Online Reviews. Don't Panic!
You’ve worked hard to earn a good reputation and many restaurant owners & chefs live in near fear that someone using the internet, “hiding behind a computer screen”, is going to ruin their business or post false information about their restaurant or bar.
First thing to remember, don’t get overwhelmed, be insecure, or respond aggressively!
The truth to the matter is, the restaurant industry thrives on word-of-mouth. It’s no secret. With that said, properly managing your reputation online can actually increase your reservations, foot traffic, and rankings in search engines.
According to a recent study by economists from Berkeley, a half-star improvement in online ratings and reviews can make a restaurant 30-to-49% more likely to be fully booked during peak hours. It’s about building trust and credibility…over 70% of consumers search for and trust online consumer opinions.
Online reputation management is what we call a process or in-house system you can put together to monitor, influence, and engage with feedback left about your restaurant. Once it’s online, it’s online. This is why monitoring your social media feeds, blog posts, video comments, review sites, and even your competitors sites is extremely important.
It is even more important to not ignore a negative comment or review. Never react to the comment in a hostile way either. Engage with the complaint in a clear, polite, and positive fashion, and take it simply as constructive criticism. This will indicate a level of transparency within your restaurant and hopefully show other potential guests you care and are up for the challenge to simply ‘make it right’.
This is now your time to not only mature as a business, but to grow and develop as well.
It is imperative though that you remain calm and always respond. Perhaps step away, clear your head, and then come back and respond to the comment or review. Be sympathetic, listen, and acknowledge the customer. Try to make it right with them and offer an incentive for them to return. But keep in mind, some customers use online forums to vent. And just vent. But it is your posted response that ultimately matters. Others are going to see it.
With that being said, not everything needs to be negative. Nobody is perfect but you should encourage your customers to leave positive reviews. According to NPD – a consumer and retail research firm – 6 percent of total US restaurant visits (926+ Million) were influenced by targeted internet marketing, such as restaurant reputation management.
What’s the best way to do this? First, have appropriate training and systems in place at all times within your restaurant and offer consistent quality service. Pretty straight forward I hope.
But also, don’t be afraid to use email marketing to your advantage or reach out via social media, or hand out business card-size notices asking customers to rate their experience, or use your tent cards, or link review sites to your website. Also, encourage customers to “check-in” on these sites. Equally, don’t be ashamed to highlight an awesome review on social media!