address the problem. Even if the person never gives more feedback, it shows that Chili’s is at least trying to help.
Let’s be really clear about this: you should never ask for reviews or changes to reviews, either explicitly or implicitly.
It’s against Yelp’s policy….and it just makes you look like a desperate business owner.
But with that said, you can still step your customer service game up and improve your reviews. This applies to Yelp and any platform where you handle customer reviews.
Here’s an example from my restaurant’s Facebook page:
A customer ordered something via a delivery app (Foodora). We prepared the order, sent it off with the driver…..and somehow ended up being delivered over 2 hours later.
The customer was upset, of course, and hit us with a 1-star review.
To solve the issue, we reached out directly to the customer via Facebook Messenger. (You can do the same thing on Yelp by messaging a reviewer privately).
We explained what had happened, showed him what time the order left our restaurant, and offered a few suggestions to turn this into a positive outcome for both of us.
Basically, “Hey, sorry this happened, it wasn’t our fault (with proof), but we want you to enjoy our food, so come in and try something on the house”.
Here’s the result:
This customer appreciated our outreach so much that he deleted the 1-star review without us asking him to do so.
The customer deleted the negative review and soon after came in for lunch. He turned out to work nearby and regularly brought a few of his coworkers in for a weekly lunch.
We went from dealing with a really bad 1-star review to having a friendly set of regulars because of the relationship.
Obviously, that’s not going to happen with every bad review. Sometimes bad services happen and customers leave upset – that’s a given in this industry. But at the very least you can reach out and offer to try and make it up.
Action Step: If you want to get the most out of Yelp, set aside 1 hour every week to respond to your reviews. Thank reviewers for visiting and reviewing (whether it’s positive or negative), and try to improve their experience.
#2) Treat local influencers like professional food reviewers
Yelp’s top users are given Elite Status. It shows up like this:
Elite users get a special tag on their profiles
Yelp trusts Elite reviews more than reviews from new users. Eliters are more likely to be featured on the first page of a restaurant’s reviews and their opinions are weighed more heavily by Yelp’s algorithm.
Like it or not, Yelp Eliters’ reviews matter more than regular opinions.
Think about Eliters like a cross between professional-grade food reviewers and Instagram influencers. They’re trusted, they know how to use the platform, and people pay attention to what they have to say.
You should be aware of them, engage with them, and make sure they have great experiences at your restaurant.
This doesn’t mean you should bribe Eliters with free food or cash. But you can network, build relationships, and invite them to your restaurant regularly.
Eliters are also more likely to give you “more” in their reviews. Instead of just saying “great food”, they might write extended reviews about the entire experience.
Elite users tend to post detailed reviews with great images
Action step: One great way to connect with Eliters is to feature parts of their reviews on your social media. For example, if you see some great, Instagram-ready photos on a review, reach out and ask the reviewer if they’d like their pictures featured on your social accounts.
#3) Build out your Yelp profile with menus, images, and prices
Every business on Yelp gets a free profile page. The more complete your profile, the better it will perform on the platform.
The top 3 things people on Yelp are looking for are, in order:
All three can and should be added to your business profile page, like this:
Profile pages like this one front-load the most important parts of your restaurant: prices, menu, and food photos
Yelp’s business profile pages are designed to answer visitors’ basic questions as efficiently as possible. Those top 3 concerns (price, menu, pictures) are all answered above the fold – so a reader doesn’t even have to scroll to get the information they want.
Filling out your business’ profile page is really a no-brainer. It’s one of the easiest steps you can take to make sure Yelp actually works for you.
You can fill out a complete business page in an afternoon. All you have to do is input your opening hours, your menu (with prices), and a few attractive photos of your establishment and food.
If you skip this step, though, you’re setting yourself up for a lot of (avoidable) trouble in the future. Complete Yelp business profiles are the norm nowadays, so having a half-done or blank page sends all the wrong signals to your customers.
Action Step: Fill out your Yelp business page with all the basic information the page asks for, in as much detail as possible.
#4) Use Yelp’s premium features (It’s worth it)
Let’s get this out of the way:
Yelp wants you to spend money on its platform. It gives paying businesses advantages over non-paying businesses.
Is that unfair? Is it manipulative?
Personally, I don’t really care and neither should you. We’re over a decade into the social-media-for-business era and these are the norms. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, all offer “better” capabilities for paying members. Even dating apps do it.
As long as these platforms offer members a variety of tools, you should test them out. Figure out what works well and what doesn’t.
Yelp pushes itself as the most buy-ready platform around (especially for restaurants), so test its ads. Businesses who use Yelp ads make an average of $23,000 in revenue from Yelp, which is $15,000 more than business who just use the free account.
Other paid services include the ability to remove competing ads from your business page, ordering tools, and access to advanced customer analytics. If you use these tools correctly, they’ll help increase conversions on your business page and lead to more customers coming to your restaurant.
If you just focus on generating positive ROI with those services, you’ll be a lot better off than someone who avoids Yelp or tries to game the system.
Action Step: Sign up for the extra business services and run an ad campaign on Yelp. Access to advanced analytics will quickly tell you if it’s worth continuing to do it or not.
Ready to upgrade your Yelp game?
The points I covered aren’t complicated steps to take – but many restaurant owners struggle to actually do them.
The first step is to get past the debate over whether Yelp is good or bad for business.
The truth is, Yelp is the biggest review platform out there and has 178 million monthly users. As long as you believe in your business and you’re willing to do a little extra customer service, you should get on board with Yelp.
The actual work is pretty simple, but it needs consistent action. Here’s a quick recap of what you can do to make sure Yelp is working positively for your business.