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3. June 2022, 7 min read

Guest reviews are free shout-outs for your restaurant 

Author: Birgitte Brøndum
Restaurant staff, a man and a woman looking at a tablet. They're in a restaurant kitchen and wearing black aprons.
Restaurant staff looking at restaurant reviews on a tablet.
Photo: DinnerBooking

Reviews are the pulse of the restaurant industry, shaping its vibe as diners relish the chance to share their experiences. They’re not just the latest fad, reviews can bring in new guests and strengthen your brand. So let’s not just tolerate them, let’s celebrate them! In this article, we’re diving into how embracing guest reviews can turbocharge your restaurant business.   

Guest reviews help your restaurant stand out in the crowd! Most foodies scroll through guest reviews online before deciding on a restaurant. That’s exactly why you need more guest reviews, piles of them, and why even not-so-positive reviews can help your restaurant get a better reputation.

Online restaurant reviews boost table reservations  

The power of online reviews is reshaping the dining experience. Research indicates that diners across the globe, not just in Europe, make dining decisions heavily influenced by fellow guests’ reviews. This emerging trend is something we’ll explore in-depth as we delve into the statistics later on.

Consider the last time you made a purchase decision – perhaps it was a movie, a pair of jeans, or even choosing a new hairdresser. Chances are, you looked at ratings or reviews before making your final choice. This consumer behaviour extends to restaurant guests who are likely to research and read reviews before booking a table at your restaurant.

Given the option between a restaurant that showcases customer reviews and one that doesn’t, most potential diners will choose the former. Why? Because these reviews offer a preview of their dining experience. Interestingly, a restaurant review from a fellow food enthusiast often carries more weight than that of a professional food critic.

Online guest reviews are not a fleeting trend, but a vital part of the restaurant industry’s future. Their importance to this sector eclipses their impact on any other industry. If you’re yet to realize the potential of online reviews, prepare to be amazed by how they can catalyze your restaurant’s profitability.


Vores Vinbar in Copenhagen uses guest feedback as motivation fuel

The facade of Vores Vinbar in Copenhagen.
Photo: Vores Vinbar

The team behind the cooperative wine bar, Vores Vinbar, consists of 11 friends who enjoy each other’s company and want to create a framework for new communities to emerge across social circles and geography. They own and operate Vores Vinbar on equal terms and guests are always welcome to help shape the wine bar by sharing feedback.

Steen Johannsen from Vores Vinbar says that feedback from guests means everything to him and the rest of the team. Constructive feedback helps them figure out what they can do better, while reviews from happy customers motivate the team and lift their mood. 

Guest feedback means everything to us — Steen Johannsen, Co-founder, Vores Vinbar

Sometimes Steen sends screenshots of good reviews to the team. He knows they’re often too busy to check the reviews, and they get really happy and proud when they read them. 

Steen doesn’t find negative feedback scary. He thinks there should be room for guests to express how something can be improved. He emphasises that they always hope for detailed feedback. Guests need to explain what’s wrong so Vores Vinbar can work on improvements.

We’re not afraid of negative feedback but we always hope for details, so we can work on improvements —
Steen Johannsen,
Co-founder, Vores Vinbar

Happy guests are our livelihood. We want our guests to get the same service we would expect to get at a wine bar,” tells Steen.   

At Vores Vinbar, they actively encourage guests to leave a review after a visit. If there’s an event with a larger group of guests, such as a 30-year birthday celebration or a baptism, the team reminds guests to reply to the feedback request they get via email after their visit.  

 “Our good feedback is a confirmation that we’re succeeding in turning our hobby into something real. Something that people enjoy, ” explains Steen enthusiastically. 

Better Google ranking and up to 27% more bookings   

Reviews are free and effective marketing. Guests are working for you without being aware of it, and every mention counts! When you have a lot of reviews roaming the internet, guests will have a bigger chance of discovering your restaurant. The more guests mention your tasty courtyard brunch or praise your excellent service, the more positive exposure you get. 

Positive restaurant reviews can give you up to 27% more table bookings,

According to a study by Anderson and Magruder, a higher review score can give restaurants up to 19% more table bookings. For restaurants that haven’t been reviewed by food critics or mentioned in the media, the effect is even higher. These restaurants can fill up to 27% more tables by earning an extra star on online review platforms.  

Guest reviews will also help boost your SEO. The abbreviation SEO stands for search engine optimization. In other words, a bunch of strategies that aim to make your restaurant’s name appear on the first page of Google’s search results. Improved SEO means that you get more love from Google and a higher ranking in the search results.

Many factors play a role when it comes to SEO, but to keep it short and sweet, browsers love online reviews. According to the SEO experts over at MOZ, online reviews can make you rank up to 10% better on Google. 10% makes a big difference because there are a lot of restaurants competing for a higher ranking on Google.

Restaurant star rating with yellow stars
Photo: Towfiqu barbhuiya

Guest reviews Do’s and don’ts

Replying to reviews is gold  

Time spent replying to guest reviews is an investment for the future and growth of your restaurant. Your replies will shape your restaurant’s reputation. Devote some time to your reviews and see this as a way of influencing and taking control of how your brand is perceived by regulars and potential new guests.   

Try to reply to both good and negative reviews. Even if a customer only writes a few words, such as: “Love this place!” thank them for the feedback and tell them you’re happy to hear they had a good experience.  

To make things easier, you can write a bunch of template replies, throw them in a folder on your computer, and just add a few changes here and there when using them. Try not to use the same phrasing too often – keep it casual and professional. Remember to mention the reviewer’s name or username in your reply. 

Bad reviews can be good news 

There’s no way around a few unsatisfied customers. No matter much time you spend perfecting your tomato sauce, brunch pancakes or décor, you might still receive a negative review from time to time.  

Reading negative feedback can feel like a punch, but it doesn’t have to be bad for your restaurant. There are many ways of turning bad reviews into gold. Your engagement with reviews often weighs more than negative reviews. Potential guests react positively to an active engagement with all reviews, good and bad.

Replying to a negative review in a positive tone will show other guests that you’re willing to listen. An unsatisfied guest who doesn’t get a reply might end up writing another negative review. Your reply can help prevent that. Do your best to repair the situation. The unsatisfied guest will feel heard if you let them know you care about their feedback.

Learning where to improve is one valuable insight reviews give you. Sometimes unhappy customers are unhappy for illogical reasons, but if enough customers point out that the soup plate is too wide, or the vegetarian options are too few it’s time to listen. If you intend to make changes to fulfil your guests’ wishes, let them know and make them happy!  

You’re replying to everyone

When you’re writing a reply to an online review from one guest, you’re reaching all the potential guests who are reading the reviews. This is good news because it means you get the chance to show everyone how much you care about your guests.  

Even if a restaurant guest is unhappy for a reason that doesn’t make much sense, a diplomatic reply will show other guests that you’re paying attention to reviews. Occasionally, every restaurant has a bad day where things don’t turn out as planned. Don’t be afraid to apologise and promise to improve. 

If a guest is using foul language in a review, it’s always possible to have the review removed. As Steen Johannsen from Vores Vinbar said, “Constructive feedback is welcome, but we need details to know what to do better.” The communication used in reviews should always be pleasant and civil.  

Restaurant staff sitting in a restaurant looking at restaurant reviews on a tablet.
Photo: DinnerBooking

Go get those reviews 

Getting more guest reviews is always good for business, but how do you get them? As with most other things in life, you can get far by simply asking. It might feel a little strange in the beginning, but as we’ve seen, guests already love sharing their experiences, so most will just appreciate your encouragement.  

If you have a newsletter, you can include a link to the platforms where guests can review you. While telling them about all the good stuff you’ve planned for the coming season, throw in a line or two about how much their opinions matter to you. 

Social media is another good place to ask for guest reviews. You can create a post or story, especially for this purpose. Why not remind guests to leave a review of a successful restaurant event you’ve arranged recently?

Your menu: A QR-code with a link or a friendly “Help us make you happier!” request printed somewhere on a menu will be seen by all guests. You can do the same on your business cards. Leave them near the entrance so guests can grab one before they leave.  

Finally, your website is always a good place to remind guests to review you.

Share your best reviews with the world

Got an amazing review that makes you proud? Share it on your website and social media! When sharing good reviews on Facebook or Instagram, you can even include a link that invites other guests to share their feedback.

When guests see your positive reviews, they’ll be tempted to treat their taste buds to the same great experience — yet another way reviews work as free marketing. Don’t forget to ask the reviewer’s permission before sharing.

Embrace guest reviews and build a stronger guest community

We can’t get around the fact that online reviews are important. They’re good for your restaurant’s profit, SEO and reputation and motivational boosts for you and your team. Your best reviews will make you feel even better about doing what you love.

All your hard work and careful planning is going to seem more worthwhile when guests can engage with you. Your online presence helps build a stronger community feeling around your restaurant.  

Listen to your guests, reply to their reviews, make them happier and fill more tables!