As a restaurant owner or manager, perhaps the best exercise you can do is to think of the dining out process through the prism of your own behavior as a consumer.
How do you choose a place to eat out? Do online reviews make a difference? You bet they do!
Ultimately it comes down to how best to manage your restaurant’s reputation because it just might be your greatest asset of all.
It’s not just millennials who rely on reviews when they are in red-hot buyer mode and looking for a place to eat. Though to a lesser extent, every generation is liable to whip out that trusty cell phone and search for nearby restaurants with great reviews.
It’s a reality that potential customers will compare your establishment to others.
Reviews and your responses to them can be the deciding factor.
More times than not, to the better reviews go the spoils of increased patronage. This is also your first and best opportunity to demonstrate superior customer service.
When it Goes Negative
Perhaps the single most important advice for reputation management for restaurants is to resist the impulse to take roll in the mud with negative reviewers. Once again, think of how this looks to an outsider.
It’s a lot easier for the average person to tell when a bad review is out of line than you might think. You do need to respond but never do so in anger. Always be unfailingly polite. Answer the specific complaints and do your best to take the issue offline as soon as possible.
Provide a phone number and ask the malcontent to allow you to address the issue in that manner.
Choose Your Platform
Maintaining your web presence can be a brain and time suck but there’s no way around it. You need to do it. At the minimum you need a website, Facebook business page, and to claim your business on Google. It’s also a good idea to take advantage of at least a few of the big restaurant-specific platforms available like Yelp, Zomato, and the like.
Your website should feature an updated menu and a sampling of your best reviews in big, bold type. When it comes to interacting with customers online, keep in mind that the more of this kind of thing you do, the better.
Don’t make the mistake of only responding when someone posts a negative review. You don’t have to write an essay with every response but at least drop a line of thanks. After all, they took the time to compliment you. You don’t ignore compliments in the offline world, do you?
The Bottom Line
The big picture idea to keep in mind is that the days are long gone when you could manage your restaurant’s reputation completely offline. Even the most local of local eateries will find it hard to survive without online traffic of any kind. Sorry. That’s just the way it is here in the Internet Age. Smart entrepreneurs will adjust their marketing accordingly.