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In today’s digital age, customers are empowered like never before, and their opinions can make or break a business. The restaurant industry is no exception, as customers rely on online reviews to decide where to eat. In fact, according to a study by BrightLocal, 87% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses, including restaurants. With such a high percentage of customers looking at online reviews, it’s important for restaurants to understand the role that customer reviews play in their marketing strategy.

In this article, we’ll discuss the importance of customer reviews for restaurants and how they can use them to boost their marketing efforts. We’ll also highlight some relevant case studies to support our points.


Customer reviews improve search engine optimization

Search engine optimization (SEO) is a key factor in driving traffic to a restaurant’s website. When customers search for restaurants online, they typically use search engines like Google or Bing. The search engine algorithms rank websites based on a variety of factors, including the relevance of the content, the quality of the website, and the number of external links pointing to the website.

One of the most important factors for SEO is the number and quality of customer reviews. Search engines consider customer reviews as fresh and relevant content for a restaurant’s website. The more reviews a restaurant has, the more likely it is to rank higher in search engine results pages (SERPs).


Case study: Los Tacos No. 1

Los Tacos No. 1 is a small taqueria in New York City that has built a loyal following thanks to its authentic Mexican tacos. In 2016, the restaurant was struggling to attract new customers, despite positive reviews from food critics. To address this issue, the restaurant’s owner, Leo Kremer, focused on improving the restaurant’s online presence.

Kremer encouraged customers to leave reviews on Yelp and Google, and he responded to every review, whether positive or negative. He also optimized the restaurant’s website for search engines, using keywords and meta tags to make it easier for customers to find the restaurant online.

As a result of these efforts, Los Tacos No. 1’s website traffic increased by 800%, and the restaurant’s ranking on Google went from 45th to 1st for the keyword “tacos in New York City.” Today, Los Tacos No. 1 is one of the most popular taquerias in New York City, with multiple locations and a strong online presence.


Customer reviews build trust and credibility

In the age of social media and fake news, customers are increasingly skeptical of businesses that make bold claims about their products or services. Instead, they rely on the opinions of other customers to make informed decisions.

Customer reviews are an effective way for restaurants to build trust and credibility with potential customers. Positive reviews can reassure customers that the restaurant is worth their time and money, while negative reviews can provide valuable feedback for the restaurant to improve its offerings.


Case study: Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana

Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana is a pizza chain with locations in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York. The restaurant was founded in 1925 and has a loyal following of customers who swear by its thin-crust pizza.

In 2017, Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana was named the best pizza in America by The Daily Meal, a popular food website. However, the restaurant’s owner, Gary Bimonte, knows that accolades and awards only go so far in building trust with customers.

To build trust and credibility with potential customers, Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana relies on customer reviews. The restaurant has a 4.5-star rating on Yelp and a 4.6-star rating on Google, with thousands of positive reviews. These reviews help to establish the restaurant’s reputation and show potential customers that it’s not just the experts who love their pizza, but everyday people as well.

In addition to positive reviews, Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana also takes negative reviews seriously. The restaurant responds to every negative review with a thoughtful and empathetic message, often offering to make things right for the customer. This approach not only helps to build trust with the customer who left the negative review but also shows potential customers that the restaurant is committed to providing a positive dining experience.


Customer reviews provide valuable feedback for improvement

One of the most important roles that customer reviews play in restaurant marketing is providing valuable feedback for improvement. No restaurant is perfect, and there is always room for improvement. Customer reviews can highlight areas where a restaurant is excelling and areas where it needs to improve.

By paying attention to customer reviews, restaurants can identify trends and common issues that customers are experiencing. This feedback can help the restaurant make changes to its menu, service, or overall experience to better meet the needs of its customers.


Case study: Union Square Cafe

Union Square Cafe is a fine-dining restaurant in New York City that has been in business since 1985. The restaurant has won numerous awards over the years for its cuisine and service, but even the best restaurants can improve.

In 2016, the restaurant underwent a major renovation and rebranding, and the owner, Danny Meyer, used customer feedback to guide the changes. Meyer read every review of the restaurant on Yelp and TripAdvisor and used that feedback to inform the new menu and service offerings.

For example, customers had complained that the restaurant was too loud and crowded, so Meyer redesigned the space to make it more intimate and comfortable. He also updated the menu to include more vegetarian and gluten-free options, based on feedback from customers with dietary restrictions.

The result of these changes was a restaurant that not only met the high standards of its loyal customers but also attracted a new generation of diners. Union Square Cafe has received rave reviews for its post-renovation menu and service, and it continues to be a beloved institution in the New York City dining scene.



Customer reviews are a critical component of restaurant marketing in today’s digital age. They not only improve a restaurant’s search engine optimization but also build trust and credibility with potential customers and provide valuable feedback for improvement. By embracing customer reviews and using them to guide their marketing strategy, restaurants can attract new customers, retain loyal ones, and ultimately achieve long-term success.

As demonstrated by the case studies of Los Tacos No. 1, Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana, and Union Square Cafe, restaurants that take customer reviews seriously and respond to them with empathy and action can improve their online reputation and build a loyal customer base. It’s clear that customer reviews are not just a nice-to-have for restaurants but rather a necessity for success in the competitive world of dining.

Ikonik Digital

As an ROI-focused agency, Ikonik Digital helps brands and businesses reach & understand their customers while growing the bottom line.