How This Travelers' Choice Winner Increased Sales By 20%

Makars Gourmet Mash Bar, named the UK’s #1 everyday dining restaurant in the 2018 Travelers’ Choice Awards, increased their sales by 20% by climbing the Tripadvisor rankings. Here’s how they focused on customer experience and feedback to get the most out of Tripadvisor.

Welcome to Makars Gourmet Mash Bar, Scotland

Over the last four years, John Stamp has built a thriving business at Makars Gourmet Mash Bar in Edinburgh, serving traditional Scottish fare like granny used to make. “After running a software company for 26 years, I began looking for a new challenge,” says Stamp. “I had never been in the hospitality industry before, but saw a beautiful restaurant for sale near Edinburgh’s famous Mound and decided to go for it — from there the first Makars Gourmet Mash Bar was born.”

It’s fair to say that he’s earned his stripes as a successful restaurateur. Stamp opened a second restaurant in the city’s west end in 2018 and in December 2018, Makars Gourmet Mash Bar was named the UK’s #1 everyday dining restaurant in the Tripadvisor Travelers’ Choice Awards for Restaurants.

The Challenge: Rising From The Bottom

It wasn’t so easy at the beginning. “I really was a novice,” says Stamp. “The first two years were, looking back, poor. [But] bit by bit I built a strong team and product.” The restaurant started, literally, at the bottom: They were ranked #495 in the city.

Edinburgh is a vibrant city packed with new restaurants, making it a highly competitive market for any restaurateur. It’s tough to stand out from the crowd, especially near tourist attractions like Edinburgh’s famous Mound neighborhood.

That’s where Tripadvisor comes in. “Tripadvisor started to play a pivotal role in attracting guests,” says Stamp. “Our Tripadvisor page has been such an essential asset to help us stand out from the crowd, ensuring we are able to generate bookings all year round.”

How They Use Tripadvisor

To climb up the rankings, Stamp and his team started using Tripadvisor to their advantage. “We started making a conscious effort to engage with Tripadvisor, such as putting signs up around the restaurant and reminding customers to leave a review when paying their bill,” says Stamp.

Rising in the rankings meant really listening to all of their feedback from reviews. Says Stamp, “Tripadvisor is one of these tools that does not sugarcoat mistakes, average food, or poor service. Yes, negative reviews are incredibly hurtful, [but] it takes a long time to learn to take bad reviews in context and accept not all [of your restaurant ideas] work.”

Stamp committed to sitting down once a week and responding to the reviews he received, as well as incorporating the feedback into his daily operations. “The tools are there to respond fairly,” says Stamp, “we are an independent restaurant and our unique selling proposition is that we can look at feedback and change quickly.”

Investing the time in Tripadvisor paid off. “We signed up to Premium for Restaurants in late 2016 and have found the tools it offers extremely valuable,” says Stamp. In particular, they love using the Favorite Review feature, which allows restaurant owners to pin their favorite recent review at the top of their Reviews section. “[We use it] to highlight to potential customers a great experience had by an existing customer, [but also] as a way to make the reviewer feel special [with] a prime position on our page.”


“With each jump in the rankings, our sales increased by around 20% and over the course of three years, we managed to more than double our turnover. I would say that a huge part of this was due to Tripadvisor.”

John Stamp

Owner, Makars Gourmet Mash Bar

Stamp never looked back. “With each jump up the rankings, our sales increased by around 20% and over the course of three years, we managed to more than double our [table] turnover. I would say that a huge part of this was due to Tripadvisor,” says Stamp.

Most importantly, Tripadvisor also helps Stamp keep the pipeline flowing of new diners into his restaurant. Says Stamp, “I would say that 80% of our new customers come via Tripadvisor – either finding us on there or hearing about us some other way but going on to validate their decision before booking.”

It’s been a long road, but Stamp knows that it’s what he was meant to do. “We’re very proud of what we have done to get where we are today,” says Stamp. “To have won a Travelers’ Choice Award is the icing on the cake. Everyone in the restaurant business knows what sheer hard work it is but having had people coming in to congratulate on our win makes it all so worthwhile.”

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Last Updated: 30 January 2019

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