Monday, 27 March 2017

Restaurants: A sad - and perhaps unnecessary - story

A while ago we offered our services to this restaurant (simply because it was one of our staffer's local hostelry, and he wanted us to help them):

  Garnier - Sadly missed. But 10 Google reviews in four years?

And now, as you can see, it's closed. Which is sad, because we enjoyed our occasional Friday lunchtime sessions there.

Now, we are far from saying that being a member of HelpHound on its own could have saved Garnier, but let's look at the facts:
  • the food was excellent - everyone agreed on that (even the few - including some HelpHounders - who bothered to write a review on Google)
  • the staff had that great balance between 'welcoming and professional' and 'over-friendly' - and they knew the menu backwards
  • the room was great - it actually had space between the tables, unusual for central south-west London these days
  • the location was not 'prime prime', but it was right on the junction of the Old Brompton Road and the Earl's Court Road - and there are half-a-dozen restaurants within a hundred yards
What should they have done (and what should every other restaurant do)?
  1. Collect as many guest email addresses as possible. How? Simple - when you present the bill, give each guest a card and a pencil and ask them to fill in their email - no pressure, but a mention that the restaurant likes to keep regular diners up-to-date with speacial events never goes amiss. For every hundred covers you should be looking at collecting forty emails. 
  2. Email each guest inviting them to write a review to the restaurant's own website, where any issues can be addressed pre-publication by the restaurant's management. Reviews on the restaurant's own website will qualify it for a star rating in organic search and a link under 'Reviews from the web'.
  3. Ask those who have posted a review to copy that to Google. 
Let's look at the numbers per annum (working per 100 covers/day):
  • 35,000 covers - of which 25% provide an email address* - gives...
  • 8,750 email addresses - of which 10% write a review to the restaurant's website - gives...
  • 875 reviews - of which one in five go on to copy their review to Google - gives
  • 175 Google reviews
On top of that - the restaurant has garnered (no pun...) many thousands of contacts for its other marketing. 

*Harvesting email addresses: all that is needed is a card and a pencil - and a dose of charm. It works.

It doesn't stop there...

The restaurant - or its agents - should respond to those reviews, all of them. Why? First because it sends a very positive message to potential customers: if the restaurant cares about its online image then perhaps it cares about the quality of its food and customer service. Second, because responding to reviews keeps reviewers honest - it makes it much less likely that rogue reviewers will exaggerate any negative experiences that may have had.

Look at this review (of another restaurant):

 And then this one:

Both of these reviews have the ring of truth about them. But doesn't the first one - lacking a response from the business - reduce the likelihood that you're going to choose the restaurant for your next outing?

Point made? There's one more piece of advice: take reviews that criticise service much more seriously than those that criticise food. The late lamented A A Gill, when writing his Christmas 'review of reviews' a few years ago, stressed that he would be much more likely to forgive erratic cuisine if service was top-rate.

Can HelpHound help?

Besides giving you the mechanism to invite and display reviews, HelpHound also incorporates an optional response service: Feedback Manager. So, if you are too busy, or lack the capacity to respond to reviews, we are here to help.

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