How to find and manage your restaurant’s online reviews

Online, everyone’s a critic. There’s no shortage of sites and apps that let guests rate, review, recommend, or otherwise critique their restaurant experiences. Some platforms even award users points for their reviews. While the average person probably doesn’t judge within the same criteria or reach as, say, the New York Times, user-generated reviews influence decisions about which restaurants to visit.

Online customer reviews are nothing new, but the explosion of social media makes reviews and recommendations instant. With a seemingly infinite number of ways to communicate online, there are a whole lot of places, beyond the usual suspects, where reviews of your restaurant might be hiding. Here’s how to track them down and tips on responding.

How do you find them?

You can always check individual review sites where you know your restaurant is listed (OpenTable and TripAdvisor, for example). Most of these sites allow you to “claim” your restaurant, read online reviews, and respond to comments as the official business owner.

But an easier way to stay on top of reviews is to use OpenTable’s reputation management. You can see all your reviews from around the internet at a glance. You’ll see them from the major players, like Google and Facebook, as well as dozens of smaller sites and search engines you may not even know about.

Set Google Alerts for your restaurant. Google will send you an email whenever your restaurant is mentioned, and you can set them to show up as often as possible (in real-time) or just once per week. You can also tell Google to send you everything (which can be a lot) or just the top results.

A Twitter search helps you find when your restaurant is mentioned on Twitter, either by your own Twitter handle or just by name. You can search Twitter even if you don’t have an account, though you won’t be able to respond to anyone until you sign up. If your restaurant has a common name, try adding your city to help narrow the results. Look for the search icon on Twitter.

Instagram search is useful in a few different ways, but again, you’ll need to create an account to respond. If you do have an account and use it to post photos, check comments on your own photos first. Use the search function (by tapping the magnifying glass) to search by restaurant name. Perhaps the most useful way to discover images posted from your restaurant is to search by location. (Select “places” in the search menu and enter your restaurant’s name.)

Facebook reviews are a part of your restaurant’s page. To find them, look for the “Reviews” section on the left side of your page. Here, you can respond directly to Facebook reviews.

Once you find where your customers are talking, monitor these channels and respond to messages. This is also a great way to choose which social platforms are best for your restaurant, if you don’t have the time or resources to dedicate to all of them. The beauty of these “informal” social reviews is that they invite conversation. Responding is a fast way to reach the customer directly to address concerns or show thanks for a great review. When responding, remember the following:

Which reviews or comments do you respond to?

If you’re overwhelmed by the volume of comments and reviews, decide on a number or frequency to address and remain consistent. Responding to every critique is unreasonable and can make you look defensive. Replying to only positive feedback or comments gives the impression you’re purposely ignoring negative reviews. A serious issue, like allegations of staff misconduct or food-borne illness, requires a fast and personal response.

Where do you respond?

Social media sites are inherently social: most make it easy to join the conversation as it happens. Generally, you should respond via the same medium—tweets on Twitter, comments on Facebook. But sometimes, especially for the kinds of reviews and comments you feel require direct follow-up, you can certainly take the conversation offline. Asking for contact information or messaging the person directly (as opposed to responding publicly) are both appropriate.

OpenTable’s reputation management allows you to respond directly to guest comments. Make them feel heard by responding on the channel where the guest contacted you. You can also use reputation management to send customizable surveys to get more actionable feedback about what’s working and what needs improvement.

How do you respond?

Ideally: fast and personalized. The response should fit the review. A paragraphs-long rant deserves a different response than a tweet or an Instagram comment. Thanks to the casual nature of a lot of platforms, there’s a lot of room for creativity.

Think outside the box

Perhaps one of the best examples of creatively addressing online reviews comes from ChefsFeed’s video series titled “Chefs Read Bad Reviews.” In it, chefs read, often for the first time, comically bad reviews of their restaurants. They’re great to watch if you’re having a particularly frustrating day, dealing with reviews that just don’t make rational sense, or need a laugh. It’s also a great example of chefs taking control of the situation and responding to baseless criticism with refreshing authenticity and good humor.