Restaurants know the importance of online reviews.
A one-star increase in a restaurant's review can boost revenue by 5 to 9 percent, and higher Yelp scores help restaurants sell tables 19 percent more frequently during peak hours. It's not groundbreaking to equate positive reviews with more business, but with the ease of online reviews for posting and consumption, the barrier to posting and consuming negative and positive reviews comes with low cost and little effort for the consumer.
Most reviews relate to the quality of food or customer service. But there are other, often overlooked areas, that can have a dramatic impact on a restaurant's rating. These areas include the condition and cleanliness of the dining area and restrooms, curbside appeal, and the availability of food related to broken machinery. While food quality and service might be impeccable, a single loss of star from these other areas can result in a drop in revenue.
How Bad Reviews Can Impact Revenue
Improving reviews is one of the most powerful ways to improve the bottom line.
A Harvard study found that each star on Yelp can represent either an increase or decrease in business revenue of up to 10 percent. The study also showed that a bad review could cost a business 30 new customers, while it would take nearly 100 positive reviews to earn those customers back.
Only some of those bad reviews are about customer service or products. A large number of them relate to the business' facilities. This is especially true of restaurants where safety and sanitation are of higher concerns than typical retail and where facilities have a greater impact on the customer experience.
Running a well-maintained facility that is clean, functioning, and gives a great first impression helps to improve online rankings. However, restaurants that are run-down, dingy, or things don’t work as they should experience lower ratings and, consequently, lower revenue.
Common Mistakes Businesses Make
Day-to-day restaurant operations tend to focus on food quality, customer service, employee management, and sales. Facility issues then tend to get ignored when faced with these pressing issues because they don't impact these operational issues. However, when ignored, these problems compound and become serious issues that could then result in a temporary closure, inability to prepare some items, or safety concerns. The cost for addressing these issues then increases and becomes immediate while overall negatively impacting the customer experience.
The following list of facilities management mistakes can have the most significant impact on customer experiences and a restaurant's Yelp or Google rating and reviews.
1. Dirty or Unkempt Bathrooms
Do reviewers really talk about bathrooms? Yes, they do. The Buc-ee’s chain of gas stations in Texas has calculated that 46 percent of their Yelp reviews mention the cleanliness of their restrooms.
Customers visiting any type of restaurant expect a sanitary bathroom with plenty of toilet paper and working sinks, drains, and soap dispensers. Anything less can immediately ruin their customer experience and could find its way into reviews, regardless of the level of service provided during their visit.
2. Poorly Maintained Exteriors
Customers form an impression of a restaurant as soon as they see it. From landscaping to lighting to cleanliness, the exterior of a restaurant sets expectations for the dining experience, regardless if it is fast casual, fast food, or fine dining. If customers notice failures before entering the restaurant, they will be more aware, and less forgiving, of the state inside the restaurant.
3. Inadequate Lighting
It’s easy to overlook a bulb that needs to be replaced or a ballast that needs to be fixed, especially when doing so is a challenge. But customers definitely notice when a business is too dark or has flickering fluorescent bulbs. They may not know they’re reacting to lighting issues; they’ll just know that the dining room felt depressing and dingy.
4. Unsafe Conditions
Restaurants must meet stringent health codes in the kitchen. However, safety also includes stairs, loose rugs, or seating that's fallen into disrepair. Replacing any of these items might seem expensive, but it will be far less expensive than a slip and fall or other injury claim from a customer. If if a customer isn't injured, they will unlikely want to return. An accident is on par with food safety when it comes to damaging reviews.
5. Bad Smells
Aroma is critical part of the restaurant business, but managing it goes beyond just the food. An improperly maintained HVAC system can create negative and positive pressures within a restaurant, and if it is poorly maintained, kitchen smells can make their way into the dining area. The smells from the kitchen will compete with their meal and potentially ruin a good dining experience.
The perception of cleanliness also works with smells. Mold or mildew or strong odors from a sewer drain can reduce the experience, and even the strong smell of cleaning supplies can reduce the appeal of a restaurant. Properly cleaning and maintaining plumbing is the best way to mitigate any potential for negative odors to invade the space.
6. Poor Climate Control
When the temperature or humidity isn’t set properly, it can make customers uncomfortable. If it’s too hot or too cold in the dining room, they’ll be miserable. If it’s too humid, they’ll find the space stuffy and unpleasant. Either way, their discomfort is likely to make into their review. Properly maintaining HVAC systems is key to setting the right temperature. While it might appear to be costly to have a fixed maintenance budget rather than conducting repairs when needed, in the long run it will help to balance costs, keep equipment running longer, and provide a more consistent dining experience.
7. Stopgap Repairs
Whether it’s a cracked window sealed with tape, a hole in the wall covered with a poster, or a broken tile replaced with a piece of cardboard, temporary repairs are always noticeable—and they’re always a turn-off. These are done because they are cheap; not because they are effective. Customers will have an impression that cutting corners is a way of business, and that could reflect in what they think is happening in the kitchen. They'll think twice about the food.
8. Icy Parking Lots and Walkways
If your business has a parking lot or walkway, then you need to make sure it’s properly maintained in the winter. Icy conditions are dangerous and can lead to injuries and create exposure to costly slip and fall claims. Even if there are no claims, making a customer gingerly navigate a sidewalk or have to off-road over snow in a parking lot will undoubtedly create a negative perception of a business.
9. Dirty, Wet, and Unsafe Floors
Falls are the number one source of restroom injuries in restaurants with 30% resulting in some type of neck or head trauma. The biggest contributor is wet flooring. Overall, floors are consistently ranked as one of the most unsanitary areas in quick serve locations. In fast casual or similar restaurants, unclean or unkempt floors will harm that location's reputation. If they see dirt, dust, scratches, or stains, it will make them question how sanitary the rest of the space is.
How Facilities Management Can Support Your Business
Managing facilities maintenance along with running a restaurant adds more challenges to the day. From identifying the problem to finding labor to scheduling the repairs, it's an added layer of responsibility that most general or assistant general managers just don't have time for.
Outsourcing facilities management to a centralized provider offloads these responsibilities freeing up staff and management to focus on maintaining quality standards and providing excellent customer service. Facilities management services have networks of providers that can respond usually within hours to major problems while scheduling routine maintenance to make sure that issues don't get out of hand. This not only helps with the customer service, but also with predictability in spend.
When it comes to a restaurant, small details can ruin a reputation. A facilities maintenance program can avoid the mistakes that lead to negative reviews and keep customers coming back.