Growing your restaurant is all about finding new ways to break into spaces you previously hadn’t been able to influence. Yelp is a space mostly for your guests. It’s a social media-like platform that allows dinners to alert one another about exceptionally great or exceptionally terrible experiences. Though the app was designed to connect good restaurants with guests questing for good food, communication on the interface most often occurs only between diners. If you aren’t careful, this two-way line of three-way communication can cut out your restaurant’s voice on the platform entirely. However, with these five tips for using Yelp to grow your business, you can maintain both a strong voice and a strong presence while expanding into an online gold-mine of passionate foodies ready to visit your restaurant.
#5. Cultivate a Powerful Profile.
Once you have “Claimed” your business on Yelp (how the website refers to verifying yourself as the owner from the Yelp Business Owners page), you can begin to enter all the specific details and information you wish your guests to know. Remember to include links to any and all of your external social media, like your website and your Instagram page. Beyond these additions, there a few tips and tricks to beefing up your Yelp profile so that you can stand out. First, add pictures. Restaurant specials, popular dishes, your entire menu, cocktails, decor, interior, and exterior. Your guests also have the option of uploading pictures to Yelp, but you’d be surprised how much better your page will fare when you’ve taken the time to add professional photographs AND photographs of your menu. After you have added pictures, make sure to carefully fill out all of the rest of the sections that Yelp provides, especially the one labeled “More Business Info”. Is your restaurant “Good for Kids”? How would you describe your “Ambience”? Are you “Vegan Friendly”? Complete these sections for quick and easy guest access to necessary information. Your profile is the most public, but also the most personal, aspect of your business’s Yelp presence as one of the few times restaurants have control over their image on the app. This careful cultivating of a thorough, easily-navigable, and attractively presented profile is the best chance you have to take control of Yelp and show the public your best sides.
#4. Actively Engage with Yelp-ing Guests.
Yelp’s main mission is to give the loudest voice to the guest, so that honestly good restaurants can receive honestly good feedback. With good feedback, however, comes bad, and every restaurant on its worst day has felt the effects of bad feedback. Don’t let Yelp get you down. More so than most, this platform gives your restaurant the opportunity to actively respond to comments by reaching out personally to guests who’ve had an unsatisfactory experience. Sending a direct message to reviewers on Yelp who’ve expressed their discomfort is a great way to offer discounts, reimbursements, and reconciliation. After all, the point of Yelp is to demonstrate your value as a business, and reviewers will often comment when owners and managers have made amends for their mistakes. Beyond that, reading your Yelp feedback religiously every week will help you notice gaps in your system that can be hard to suss out from the inside. Oftentimes Yelp reviewers pick up on both the good and the bad, and their noticing that “incredible service never makes up for a slow kitchen” might help you realize you need to streamline your expo process. Engaging with Yelp reviewers isn’t just about maintaining your online reputation – it’s also about learning from your guests in real-time, so that their experience, which is your priority, is always taken care of.
#3. Promote Yelp In-House
This tip comes with two main parts. The first section stems from the literal meaning of “promote”. A simple and easy way to ramp up your positive Yelp reviews is to host a promotional event benefiting both your guests and your restaurant. 10% off your bill with a posted Yelp review, regardless of positive or negative experience, is already an attractive discount before the fun tongue-in-cheek way for your restaurant to garner views. Get creative! There’s nothing people love more than sharing their opinion loudly online and free things. The second part of this tip comes from a more intuitive definition of “promote”. As your designated in-house Yelper reads your restaurant’s feedback each week, have them put together a list of good comments and bad comments. Using this list, go over each Yelp comment with your staff on a designated day during pre-shift duties, a family meal, or a staff meeting in order to make use of the feedback. Not only will your internal environment benefit from praise for what each employee has done well, but fixing bad habits in-house means you fix them on your Yelp page too. One comment is not enough to destroy a reputation, but 27 about too-loud music will guarantee a slump in attendance. By engaging with your Yelp profile in-house, you ensure that even if you aren’t the highest-rated restaurant, you’re making the necessary changes to get there.
#2. Track Your Analytics
One of the most modern and scientific features of the Yelp app is your ability as a business to track your personal analytics. Yelp’s analytics help you monitor like a scale whether or not your restaurant’s presence in the online world is increasing, decreasing, or stagnant. Graphs and charts allow you to view your profile traffic in increments of three-time intervals: thirty days, twelve months, and two years. From these tools, you’ll be able to discern how many people are viewing your profile, how many people have followed your external links, and even how many people called or viewed the map associated with your restaurant. Though these numbers are more of a marketing tool and can’t immediately be used to grow your business, they are an incredibly helpful feature in tracking the success of new promotions and recording benchmark growth numbers. Any progress you wish to see from engaging with Yelp will show up here, easily trackable and easily presentable to investors or potential buy-ins. Your analytics section also offers a third Yelp-designed feature that tracks the amount of estimated income your business has made since beginning to use Yelp. Starting from a position of approximated per-guest revenue, Yelp extrapolates your business’s financial head both before and after joining the app to clearly demonstrate that their platform can be highly beneficial to restaurants who take the time to learn it.
#1. Buy an Ad.
Although this might not be the first thing you considered when deciding to grow your business with Yelp, the benefits of Search Engine Optimization (“SEO”) through ad-buying when it comes to database-oriented websites are unrivaled. Yelp’s advertising system has many different tiers and pricing packages for small businesses that vary from expensive to around $250 per month. Though the company was the subject of a mild controversy because of their pricing, they’ve made important changes in 2018 to their algorithm, explained in this Meaningful Marketing article, to create an affordable model personalized to each restaurant’s budget and target activity. Restaurants who choose to advertise can expect at least double the number of views on their page, if not more, after purchasing an ad. Although guests do notice when Yelp designates a restaurant with the “Ad” symbol, your profile still appears at the very top of the search page, and will nevertheless attract manifold new views. More than that, your ads will also be placed nearer the top of search result pages and on competitor pages according to the Yelp for Businesses website.With an ad in place, the hard work you’ve put in to cultivate an enticing profile and maintain your Yelp reputation won’t go to waste. According to an internal study, Yelp patrons are a unique audience – since the app engages with and represents the restaurant industry, 89% of Yelp users complete their experience with a purchase. Guests who see a highly rated, active, and dedicated Yelp profile won’t waste any time visiting the associated restaurant. With these five tips, that restaurant is you!