The Evolution of the Restaurant Review

There was once a time when the power of the critic was undeniable. A small collection of voices, sometimes a single voice alone, could make or break a new restaurant with their review, but that time has come and gone. Nowadays, the name of the game is social media numbers, and the power of a single voice has been replaced by anyone who can access their computer. How did this happen and what does it mean for the restaurant business going forward?

The Voices of Yelp

When it comes right down to it, the name of the game in the review business today is Yelp. In 2019 alone, Yelp averaged over 178 million unique users across mobile, desktop, and app platforms making it the 44th most visited website for American users. These numbers have generated an impressive 184 million reviews worldwide, and these numbers mean business.

Over 45% of your possible patrons have reported that they will check Yelp reviews before deciding to visit your restaurant, and studies suggested a 9% increase in revenue with every new star earned through the website. But Yelp isn’t the only game in town. Websites such as TripAdvisor, Google, and Facebook are also in on the game. When a possible patron can have all these possible reviews at the tip of their fingers, why would they bother reading a longer form review from a single source?

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

There’s another way in which traditional restaurant reviewers have failed to attract contemporary patrons and that’s through the power of the photograph. Those long form reviews that once carried so much weight often featured very few visual aids, relying instead upon flowery descriptions and fancy prose. That all changed with the rise of the millennial generation.

In the year 2019, the millennial generation overtook the baby boomers to become the largest living generational block with 73 million people. This generation rose with social media, and 59% of them are active on Instagram alone. It is undeniable that this is the market of the future, and this market block prefers to shop online. 68% of respondents in one survey reportedly claimed they were more likely to buy a product or visit a restaurant if it was recommended by someone they follow on Instagram.

Between the ability to geotag a location, see hundreds of photos taken from dozens of angles, and view a picture of every dish or drink imaginable, Instagram has an undeniable power to show rather than tell someone why they should come inside your restaurant, and that’s something no single reviewer could ever accomplish.

What Does This Mean?

The world is a fast changing and different place than it once was. Your average patron no longer places their faith in a single voice from a credible newspaper or magazine. The democratization of online reviews means your clientele now trust the voices of their friends and influencers over traditional sources, and thus, your marketing must adjust to meet the times.

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