online restaurant reviews with carbonara app

Pros and Cons of Online Restaurant Reviews

Whether they like them or not, restaurants will regularly receive reviews from customers online. They’re an inevitable part of the business — so learn how to wield them to improve your restaurant’s appeal to customers today.

Negative reviews can be dissuading, but they’re an everyday challenge every restaurant must face. Talk to our expert team to discover how technology can help you improve instantly .

What is an Online Restaurant Review?

An online restaurant review is a public critique posted onto an online noticeboard such as Google or Yelp. They’re sometimes positive, sometimes negative. They usually share a guest’s experience with the restaurant, delving into expected details such as atmosphere, service, and food quality. 

Though some online reviews may seem well-written providing a critical examination of a restaurant, they’re different to professional reviews found in periodicals, newspapers, and magazines, which all include professional critiques on restaurants. Online users rarely get paid for writing a review.

Both types are vital for a restaurant’s business. A professional review is great for publicity and an authoritative stance on a restaurant’s quality. However, in today’s hyper-connected world, online reviews are most likely a customer’s first touchpoint for discovering new places to eat.

This is because online reviews are instant. A search result may yield tens if not hundreds of reviews (including average ratings) at the click of a button. 

Why Guests Use Online Reviews

Online reviews are a forum for word-of-mouth recommendations — the spoken word made digital. There is a personal quality to online restaurant reviews; people feel free to share true opinions on their experiences. This is user-generated content that, frankly, most customers rely on and trust when deciding where to dine out. 
Online restaurant reviews are popular because people think them reliable. In 2014, a research group found that consumers tended to act on the information they found in user-generated reviews. In “Motives for reading user-generated restaurant reviews on Yelp.com” the authors listed four big reasons consumers turn to online reviews before making a purchase or deciding where to dine out.

1. Calculating risk

Customers don’t want to be disappointed. Since restaurants provide experience goods (i.e. the type of goods that depend on individual consumption with multiple factors, including preferences and taste), new customers fear a future letdown. Online reviews help to alleviate this fear, listing the past experiences of others.

2. Instant feedback

For hungry customers looking for a good meal, research is a pain. On the other hand, online reviews allow customers to gather a bundle of information on restaurants quickly and efficiently.

3. Providing a mirror

After visiting a restaurant, customers may read reviews online to help bolster a good experience or reduce a sense of remorse over a restaurant meal. As such, reviews are sounding boards for personal opinions, which customers may or may not turn to.

4. Supporting options

Peer groups are important. The general mood found in a swath of reviews is significant as it eventually sways a customer’s decision to visit a restaurant. Review platforms have an important effect on the communal feeling of a customer’s opinion, supporting whether they agree or disagree.

Restaurant Reviews Example

Since they’re for a general audience, online reviews tend to be informal. A typical example will give the main opinion in the title, then write about the important parts of the experience, both the good and the bad. An example would read something like

Good Mains, But Bad Service

Visited for lunch with my partner. We loved our traditional British mains which were delicious with heaps of exciting flavours. We thought this was very impressive.

However, the overall service was unfortunately below average. Also, the sides were undercooked and we were unable to finish. 

At some point, every restaurant has to deal with reviews that are seemingly blunt, insisting on the good and the bad aspects of one customer’s experience. However, restaurants should view these types of reviews as windows of opportunity, and weighing up the positives and negatives can be beneficial for a restaurant.

image courtesy of  Nenad Stojkovic via Flickr (Creative Commons 2.0)

The Pros and Cons

Restaurant reviews are a “where to eat” hub so they typically have no choice but to go into the good and bad. The positives are nonetheless important.

  • Constructive feedback. Thoughtful and well-meaning reviews offer restaurants the chance to proactively improve their services. Acting on any criticisms is helpful and useful.
  • Responsive commentary. Most platforms allow restaurants to respond to users. Comments open up discussions that help to show customers that a restaurant cares about their custom.
  • Meaningful metrics. Whether positive or negative, reviews at least show internet users that people are visiting your venue. Regardless of what they say, user-generated reviews show that you’re important enough for people to talk about.

Sometimes though, online restaurant reviews can have negative consequences too, both intentional and unintentional.

  • Inappropriate responses. An impassioned review can alter the general picture of your restaurant’s online profile. When customers typically go for either end of the extremes, selecting and posting either a five- or one-star review. One star reviews are rarely helpful or fair. They can deeply damage a restaurant’s online credibility.
  • Fake reviews. Unfortunately, most of the internet is unpoliced. Concerns over rigged reviews are very real as some companies feel the need to improve their online presence via false means. Often, this involves sponsored content that restaurants pay users for. Worse, fake reviews also come in the shape of computer-generated or automated responses, that pose as real customers. If restaurant guests pick up on this, fake reviews can seriously damage a restaurant’s reputation.
  • Ignorance is bliss. Ignoring online reviews is a big mistake that can have significant impacts on any business. Granted, it’s tempting to think online reviews are unimportant. However, restaurants benefit when they choose to respond and incorporate online reviews for their own good, to make a meaningful impact on their services.

How to Use Restaurant Reviews On Google and Beyond

Restaurant reviews on Google are your friend, not your enemy. They’re a great way to track customer opinion unavailable via any other means, such as a pen-and-paper survey. When treated right, online reviews:

  • Are available at all times
  • Generate hype and customer curiosity
  • Boost a restaurant’s online profile

To ensure more positive reviews, restaurants need to listen to what others have previously said about their services. For example, a customer may write a review commending a restaurant’s quality of food, but complain negatively about the wait time for a table. Discover how restaurants can proactively respond to this criticism.

Engage the local community to respond with positive restaurant reviews on Google — for free! A restaurant app can help you better engage with customers, saving everyone time.