As many of you in the restaurant industry are aware, online reviews can either make or break you. One study found that reviews regarding a decrease in food quality influenced the market share by almost 60 percent!
Another survey found that 94 percent of participants responded that an online review convinced them to avoid a business.
We know, as restaurateurs, the importance of those four- and five-star reviews. We understand the mainstays such as value, service, atmosphere and, of course, presentation and quality of our main products—food and drink. Even the number of reviews that we receive plays an important role in our success—increasing the chances that those searching through Yelp, Facebook, TripAdvisor, and other review outlets, will click through to a restaurants’ website.
Studies show that consumers prefer a restaurant with a large number of good online reviews to the point that they will choose a pricy restaurant with many reviews over a cheaper restaurant with fewer reviews.
But what about those factors that we cannot control?
Unfortunately, even those play a part in restaurant reviews. A recent study suggests that we can blame some of our bad reviews on that which only the gods, climate change, and ocean currents control—the weather. Great.
Bad Weather Blues
In March, 2019, the Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Research published a study that determined how weather affected customer comments. The study, conducted by researchers from Ohio State University, found that 3, out of the 14 weather variables that were included in the study, affected customer comments. These were the rain, temperature and barometric pressure. Here were their findings in terms of these three weather occurrences:
Rain: Rainy days found customers leaving three times as many negative reviews.
Temperature: Higher temperatures prompted more negative comments.
Barometric Pressure: High pressure was linked to negative comments.
Keep in mind that the study took place in Florida, where high temperatures and rising barometric pressure can mean uncomfortable, muggy conditions. We also know people that swear they can sense barometric pressure changes that results in increased arthritic joint pain and headaches. We all know that increased pain can certainly leave a person feeling grouchy.
That still doesn’t leave the rest of the country in the clear. A study targeting people in the Midwest, Northeast, and Northwest areas of the U.S. also found that pleasant weather was linked to better ratings.
So, what can those in the restaurant industry do to limit negative comments and reviews when even the weather conspires against you?
When Life Gives You Lemons
What do you feel when you awaken in the morning to sun filtering through the windows and the sound of birds chirping in nearby trees? Joy! On the other hand, yet another day of snow, as we’re nearing the end of spring, can leave one feeling a little perturbed. So, what’s all this talk about weather really about? Our moods! And, can we and our staff affect people’s moods? Certainly! It’s why and how some restaurants thrive and build-up loyal, repeat customers effortlessly—by doing their best to ensure their patrons leave their establishment feeling better than when they entered.
Here are just a few strategies you can use to improve the mood of your patrons when the weather’s got them down:
Music—Listening to music that we enjoy releases substances in the brain known as the feel-good neurotransmitters, particularly dopamine. Keep in mind that it’s important to choose music that fits your brand and one that your target market will resonate with.
Personalization—Walking into a restaurant and being greeted by a personable staff member that knows you by name and asks how you’ve been is called personalized service. It’s one of the keystones that makes a neighborhood establishment excel. But how do you accomplish this when the weather has affected not just your customers, but your staff as well? Bribery, of course! Many a restaurant has turned to offering gifts, meals, drinks, and even money to the staff member that obtains the most “good” reviews within a certain time frame. Of course, hiring with the intention of choosing employees with good attitudes is paramount. You can always train a happy staff member, but you can never change their underlying personality. The manager’s attitude also plays a key part in creating an upbeat atmosphere.
Pay Attention—There are so many details in the day-to-day operations of a restaurant, that it’s easy to forget the goal—creating brand-toting guests that return again and again. One of the important elements in this equation is paying attention to your customers. It’s another rainy day and you notice a table that is filled with particularly irritable customers. You spend some time with them and conclude it’s not the food, drinks, or staff, it’s the weather. Is it time for a complimentary slice of chocolate cake? Studies show that consuming chocolate improves mood and helps people feel calmer. Bring on the cocoa!
As you can see, even when your guests arrive with the weather blues, there are actions you and your staff can take that ensure you’ve done what you could to help them leave a little happier.