Responding to Online Reviews of Your Pizzeria

Posted by Elizabeth Kelly

Elizabeth was the Marketing Specialist for SpeedLine Solutions from 2017 to 2021. As the previous Managing Editor for the On Point Blog, she ensured our audiences got the restaurant and delivery technology information and news that we're known for.

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The opinion of strangers online holds more weight with your customers than you would expect. Responding to online reviews of your pizzeria is an important part of managing your business’s online reputation, and is a useful source for gathering customer feedback for your restaurant. Here are a few best practices for how to respond to positive and negative reviews for restaurants:


Get the notification. 

Before you can respond to a review, you need to know it exists. There are a few methods to monitor the online presence of your brand name, depending on where people are talking about your restaurant. 

1. Social Media

If you have a social media presence, ensure notifications are turned on for all of your accounts. If someone tags you in a Twitter post, how long does it take you, or someone on your team, to notice and reply to it? Often, people turn to Twitter when they have complaints and they have not received a response through other more direct channels. 

Monitor hashtags that include your restaurant name on Instagram and Twitter. On Facebook, join local community groups. In many cases, local parenting and community groups are used as a platform to share recommendations, events, and concerns (both on, and off topic). If you belong to these groups, you can get involved and respond to feedback immediately. 

For more information about social media for pizzerias, read our Social Media ebook.

2. Travel and Review Sites

To respond to reviews about your pizzeria on Yelp, or other review sites, you will need to register your company with the website. Each travel and review site will have its own registration method, and should alert you by email about any reviews as they are submitted. Ask around and determine which travel and review websites are most relevant in your city. Make a note to keep on top of these trends as they change. Ask staff where they would review your restaurant and make note.

3. Google

Did you know you can earn points to redeem as money on the Google Play store for reviewing local businesses? Google reviewers have an incentive to review your business, good or bad. To be notified of reviews of your restaurant made on Google, you need to claim your Google My Business profile. This profile controls how your restaurant appears on Google Maps and as a sidebar in search results. 

We’ve discussed Google My Business in two previous posts: Get Noticed on Google: Tips for Using My Business and Google My Business Primer [New Features for Restaurants]. These two posts will walk you through the features offered through Google My Business.

Google relies on reviews of your restaurant to determine your ranking for many "near me" type searches, so a high number of good reviews will help you rank better in results. 

4. Everywhere Else

It’s important to monitor your brand’s presence online, whether that be in the form of reviews, or just mentions. Many blogs, question and answer websites, and local media websites will review or mention local restaurants and businesses. Keep yourself aware of them by setting up a Google Alert. Google Alerts work by allowing you to add specific words that you would like to be notified about. For instance, if your restaurant name is Speedy Pizza, you can create an alert for “Speedy Pizza” and be notified each time Google finds a new instance of those words. The notification is sent as an email to your inbox. 

Finally, don’t forget to check your email. To receive the notifications from any of the review places listed above, you need to be checking your email, and your junk mailbox, regularly. Also make sure these notifications go to the right people. If person A is receiving the notifications, but it is person B’s job to respond to them, that may cause delays. This is really important for chains with multiple locations. 


Encourage positive reviews. 

The easiest way to ensure you are getting positive reviews online is to simply ask your happy customers to review you. If you speak with a customer that is thrilled with your food or service, ask them to share their feedback online.

In a webinar with Pizza Marketplace, Kevin Wade, owner of Previti Pizza in Midtown Manhattan talked about how he ensures that customers who found him through online review sites have a fantastic experience. Many of his customers are tourists, and online reviews are an important part of his marketing strategy. 

“For me, it’s so important to have the customer to be happy when they come in the store. I mean we serve pizza so it kinda makes them happy anyway. One of the things we do to get a good review, especially with Yelp, is we offer them a free something when they come in. Usually we do garlic knots or something. So if you come in, and check in with Yelp, you get free garlic knots.

"That does two things for me, it gives away garlic knots, that really don’t cost that much, but what it does is it lets me know that they found me through Yelp. On my POS machine it’ll say this person got garlic knots through Yelp and maybe they might get a little extra courtesy. Maybe after their meal I'll go up to them and ask them how their meal was, just to really personalize their experience.”

Wade goes out of his way to ensure customers that found him through online reviews have an amazing experience, because they are also likely to leave him reviews. It's also an excellent way to generate organic referrals and attract new customers.

Rev Ciancio, found of Yeah! Management, suggests putting stickers of review sites in your windows, and sharing screenshots of positive reviews on social media. According to Google and Yelp's terms and conditions, you can't solicit reviews. That means you can't outright tell a customer to review you, but you can be subtle, and a little more creative in encouraging happy customers to leave you a review.


Respond to positive reviews.

Now that you are being notified whenever your restaurant is reviewed online, let’s tackle the “easy” reviews: the positive ones. Always respond to all of your reviews—not just the negative ones. Follow this philosophy: a customer took the time out of their day to publicly praise you, your staff, and you restaurant. The very least you can do is say thank you. 

According to BrightLocal, 73% of consumers trust a local business more after reading positive reviews. Furthermore, Forbes magazine points out that responding to reviews, both good and bad, increases customer ratings. Why? They propose that it’s partly because people like to avoid confrontation. If customers see you responding to comments, they are less likely to leave trivial or unsubstantiated negative reviews about your business. 

So how do you respond? Here are a few best practices:

1. Say thank you. 

Start off by thanking them for their feedback. A thank you alone can go a long way towards making someone's day and making them feel appreciated.

2. Use their name. 

Unless it’s an obviously fake name, or a numbered account, use the customer’s name. People like to be referred to by their name—it personalizes the message. Double check that you are using their first name, and it is spelled correctly.

3. Encourage them to come back.

Encourage the customer to come back some time. If appropriate, maybe offer them something as a thank you for the review, such as a discount. By offering them something, you are taking a happy customer, and turning them into a raving fan. 


Respond to negative reviews. 

Bad news spreads like wildfire. Before your house gets burnt, throw some water on that spark! In all seriousness, bad reviews have a larger impact than positive ones. Responding properly allows you to turn an unhappy customer review into an opportunity to show compassion and how much you care about the customer experience. Here are a few best practices:

1. Step away.

It’s good practice to respond to reviews as soon as possible, but that doesn’t mean you should respond while you are upset. You put your heart and soul into your business, and sometimes negative reviews can be hurtful. Take the time you need to calm down, and approach the review logically.

2. Investigate the situation.

Who is this person, and are they a real customer? For some strange reason, some people take pleasure from submitting bad fake reviews. Determine what actually happened by talking to your staff and looking up the customer in the customer database of your point of sale. Make sure you completely understand what happened from your restaurant’s point of view before you respond.

3. Respond publicly.

Reply to the review on the review itself. If the general public can read the bad review, you need to ensure they call also read your reply. Otherwise, it looks like you ignored the review, and don’t care about your customers’ opinions.

Madisen Saglibene, the owner of Pizza Stone'd in Las Vegas believes that publicly responding to negative reviews helps build customer trust. “Addressing less than optimal reviews has led me to gaining a customer for life because he appreciated my genuine approach and apology,” she told Pizza Today. 

4. Use their name.

Just like in your response to positive reviews, using the reviewer’s name will help personalize your response.

5. Say sorry.

Apologize, even if your restaurant was not at fault. You don’t need to admit wrong doing, but you can apologize about how they feel about the situation. 

If your restaurant was in the wrong, take responsibility and own up to it. Then proceed to step 6.

6. Resolve the problem.

If the situation demands it, offer a resolution to the problem. If the review mentions a specific issue, either offer a resolution or encourage the customer to contact you privately about it. In most cases, it’s best to take the interaction offline by encouraging the customer to email or call.

7. Don’t ask questions.

Don’t ask the reviewer any questions in your response. This will require them to come back to the review and answer them publicly, giving them the opportunity to add-on to their negative review. If you need more information to resolve the issue, provide the reviewer with your contact information, and encourage them to reach out to you directly.

8. Keep it short and sweet. 

A few sentences is plenty—long winded responses defending your restaurant may legitimize the complaint. Remember the Shakespearean phrase “The lady doth protest too much.” Defensiveness could imply that the reviewer is correct in their analysis. 

Remember, with Google Maps, every time a potential customer looks up your restaurant for directions, they can see the reviews, and your responses to them. The end goal isn’t really to reply to the actual customer that reviewed your pizza place, it’s to respond to everyone reading that review. 

Take the necessary time to respond thoughtfully to each review. While it may be helpful to have a pre-written “canned” response on hand, you need to tailor it to each individual review. Customers put a lot of trust in online reviews, so your response to each review, good or bad, impacts your restaurant’s reputation. To learn more about what makes a great customer experience, click the link below to watch How to Improve Your Customer Experience by Shifting Focus.


How to Improve your customer experience by shifting focus. Download the webinar

Posted on Wed, Jul 17, 2019 @ 07:07 AM.
Updated on June 13, 2023 @ 9:55 PM PST.

Tags: Restaurant Marketing, Social Media Marketing

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