Online reviews are more important to restaurants now than ever. The trick for operators is figuring out how to handle those reviews with the same hospitality as a person-to-person interaction.
— Erika Adams
The amount of business reviews left online has nearly doubled in the past year, according to a new joint report from Merchant Centric, a data analytics company, and Xenial, a restaurant point-of-sale management company.
The two companies collaborated on an analysis of 27 million businesses across a number of different sectors, including restaurants and retail, and found that customers had left over 611 million online reviews from March 2017 to March 2018. That’s up from 367 million online reviews a year prior. The jump is a 66 percent increase in the amount of reviews published online from 2017 to 2018.
The data also showed that restaurants in particular are more likely to engage with online reviewers as compared to other sectors. Restaurant operators were 46 percent more likely to engage with people who left reviews online. Overall, the restaurant sector had a 29 percent increase in engagement with reviews over the past year.
Specifically in the top ten most-reviewed restaurant categories (which included steakhouses, seafood, and pizza), the amount of online reviews climbed from 86 million in 2017 to 141 million in 2018.
As the analysis points out, the rise in restaurant engagement with online reviews is likely correlated to how deeply reviews can affect a restaurant’s sales. According to a study published at Harvard Business, a one-star increase in a restaurant’s overall Yelp rating leads to a five to nine percent increase in total sales.
“Reviews have become incredibly influential since people consider them as first-hand reliable accounts, as if it was a friend giving their opinion,” David Bay, CEO of Merchant Centric, said in a statement. “It’s now vital for restaurants to interact with online reviews in order to increase revenue.”
Of course, there’s a right way and a wrong way to interact with those online reviews, and it’s up to the individual restaurant to figure out to translate hospitality correctly in that medium. As recent news has demonstrated, it’s still a work in progress for some operators.