It’s certainly not something grandma had to deal with, but unfortunately we do. As painful as they are, online reviews are a fact of life for cafes, espresso bars and food businesses. Here are some tips to take control of how your brand is perceived online and maybe even turn them into an opportunity.

Online reviews, does anyone read those things?

Apparently, the answer is yes. According to a recent survey by Sensis, “over half of social media users (55%) read reviews before making a purchase” The data also shows that cafes, restaurants and bars are one of the largest & fastest growing types of business that people are reviewing. What’s more, local businesses that have more reviews tend to rank higher on google and other review sites - here’s an example of searching for “coffee new lambton” google reviews coffee

So how do I get more reviews…preferably the good ones

You’re serving great coffee, with super-efficient service, right? of course you are, so why wouldn’t people give you a good review… It’s tempting just to write the reviews yourself, or get a family or friend to do it. But it is risky, according to the ACCC, that’s only allowed when they disclose their connection in the review - in some cases (believe it or not), penalties and fines apply. A better option might be to encourage your regulars to submit reviews - they’re far more likely to be positive than someone who doesn’t come in regularly. Most review sites prohibit offering incentives, but you can just ask. Here are some examples: - On a chalkboard. You could quote one of your existing reviews or just mention the site. - Facebook post for your followers with a link to the review tab - when someone gives you some good feedback face-to-face, ask if they would be happy to post it online.
Photo by Christine Kirk  Photo by Christine Kirk

What about negative reviews?

The most important thing is to respond. According to the Sensis survey mentioned above: “If the business in question responds to a bad review, nearly two thirds claimed their opinion may change” It’s easy to get emotional when someone says nasty things, but a humble tone will help defuse the situation. Remember, your response is not just about the reviewer, but about everyone else who reads your response in the future. Some tips:
  • Add a name & phone number to the response. Most won't call, but it lets everyone else reading know that you take responsibility when things go wrong
  • unless the review is completely nasty, thank them for taking the time to respond.
  • If appropriate, let them know what you’ve done to fix it for next time

What about fake reviews?

It happens occasionally, perhaps a competitor or an ex-employee wants to stick it to you. Most sites have a way to report fake reviews. Evidence is usually difficult to come by, but it’s worth a try if the reviews are suspicious. The ACCC states that “Businesses and review platforms that do not remove reviews that they know to be fake risk breaching the Competition and Consumer Act 2010.” You can report it to them directly if you can’t get action any other way.

Which sites?

I’m sure you’re aware there are a lot of review sites & apps out there. Of course, How many you manage is up to you, here are some to check out: Beanhunter - For Cafes & Espresso bars, this has become to the go-to site for coffee reviews. They have recently launched cafe accounts (you can claim your business here) which allow you to respond to reviews and customise the profile pic and other info. Facebook - it’s rare to find a cafe without a FB page. The reviews are built in, keep an eye on them when you’re posting and respond. Tripadvisor - Influential in tourist areas - particularly for restaurants & bars. Like the other sites, you can claim your page here. Google - people tend to ignore their google business information, but the reviews on google turn up in google search & maps listings and all over the internet. You can get control of the listing here. Yelp - Huge in the USA, not as big in Australia. The reviews come up in Apple maps (anyone with an iPhone) so it’s worth taking a look. You can claim your business here.