Gone are the days when word of mouth was the only kind of reputation a restaurant needed to wrangle. Today, most restaurant reputation management takes place outside of the restaurant’s four walls: online. A great reputation can bring in a steady stream of new guests while a ho-hum reputation keeps people away. It’s essential to keep a handle on what people are saying out there.
Here are the most important actions you can take to safeguard and enhance your reputation everywhere people are spreading the word about restaurants.
What is restaurant reputation management?
A restaurant’s online reputation is among its most valuable assets. Public opinion can make the difference between success and failure.
That’s where restaurant reputation management comes in. Simply put, restaurant reputation management is a defined process for tracking, responding to, and addressing feedback from the many places opinions circulate online and beyond.
Here’s how to do it:
1. Spruce up your online presence
One of the best ways to manage your reputation is to improve your online presence. Think like a potential guest and look at every piece of digital real estate you occupy online with fresh eyes. Make sure your website is easy to navigate and mobile friendly. Check your Google business listing for accuracy. Visit your OpenTable profile page and update it with the latest photos, menus, and information.
For better or worse, some people form their opinions about restaurants based on their impression of your online presence alone. Make sure it represents you accurately. Not only will this enhance your reputation, it’s a basic of good restaurant marketing as well.
2. Set up a Google alert
One of the best ways for a local business to stay on top of what people are saying about your restaurant is to set up a Google alert. The search engine will send an email anytime the restaurant is covered in the media. Being on top of all media mentions, positive and negative, can help you stay informed of how you’re perceived and correct any factual errors as soon as they happen.
3. Monitor social media
Twitter, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook are now the public square where people gather to share thoughts, opinions, and photographs from their latest restaurant meal.
Set a schedule for searching these social media platforms, looking for tags and mentions. When done consistently, this monitoring provides a good lay of the land of brand perception. For brownie points, engage with this audience. Follow fans back, ask them questions, and respond to things that are said out there. It’s an opportunity to become a better known, trustworthy voice in the local dining scene.
4. Ask guests for ratings and reviews
Don’t be shy—when a guest is saying how much they enjoyed their meal, it’s completely appropriate for you to ask them to leave you a rating and review online. Remind them that leaving a star rating (instead of writing a review) is easy and only takes a moment.
Oftentimes, people don’t realize what a big impact this has on a business until someone tells them. When people are delighted by the food and service at a restaurant, they’re typically delighted to help spread the word by rating and reviewing.
5. Stay on top of online reviews
It can be painful to read online ratings and reviews, especially when so many people use their anonymity to share off-base opinions that have little to do with food or hospitality. If you can learn to discount those reviews and focus on feedback from actual guests, you can learn a lot about what people are experiencing when they dine with you. These customer reviews contribute in a big way to the overall reputation of your restaurant. Don’t be left out of the conversation.
6. Respond to negative reviews
Craft honest, courteous responses to people with negative feedback. The temptation to correct or tell these people off will be high, but that is likely to compound the issue and erode your reputation. Wait for the emotions to pass and provide a calm, professional response to the issue when appropriate.
Remember, for every valid negative review there will be one that has nothing to do with the restaurant at all. Perhaps people disagree with the current policy or they dislike the name or location of the restaurant. In those cases, feel free to let these reviews go without a response.
7. Thank guests for positive reviews
Engage with those who have left you glowing online reviews. This kind of customer feedback is a pleasure to respond to. Cement goodwill from guests by taking a moment to respond to their reviews. Thank them for their kind words. You may even want to make a note in their guest profile so they can be thanked with a small gift from the kitchen when they return. These gestures of hospitality have the power to create loyal regulars.
8. Find the valuable feedback
Positive or negative, most reviews contain valuable nuggets of information. Mine them for tidbits that you can convert into actions that will make your restaurant better. Be especially alert to any issues noted by multiple reviews and try to get to the root of the problem.
If people complain about wait times or order mistakes, it may be time to tweak shift staffing. A single review that mentions loud music doesn’t mean much, but if there are a dozen similar complaints within a month, turn the stereo down. And don’t overlook the positive things that come up in reviews. These represent opportunities to double down on things you already do well to make them even better.
9. Upgrade tools
You don’t need specialized reputation management software to handle this part of running a restaurant business, but it can help. If you use OpenTable, you already have a relationship management tool at your fingertips that lets you check out all reviews from the most popular review sites at a glance.
It can feel impossible to shape the way guests feel about your restaurant, but these strategies offer a way to influence people. If you take care of reputation management, a glowing reputation will help take care of you.