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First impressions count! Even digital ones.

According to an extensive behavioral survey carried out by Dollar Shave Cub in 2018, it takes the average person a maximum of 27 seconds to form a “first impression” about another person, and let’s face it once they’ve done that, it’s pretty hard to change their minds.

Not so shockingly Dollar Shave club concluded that looks and smell were key in person-to-person opinion formation, but this “first impression” scenario is just as important for any business that is projecting its image in todays’ digital world, even if smell is not, as yet, a factor!

It's not exactly insightful to say that in today’s day and age, the No. 1 way people find out about a new restaurant, (new to them that is) is through an online search. Actually, if you are in the hospitality sector its worth remembering that 77% of people say they check out a restaurant's website before they ever consider going there.

When people look at this digital representation of your business what do they actually look for? Well, Ambience and atmosphere are high on the initial list, followed closely by other key decision factors like your location, the menu, not to mention the expected price point. If you are scoring well on these then the critical final barrier to your success as a business in attracting this new customer is nearly always in peoples inherent need for affirmation of their decision. It’s the cognitive dissonance factor. In the days of old this usually meant, only following recommendations from a friend or trusted associate, but in the era of Amazon Prime, we have become conditioned to look for and accept that least controllable of all things for the restaurant owner, the dreaded “reviews” and “ratings” from previous customers.


How can I control my Reviews?

Potential customers trust reviews and previous experiences publicly expressed by these unknown individuals almost as much as the information you provide on your website, and it is therefore imperative to have a “reviews strategy” that helps bolster your restaurants reputations, and not one that actively hurts it.

Don’t ever forget that third party reviewing sites are their own businesses, with their own agendas and goals, and its fair to say that they do not always have your restaurant’s best interests in mind. Yet these sites can become the sole voice of authority on your business and a couple of bad reviews, perhaps not well handled in the digital world by you, can plague your brand for years and years with no real comebacks, no matter how unfair or unwarranted they may have been in the first place.

According to Upserve, 92% of consumers read reviews and 33% would never eat at a restaurant with less than four stars, so this is by no means something any savvy business owner can afford to ignore.

Until recently there were only two weapons at the restaurateurs disposal to fight bad reviews.

The first was the world you control, your own website where the afore mentioned first impression can be set by you, irrespective of any nasty reviews stuck out there on 3rd party sites. Its your patch, and you can make that first impression a good one and it really is best to do so.

The second, was to be seen to manage bad reviews publicly and to both appreciate and promote good ones. This of course, requires regular monitoring across multiple channels, and you need to respond especially quickly to any negative reviews that occur and be seen to handle them. You can offset some negativity, at least for other viewers, if you demonstrably care. You can also make sure everyone sees your positive review by reposting them through your social media channels – “we appreciate Joes comments and here they are for everyone to see” … type of thing.

These two steps have hereto been a restaurants only real defense within the Social Media/Online Reputation world, and there are several software tools that make this job a little easier to do (quick product plug to say that at Spillover we have our own excellent product to do just this and we call it “SENALYSIS” and it is both a listening and proactive channel communication tool)


There has got to be more I can do!

But, I hear you cry, surely there is more I can do about all this than just that?

“I work really hard, I love my business and I don’t seem to ever get a fair break on these review sites, it’s like swimming against the tide or playing the game when you are pretty sure the opposition coach has bought off the referee.”

Well, the good news is that now there is, and like all brilliant innovations it’s actually pretty simple really.

It’s a plan of two parts, built on top of the activity outlined above and here they are;


1. Collect your own Reviews

Your customers are your best advocates and by and large they will give you great reviews if you just encourage them a bit. Increasingly restaurants are taking review collection back into their own hands, instead of just leaving it to the 3rd parties, and they achieve this by operating their own self-controlled review system and promoting it heavily in their restaurant and online. Add your own branded review capture link to your website and use QR codes on physical menus and in-house flyers to request reviews. This gives you direct access to your customers and their thoughts and removes that intermediary link, which means you can handle issues privately and promote positive reviews as you feel so inclined.

2. Collate and Publish your Reviews on your Website

Posting reviews that you collect from existing customers will build trust with new customers looking at your restaurant’s website. This way, your website is a one-stop-shop for your brand, it’s the shopwindow and the affirmation location, thereby eliminating the need for customers to go to 3rd part sites to see any reviews in the first place.

With the right reviews engine you can not only show off your best face but you can actually select specific themes each month and cycle through what reviews you want to show and when you want to show them based on time of year or external factors that may be occurring (like a national health emergency for example). You can even decide to select some of those nice 3rd party reviews and include them on your website in the same way as you already republished those positive comments in your social media channels.


At the end of the day the impression you create is a combination of many factors. But like that first date its always worth the extra effort to make a good first impression if you can and we believe that its best achieved through your website, your handling of reviews and your presentation of positive ones in a fair and balanced way.

You work very hard on your business so why not make sure you let the world know that from the get-go.


At Spillover we have done a lot of work in this area and have launched a number of tools and services that can really help. We also thought you would like to know (from that “first impression” study) that the average person spends 29 minutes preparing for that first date. We can do a lot of first impression work with your business in way less time than that.   For more information click here or contact us at