Word of mouth goes a long way when it comes to marketing, but nowadays that word of mouth has become digital. Consumers often do a quick scan on Google, Yelp or Facebook before deciding where to eat or which shop to pop into.

In this digital age of online reviews, you have the chance to know what customers are saying about your bake shop and use that information to boost sales.

Yelp is the No. 1 online review site nationwide. Its business pages allow a baker to post photos, menu information, hours of operation, share personal stories about the history of the bakery, the staff and the chef and more.

In downtown Chicago, Esther Griego, managing partner at Bittersweet Pastry Shop, says it’s critical for bakers to be aware of what is being said about their business online. The bake shop has been in business since 1992, but in the past five years since Griego stepped into the family business digital communication has been amped up.

“There are a lot of different forums, Facebook reviews, Google reviews, and wedding sites that have reviews. It’s a great window to see how you are perceived and what your customers either value or are looking for when they come in. It might not even be things that are on the top of your mind,” she says.

She adds that you, the baker, know what your brand is all about, but online reviews help you know if that is really what your customers are seeing and experiencing.

In order to capitalize on digital reviews, it’s important that you pay attention to them. When a review is posted, you have the chance to respond.

“Every time a Yelp review pops up in my email, there’s always a little heart attack. It can be so sad sometimes. Especially when it’s something you could have addressed at the time or in person. But it can provide you with an opportunity to address a misconception,” Griego says.

She reads every review posted and tries to respond timely. Yelp recommends within 24 hours. If it’s a negative review, it gives the baker a chance to resolve the issue. But it’s important to respond to positive reviews, as well. If you have a fan out there saying great things about your bakery, thank them for it. This will most likely inspire repeat positive reviews.

Timeliness also is important for customers looking for specific products. In early March, Bittersweet received an online question about Paczkis for Fat Tuesday. Paczkis are a native, Polish pastry similar to a doughnut. Historically, they were eaten on Fat Tuesday because they used up all the lard, sugar, eggs, and fruit in the house that were forbidden during the season of Lent. Griego replied to the review confirming that Bittersweet would in fact have Paczkis in stock, and she also posted a link to all of the pastry shop’s Mardi Gras-specific menu items. She says the store sold more than 600 Paczkis on Fat Tuesday.

The psychology behind review sites


Today’s consumers do research before committing to a business for a good or service. When they can’t figure out on their own what to do, they take their cues from others. This is known as social proof, a term first coined by Robert Cialdini in his 1984 book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.

There are several different types of social proof, including Expert, Celebrity, User, “Wisdom of the Crowd”, and “Wisdom of your Friends”. Social platforms can cover many of these types.

Because many people turn to review sites like Yelp to find information about businesses, it’s important to take your time and optimize descriptions when entering your business information.

Yelp business pages include three sections for business information, and the company offers tips for writing for each one.

  • Specialties: This is an opportunity to share what products or features makes your business stand out.

  • History: Share the story of how your business got started, including the year the business was established and any important milestones reached along the way.

  • Meet the Owner/Manager: This allows you to put a face to the business. Include personal details and why you’re passionate about what you do.

It’s important to keep these sections positive, avoid using them for promotions, and not use them for contact information or links.