Why restaurants are turning to tech to solve the reviews pain point

Article by Aaron Copestake | 2nd October 2019

2007—quietly one of the most game-changing years in recent times for media and information publishing.

YouTube finds its feet under Google, Twitter and Facebook explode and some guys called ‘Apple’ release something called the ‘iPhone’.

By this point, most of us were closing down our MySpace accounts and laughing at Bebo users. 2007 was nothing short of a media revolution in who gets to create all the meaning.

For the first time, the means of information production shifted from the hands of the few, to the hands of the many.

Today, you have in your pocket the ability to create and distribute information that can impact the behaviour of hundreds, thousands, perhaps even millions of people, all at virtually zero cost—let that sink in for a moment. That’s serious power…

So what did most of us do with this new-found power?

Well, the bloggers got blogging (remember GeoCities?), the memers got meme-ing and the rest of us got selfie-taking generally snapping anything that moves (or doesn’t) from the kids’ latest fridge painting, to the bacon and blueberry pancakes we’d cooked specifically for the photo op.

And what else? We all started sharing our experiences via reviews covering anything from ironing boards and plastic straws, to hotels and restaurants.

If I could give zero stars…

As neutrals, we’ve all had a laugh at reviews typical of the ‘blue-in-the-face with rage’ end of the spectrum. As punters, the very same reviews will sway us and affect our choices.

Studies on this come by the vatful…

One such study—by two prominent University of California professors—on the effects of reviews on restaurants found that… 

“An extra half‐star rating causes restaurants to sell out 19 percentage points (49%) more frequently, with larger impacts when alternate information is more scarce.

Source: Learning from the Crowd: Regression Discontinuity Estimates of the Effects of an Online Review Database 

Yes… your half-star of harshness or starry-eyed praise really can help *make* the food spots you love, or *break* the grub joints you loathe.

Knowing how unforgiving customers can be, myself included, I doubt I’ll become a restaurant owner any time soon.

If most of us did—knowing just how harsh we can be and the impact it can have—we’d likely spend sleepless nights agonising over unfair reviews and would go to great lengths to ensure our customers left full of great food and that warm glow that gets us talking about our experience for all the right reasons.

Let’s stray away from the ‘restaurants’ scenario briefly to take a look at the case of a certain Hollywood actress whose name starts with Kylie and ends with Jenner.

Bear with me on this…

In 2018, a media fizz erupted over a simple tweet put out by the Hollywood socialite who’d claimed to have stopped using the social messaging app, SnapChat. Within hours, over $1bn had been wiped from SnapChat’s parent company value.

This isn’t to say that one bad customer review is going to slash your company value—your customers likely aren’t as influential as Hollywood socialites—but it does highlight how reviews and social media create the potential for PR to spread like wildfire. You customer opinions have impact. Let bad PR grow into a regular thing, and you can kiss those dreams of expansion goodbye.

Ultimately, all we want from a restaurant experience is to feel looked after and to have our moneysworth of experience and this is true regardless of whether you’re sitting down to pizza, or a Michelin star, three-course banquet.

So what’s the secret to ticking these boxes for customers? There is no secret. It’s about common sense, attention to detail and consistency with the basics.

Empower your team to operate with agility and efficiency as a single organism and suddenly the potential for neglect of customers and loss of attention to detail begins to evaporate.

Empower your customers to help you help them, and the basics will take care of themselves.

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is equivalent to magic” Arthur C. Clarke

Tech underpins pretty much everything we do day-to-day. Restaurant tech is a growing sector with more and more diners becoming fluent in using mobile apps for restaurant takeout and for checking availability and table-booking.

Why isn’t hospitality adopting tech more broadly?

Customers are already integrating tech into the peripheral experience of ordering and booking, so it makes sense that restaurants and hospitality should reduce friction by equipping customers to extend that self-empowerment into the restaurant itself, through to the moment they’re actually sat dining.

Imagine giving diners remote control of when they order drinks, when they order the mains, and when their final bill is delivered. Imagine reducing or eliminating waiting times, turning over tables faster and maximising the total covers per night and increasing those frustrated online reviews.

As diners, imagine not having to be checked-on every ten minutes by different people, or being able to get out of the restaurant swiftly during a work lunch, or in time for whatever you have scheduled.

Wearable team-comms tech promotes a collaborative dynamic that can translate to greatly improved customer experience, and a greatly improved catalogue of reviews on which success can ultimately hinge.

Your customers have already embraced tech as part of both the dining-out and takeout experience. Isn’t it time you caught up?

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