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Online Business Reviews Jumped 66 Percent in the Past Year According to New Data from Merchant Centric and Xenial

With online reviews reaching 610 million across 27 million U.S. businesses, new findings underscore the growing importance of customer engagement

Merchant Centric
Online Reviews of Businesses

Merchant Centric
Restaurants Reply More Often Than Other Businesses

Merchant Centric

The restaurant industry is the most proactive sector with a substantial 29% increase in online review engagement

WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif., June 20, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Merchant Centric, a leader in identifying actionable operational intelligence and reputation management, published a new research study in conjunction with Xenial, a leader in the restaurant technology experience, showing a 66 percent jump in online reviews of businesses. An analysis of 27 million U.S. businesses, which included restaurants, retail, health and beauty and personal services among others, revealed total reviews increased to over 610 million reviews in the past year (see the graph below). This dramatic increase in online reviews along with the increase in the number of businesses that are replying to reviews underscores the growing importance social reviews are playing.

An infographic accompanying this announcement is available at

In the restaurant sector, the significant increase in online reviews suggests the growing impact, both positively and negatively, that these reviews can have on revenues. For example, according to a report by Harvard Business Online, a one-star bump in a Yelp rating can translate into a 5- to 9-percent increase in revenue.

As a result, restaurants are becoming far more proactive in engaging with guests’ online reviews. According to data from March 2017 to March 2018, there was a 29 percent increase in the rate of restaurants that have responded to online reviews. Overall, restaurants engaged with guests at a 46 percent higher rate compared to other businesses (see graph below).

“Our research shows consumers rely heavily on online reviews and social media for restaurant recommendations,” said David Bay, CEO of Merchant Centric. “Reviews have become incredibly influential since people consider them as first-hand reliable accounts, as if it was a friend giving their opinion. It’s now vital for restaurants to interact with online reviews in order to increase revenue.”

An infographic accompanying this announcement is available at

“Online reviews are the new word-of-mouth, and a single review or post can have a dramatic impact on a business when it reaches thousands or even millions of users,” said Christopher Sebes, President of Xenial. “Actively engaging with both favorable and negative reviews can have an enormous impact on one’s business. Our data shows that customers respond more positively to a business that engages with them, and that’s why this technology is so instrumental in improving the consumer experience and driving sales.”

The data also looked at the top ten restaurant categories and their frequency of guest engagement by category. This indicates how guests are leaving reviews relative to other categories, not the rate at which these businesses are responding. 

Most engagement:

  1. Steakhouses
  2. Seafood
  3. American

Least engagement:

  1. Pizza
  2. Chinese
  3. Barbeque

Restaurants using Merchant Centric’s technology range from larger multi-unit brands such as Firehouse Subs, Bar Louie and Sharky’s Woodfired Mexican Grill to single location restaurant operators including Mama’s Café Baci, Jinky’s Café and Gardner Village, who are all looking to engage smarter with their digital audiences.

“The Merchant Centric technology is crucial to how we manage our engagement activity with guests making online reviews,” said David Goldstein, CMO of Sharky’s Woodfired Mexican Grill. “Since implementing the technology, we’ve been able to evaluate our reputation online and interact more effectively with guests who provide feedback, allowing us to better communicate how much we truly care about their experience at our restaurants.”


Merchant Centric's database is a proprietary collection of consumer ratings and reviews for over 25 million business locations that have appeared on top search, social and reviews sites.  Merchant Centric has been collecting data since 2010 and has a patent on how it identifies business categories and organizes the ratings and reviews.  Using the collected data, each month Merchant Centric counts reviews and responses for all businesses down to the category level.

About Merchant Centric

Recognized by CIO Review Magazine as the company that “pioneered the science of leveraging online customer reviews to drive performance and revenues for businesses,” Merchant Centric serves major brands as well as small businesses in the restaurant, hospitality, automotive, and health/medical service industries. Merchant Centric serves over 30,000 business locations with its suite of Online Guest Engagement Management and data solutions including: Industry leading analytics, reputation management platforms, management and field reports, as well as managed services, including Full Service Reply to Review. For More information contact David Bay at or 818-889-1688 or Adam Leff at

About Xenial

Xenial Inc., formerly Heartland Commerce, a Global Payments company, has 30 years of restaurant technology experience, delivering leading-edge POS and commerce solutions, payments processing capabilities and other business service applications. The company serves 135,000 restaurant customers across the U.S. including 83,000 independent businesses. XenialTM is the latest product from Heartland Commerce providing a complete cloud restaurant management platform for a fixed monthly price and running on an unlimited number of devices including iOS, Android, and Windows. The company owns five point-of-sale (POS) brands including, XPIENTSolutions, pcAmerica, Dinerware, LiquorPOS, and Digital Dining that capture 19 percent of the U.S. restaurant POS market in all 50 states.

Madison McGillicuddy 
ICR for Merchant Centric