Even if you own the diviest of dive bars, you will get online reviews—regardless of whether you have a computer, smartphone, or website.
The reason for this is simple: online review sites like Yelp, Google, OpenTable, TripAdvisor, and Facebook allow customers to post reviews about your bar, even if you haven’t created a business profile on these sites.
And you need to understand, online reviews are incredibly important for any small business these days, including your bar or lounge. A Cornell study found that a one-star increase in your online rating (which is determined by reviews) can increase revenue by 39%.
On the other hand, studies also show one bad review could cost you 30 new customers. Yikes.
No matter how you feel about online review sites, they have become the default “forum” where potential customers have conversations about which bars and lounges they should visit in your area.
And even if someone gets a personal recommendation for your bar or lounge, they frequently will check online reviews for “social proof” first, and will make their final decision to visit only if your reviews are acceptable to them.
So if you want to get more traffic to your lounge or bar, you need to get onboard with the review site trend, and develop a plan to attract more good reviews and minimize the effects of bad reviews.
Here are the key 5 steps to getting more reviews for your bar or lounge.
1. You must claim your business’s profile on all the relevant review sites
Before you take any other action toward getting more reviews, you absolutely must start with claiming your business profile on major review sites (like Yelp, Google, TripAdvisor, Facebook, and Foursquare—click for our useful how-to articles).
You should also create or claim your profile on any industry-centric sites like OpenTable for restaurants, bars, and lounges, and if you operate a brewpub or serve proprietary beers, you should work to get listed on the BeerAdvocate and RateBeer review sites.
If you serve food, there are other review sites you should regularly check to see what customers are saying—like Zagat if applicable, Zomato (formerly Urbanspoon), Gayot.com, and GrubHub—even if you don’t plan to officially engage with these sites (or if, as is the case with Gayot, they don’t allow your input as an owner).
Consider creating and/or optimizing your listings on local business search engines like Yahoo! Local, Bing Local, Citysearch, and Merchant Circle.
In all cases, correct any errors you find and complete as much info as possible. Claiming your pages and keeping them complete and current improves your search result rankings and will start bringing in more customers.
2. Understand that any online review for your bar or lounge is a good review
An important mental shift is for you to understand that any review is good for your business… even a bad review.
Of course, if all you ever get is bad reviews, there’s probably something very wrong with your drinks, food, bartenders/mixologists/sommeliers, waitstaff, or facilities, and unless you fix the problem, you won’t be in business for long. But for smart proprietors, a negative review is an opportunity to improve your products or services.
One of Womply’s clients, The Gables at Chadds Ford, recognized early on the potential benefit of online reviews—including the occasional bad one.
Cathy Centofanti runs the online portion of the business, and told us, “We want customer feedback. Some companies pay a lot of money to know what customers think, and we get it for free from online reviews.”
When someone leaves a less-than-stellar review, Cathy reaches out to them and asks for another chance to make them happy. “They almost always take us up on it, and they always leave happy the second time.”
3. Respond politely and quickly to all reviews
When you post a timely, real reply to each review it shows your current and future clientele that you take feedback seriously, which makes you more attractive to potential new customers and improves repeat business.
You should read and respond courteously to every review, including bad ones. Be the adult, and keep things professional and civil. Offer to take the conversation offline/private to deal with any issues. For detailed tips on how to respond to negative reviews, see our in-depth article.
4. If you want to get more reviews, just ask… but do it the correct way
Once you’ve taken the steps above, getting more reviews is easier than it may seem. Just ask!
Data shows most customers will leave a review if you simply ask. However there is a “right” way to do this:
- Put up official signs and decals from sites like OpenTable and Yelp, encouraging customers to leave a review
- Make a verbal request while the customer is at your bar or lounge
- Include a reminder on printed payment receipts, asking for feedback
- Text or email your customers a link to review your business after they leave (If you don’t have their contact information, consider Womply’s “pre-populated” CRM, which automatically creates and appends your customer list and allows you to send marketing emails or reminders, even if you don’t have your customers’ contact info).
There are also some “wrong” ways to approach reviews. Never give in to the temptation to do any of these, or you could provoke the ire of the Federal Trade Commission, get banned from all review sites, and destroy your brand:
- Never offer free drinks/food, gifts, discounts or other benefits in exchange for a good review
- Never ask anyone to leave you a 5-star review. When you ask people to leave you a review, don’t even ask for a “good” or “positive” review. Just tell them you value their honest feedback
- Never threaten unhappy customers you fear may possibly leave a negative review
- Never, ever attempt to purchase good reviews
Don’t be tempted to pay for positive reviews
Unfortunately, the internet is rife with shady “reputation management” companies offering to sell you positive reviews. Don’t do it. This approach is certainly unethical, possibly illegal, and ultimately bad for your business.
Your efforts should focus on getting more reviews from your actual customers. Try to get and keep a 4-star rating by providing a memorable, excellent customer experience. Your current and potential customers will be able to tell the difference.
5. Use technology to help manage your online reputation
Some bar or lounge owners seem to feel that once they have optimized their online presence and responded to some good reviews, they can sit back and watch the positive reviews pile up. It doesn’t work like that, unfortunately.
Managing your online footprint is not a hands-off process. It requires ongoing effort because as customers continually post fresh reviews about your bar or lounge, things can change quickly. Remember, reviews older than about 90 days aren’t relevant in most customers’ minds.
If you’re having trouble finding the time or staff to manage your online reviews, Womply’s Reputation management software can be a lifesaver. Womply notifies you when you get new reviews and allows you to read and respond to reviews on all of the popular review sites from one dashboard with one login.
Womply also allows you to send customers a reminder to rate your business, encouraging happy bar patrons to post their reviews on the popular sites, and less satisfied customers to send you feedback directly. So you get more good reviews and can address complaints privately before they get posted online.
Small businesses that use Womply bring in 20% more revenue, earn 22% more repeat visits, and save an average of 10 hours per week. Get a free, personalized demo of Womply’s small business software by filling out the form below.
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