Boost Your Restaurant Business with Google Reviews: A Complete Guide

Boost Your Restaurant Business with Google Reviews: A Complete Guide

Boost Your Restaurant Business with Google Reviews: A Complete Guide

Getting customers in the door is one of the biggest challenges for any business, including restaurant owners. You can serve the most delicious food and offer the best service, but if prospective customers don’t find your restaurant in the first place — or if negative online reviews scare them away — you won’t get the chance to wow them. 

Google restaurant reviews can be a key part of your marketing strategy. Here’s what you need to know. 

Intro: Online Reviews for Restaurants

Restaurant reviews matter. Good reviews can help drive more customers to your restaurant and bad reviews can drive them away. 

  • 33% of restaurant-goers stated that they would not eat at a restaurant with an average three-star review on online review websites such as Yelp, Google, and Facebook, according to a ReviewTrackers survey
  • Over 58% of consumers use reviews to help make a restaurant selection at least one quarter of the time, with 36% using reviews to inform their decision half of the time or more, according to a GatherUp survey.

The most popular restaurant review sites include Google, Yelp, TripAdvisor. Here we’ll explain how Google restaurant reviews work and how to make the most of them. 

Role Of Google Reviews In Boosting Online Visibility And Credibility

Google remains the most popular search engine and people often trust Google reviews when choosing local businesses. When someone is looking for a place to spend their next money on a meal, they’ll often google terms like “best restaurants in XX (location),” 

If they see lots of good online restaurant reviews from customers describing the food they ordered, the service they received, and the dining experience overall they may be more likely to try that place out. In fact, potential customers often trust customer reviews more than food critic reviews! 

Just like a good business credit rating can help your business qualify for small business loans, good customer ratings on online review sites can help you boost your restaurant’s online reputation and get more customers. 

Google Restaurant Reviews and Local SEO

Appearing high in Google search results can increase the likelihood customers will find (and pick) your restaurant. Google uses a variety of factors to determine where businesses appear (rank) in local search engine results. The higher the ranking, the higher the business appears on the search engine results page, or SERP.

Here are the three main ways Google says reviews influence local SEO: 

Review quantity. Restaurants with lots of reviews are more likely to rank higher in local SEO. Customers are also more likely to gravitate towards restaurants with more reviews, or be skeptical of those with few reviews. 

Review quality. Positive reviews (four or five star ratings) is another factor that can help your ranking. The number of positive and negative reviews, as well as your average rating can play a factor in SEO. It’s worth noting that great reviews that seem spammy can hurt rather than help your local SEO. 

Review velocity. Google says its algorithm also pays attention to how often the restaurant receives reviews. Frequent reviews can help. 

Understand Google Business Profile

To start encouraging reviews, you will want to set up your business with a Google Business Profile (formerly Google My Business). This free tool lets you set up your online presence on Google Search and Maps. 

Get started at When you set up your restaurant listing, you’ll be asked to provide information about your restaurant including:

  • Business Name
  • Business Category (e.g., Restaurant)
  • Location (Physical address)
  • Service Areas (if applicable)
  • Business Hours
  • Phone Number
  • Website
  • Photos

Google Business Profile (GBP) is also where you’ll respond to reviews, post updates, and offer promotions. Making sure your GBP is accurate and up to date will help create a better experience for your customers. Nothing is as frustrating to diners as showing up to a restaurant that appears open on Google only to find it closed. 

When you create your profile, you’ll need to verify your business. The most popular way to do this is by having Google send a postcard with a verification code to your listed business address. 

Once you’ve completed this verification, you can start managing your business profile. This will allow you to: 

  • Be found online: This will allow your restaurant to appear when people search for restaurants (or your restaurant) on Google Search and on Google Maps.
  • Build trust: As mentioned earlier, those searching for a place to eat are more likely to choose a restaurant with good reviews.
  • Connect with customers: Proactively engaging with your GBP will open up marketing opportunities.

When it comes to your GBP, don’t just set it and forget it. Outdated information does not provide a good customer experience, so engage with it regularly. 

  • Respond to reviews: When customers leave reviews, be sure to respond to them. This shows that you value their feedback and that you’re interested in improving your business.
  • Mine insights: GBP offers Insights, which gives you data about how customers find your restaurant and other trends. You may be able to leverage this information to make more informed decisions to grow your business.
  • Provide updates: Use GBP to post updates about your restaurant, such as new menu items or specials, any special events you’ll be holding, or changes to your hours of operation including holiday hours.
  • Create buzz. Mouth-watering photos and or photos from special events can help you create excitement around your restaurant. 
  • Offer promotions: You can use your profile to offer special deals, including coupons, to attract new customers or fill seats on a slower day of the week.

How To Request Reviews

While some people will leave reviews without being asked, others will need some help and encouragement. Here are some ways to request reviews: 

  1. Ask. The best time to ask for a review can be when diners have had a good experience. Anyone with a smartphone can easily review your restaurant and some will be willing to do so on the spot. Sometimes you just need to ask.
  2. Make it Simple: Providing links or a QR code to leave a review will make it easy for them to find and review your business on Google, as well as other popular restaurant review websites like TripAdvisor or Yelp. You may want to do this on the receipt or with a business card that provides this information. 
  3. Train staff. Train your staff on the importance of reviews and ask them to request them. If a diner mentions how much they like a dish, for example, they may want to suggest they review it online. 

Don’t be pushy though. A customer who feels pressured to post a review may end up leaving with a negative experience, or may even leave a negative review! 

Create A Post-Dining Follow-Up System To Request Reviews

Not all diners will leave a review on the spot, so you’ll also want to create a system for requesting reviews after they leave. 

  1. Email and SMS marketing. This can be a very effective way to request a review. You can send a request and a link to leave a review. (You may want to link to a page on your website that links to the most popular review sites, but make sure you don’t ask your customers to take too many steps, or they may abandon the effort.) Personalize the request as much as possible. 
  2. Social media. If your customers mention a positive experience at your restaurant on social media you will want to thank them, of course. Let them know you genuinely appreciate their business. You may also want to ask for a review, or generally request reviews from happy customers. 
  3. CRM systems and apps. Some CRM or reservation systems (like OpenTable) or apps (like GatherUp) can help you collect and manage reviews. 

Offer Incentives For Leaving Reviews

This is one thing you don’t want to do! It is not acceptable under Google’s terms and conditions to offer incentives for leaving restaurant reviews on Google. Google’s policy on paid reviews states:

“Don’t offer or accept money in exchange for reviews.”

This is understood to also cover other incentives like free menu items in exchange for reviews. Google wants reviews that are accurate and unbiased, and rewards can skew that experience. Violating the terms of service can get your restaurant banned. 

Similarly, you should never ask your employees to leave reviews as this also violates Google’s terms and conditions.  

Add Google Review Options to All Your Restaurant Promotion Methods

When you’re promoting your restaurant, think about how you can encourage reviews. You may want to experiment with reminders, links and/or QR codes on these customer touch points: 

  • Menus
  • Table tents
  • Social media
  • Website
  • Receipt
  • In-store signage
  • Online ordering system
  • Email

Respond Quickly To Positive And Negative Reviews

Set up a system for responding to both positive and negative reviews quickly. Here’s why:

When customers leave positive reviews, you want to thank them so they feel appreciated. By doing so, they may be more likely to recommend your restaurant and return in the future. 

Here’s an example of a response to a positive review: 

Thank you so much for your feedback. We’re glad you loved your meal and our chef is delighted to hear how much you enjoyed our peanut butter pie. We look forward seeing you again! 

When customers leave negative reviews, you’ll generally want to make sure they feel like their concerns are heard. Although it’s easy to get defensive, try not to. Imagine the person writing the review is standing in front of you sharing their complaint. How would you respond?

A prompt and constructive response may also encourage them to return and perhaps leave a more positive review in the future. And other customers will see how you respond, and that may affect whether they decide to visit your restaurant. 

(You may encounter unreasonable complaints or even fake negative reviews. It’s acceptable to ignore those or to dispute fake reviews.) 

Here’s an example of a response to a negative review: 

We’re so sorry you had to wait so long to get seated. We’re implementing a new reservations system to help avoid situations like you encountered. We hope you’ll come back and give us another opportunity to serve you. 

Responding to positive or negative reviews can create goodwill. It shows you care about your customers and that you want to improve your business. It’s best to personalize your responses rather than using a canned response. 

How To Deal With Fake or Malicious Reviews

Fake or malicious reviews can be disheartening but if you’re getting a lot of business, you’re likely to get some less than ideal reviews as well. Sometimes restaurants will hire companies to boost their search engine rankings and perhaps unwittingly hire a company that will attack other restaurants with fake reviews in order to gain an advantage. 

Some signs of potentially fake and/or malicious reviews include:

  • A flurry of negative reviews in a short period of time. 
  • Unspecific, vague complaints. 
  • Inaccurate information about your menu, prices, service etc.

You respond to false or malicious reviews in a professional manner and then attempt to get them removed. For example:

Since you mentioned a menu item we don’t serve, we assume you meant to leave this review for a different establishment. If not, feel free to reach out to our manager directly and we will be happy to address your concern. 


We take all feedback seriously but due to details you provided we believe you may have left this review in error. If not, feel free to reach out to our manager directly and we will be happy to address your concern. 

Again, though, you do not have to respond to every single review. Sometimes it’s best to just let it go and focus on providing great food and service to your customers. 

How To Contact Google For Restaurant Review Disputes

Google offers detailed instructions for handling disputes over reviews. Start by reviewing Google’s guidelines for prohibited and restricted content. 

If you still believe the review has violated Google’s policies, you will find instructions for requesting removal here. You can flag a review in Maps, Search or via the Google restaurant Review Management Tool. 

Note that Google does not allow you to dispute a review simply because you and the reviewer don’t agree on the facts of what occurred. 

This article was originally written on March 17, 2024.

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