Top 10 Tips for Winning Points with Online Restaurant Reviewers

This week I was delighted to have the opportunity to interview Kim Tasso, a highly respected marketing consultant who also moonlights as a restaurant and attraction reviewer for, the capital’s second largest review website.  During our chat, Kim gave me the inside track on how the restaurant reviewing process works from the reviewer’s perspective.  By the time we’d finished, I felt like my eyes had been illuminated to several fantastic opportunities for restaurants who are looking for better online reviews 

To follow are Kim’s top ten tips for restaurants:

Watch out for Mystery Reviewers

To start with Kim explained how most restaurant reviews are conducted by 'Mystery Reviewers'.  A mystery reviewer will not make themselves known to the restaurant and will conduct the review as a normal paying customer.  To make sure these mystery reviews go as well as possible, it's important to brief your front of house team to watch out for the signals that could indicate that you have a ‘mystery reviewer’ in the house.  Kim suggests you watch out for anyone writing notes whilst they eat.  If you see someone making notes directly on to your menu that could be an even bigger signal that you have a mystery reviewer as a diner.  If you see someone behaving this way, make absolutely sure to check in with them early to see if they are happy with their food and service.  Waiters should be briefed to point out a potential ‘mystery reviewer’ to their general manager or supervisor, so he or she can also make a point of checking in on the diner.  You don’t need to query their behaviour necessarily, but it’s best to vigilante by providing the best service possible.  Otherwise, you could miss an opportunity to impress from the start. 

Ask for a Review

Did you know that some review sites such as All In London invite restaurants to ask for a review?  If you’ve not been reviewed yet, make sure to take advantage of this opportunity.  For example, on, go visit the website’s Get Listed page and ask a reviewer to come visit using the online form provided. 

Don’t dictate the date and time of the review

Don’t assume you can set a time and date for the review that suits your business. Reviewers may not take kindly to being asked to only come at certain times as they may have another day job to attend to and only have availability in the evenings or weekends.  Also, reviewers often prefer to see what the venue is like at peak hours.

Be prepared for the reviewer’s visit

If you’ve requested a review, the reviewer may be happy to let you know when they are planning to visit.  If this is the case, make sure your team is ready to welcome the reviewer and offer assistance when they arrive.  Kim explained that she’d had experiences where a PR may have set up the review on behalf of the restaurant and then the team at the venue were not briefed about her arrival.  This scenario doesn’t reflect well on the restaurant and it could cause embarrassment for the reviewer as he or she has to make an effort to verify their credentials.

Be helpful during the review

There are a number of things you can do to help the review run more smoothly on the day.  At the start, present the reviewer with a menu that they can use to write notes on.  Be prepared to share information about your best or most popular dishes with the reviewer when they order.  At the end of the meal, the manager should make a point to check in with the reviewer and ask if they can provide any further information about the menu and the restaurant.  For example, explain what type of customer the restaurant is targeting.  Let the reviewer know if you have a particular sales point that gives you a point of differentiation.   Perhaps you have a family-friendly focus or dogs are welcome in the bar area at weekends.  This is all useful data that can help to make the final review more informative to readers and potential customers.

Be Prepared for Issues

If the reviewer makes a complaint about something during the meal, make sure that the complaint doesn’t go ignored.  Unfortunately, Kim recollected that there were a number of occasions when she or her companion complained about something and the issue was not dealt with or not reported back to someone more senior.  Really, this should never happen to any customer, but it could have especially damaging consequences when it happens to an influential reviewer.   All front-of-house staff members need to be trained to deal with customer complaints in a proactive way. 

Ask about scoring

Some reviewers will simply give you an overall score out of 10 or 5.  To help understand your final score, ask the reviewer what their scoring system is, so you can better interpret your final published score.

Make it complimentary but don’t forget the bill

The general rule is that the reviewer and their companion will not pay for the meal, unless it’s a mystery review.  Reviewers aim to write about a typical customer experience, so it’s highly unlikely that they are going to ask for your most expensive dishes and to drink the bar dry.   However, even though the meal is complimentary, the reviewer will still want to see the bill at the end of the meal.  This information may be used when scoring the value rating, so it’s essential that it’s provided.  Kim explained that this point is not always clear to waiting staff, who get confused when a bill is asked for from a reviewer.  Make sure staff are clear on this point in advance, so they don’t need to confuse the issue on the day.

If it all goes wrong, discuss it

What if you end up with a negative review?  All is not lost according to Kim.  If you have a serious complaint about a review, or you feel the review caught you on a particularly bad day then get in touch with the website editorial team.  Calmly explain the scenario from your perspective.  Ask if it’s possible to do another review.  You may be surprised to find that you get a second chance, or the original review may be taken down if you have argued your case well.   It’s certainly worth opening a dialogue which could also help you to get on better terms with the editorial team for the future.

Promote your reviews

If you’ve been blessed with a great review, then make sure to tell everyone about it.  Stick it on your website, tweet about it and Facebook it.  I’d like to add to Kim’s comment that if you  photograph or screen grab your review and post it in your Facebook photo library, it’s likely to get more views over time.  If you just post a website link for the review, it’s likely to get lost in the social media hurly burly within a few days.  An image of the review saved to your Facebook album or blog will be easier to find for the future and helps keep your star performance front of mind.

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If you put Kim’s advice into action, I believe you’ll greatly increase your chances of winning a good or perhaps even a great review.

Why not share your review stories below.  Have you tried any of the above tactics?  Or do you have any review horror stories you’d like to share? 

If you’d like further advice on optimising your online and social media marketing for your restaurant, café or bar business, feel free to contact Susanne Currid for a complimentary 30 minute phone consultation

For more about Kim Tasso's marketing consultancy services for professional service companies and property agents you can also visit: