By Seshu Madabushi
Restaurant industry is a very competitive industry where harsh reviews and quick judgments have become a part of the trade. With the advent of social media and explosion of mobile devices, and ghost reviews etc., the whole issue has been complicated. But customers’ increasing say is the reason why restaurants need to jump the bandwagon and steer the conversation to its’ advantage.
After all, misuse of reviews is a common side effect and this whole process is what is called reputation management.
Should I care about reviews?
In short, yes!
- Harvard Business School professor Michael Luca found that a one-star increase in a Yelp rating leads to a 5% to 9% bump in revenue.
- More than 1/3 of diners report that peer reviews impact their choice of restaurant, and 53% of millennials (18 – 34yrs) report that online reviews factor into their dining decisions.
- 61% of the consumers have read online reviews about restaurants than other business category.
I. Create & Optimize: Put your best foot forward
Now that we made our case for a coordinated reputation management strategy, lets look at the four building blocks. Make a list of sites that are relevant to your business. Some of the major ones in the current scenario are:
If there is an already existing listing on these sites, claim that page or, if there is no existing listing, create one from scratch. Once you have listings on those sites, follow the following steps to make sure that these listings are optimized for accuracy and customer leads.
Get the basics down. Check to make sure that your address, phone numbers, and open hours are accurate. Also fill in details about the kind of cuisine, price range, and contact info, etc.
Publish your menu or have a link to your menu. Note that this is very important. Customers will often make a decision based on what’s on your menu. Update your listings with food pics on a regular basis.
Feed them engaging content. Having different offers, such as check-in incentives and using Instagram hash tags will further drive your online traffic. Audience love engaging content, especially when it comes to getting something out of it.
II. Generate Reviews
Now that you have created the listings, direct your customers to provide feedback on these sites by following these simple strategies:
Train your staff to request feedback. This is a very tricky situation and, in this case, make sure that your staff knows how to approach your patrons. Never ever offer any kind of incentive to provide feedback. Instead, have your staff strike a conversation and, based on the direction, drop in a note for your customers to provide feedback.
Have posters/table tents. Get table tents and posters printed with links to your reputation management sites which are visible to your customers.
Get social. Use social media and post on a frequent basis about what is happening in your world.
Focus on what you do best. In the end, the best way to keep a high level of reputation comes down to your product & service. Never let your eyes stray from your amazing guest experience.
III. Respond & Manage
Once you’ve collected some well needed feedback, it’s time to figure out how to react to the reviews. Are the good? Bad? Somewhere in between? How you respond to your loyal diners and critics matters.
Be active in the conversation. Have an active involvement with the customers reviewing your business. Reply to everything and take note of any negative feedback. This is a sure shot way of maintaining a rapport with the existing customers and building new ones.
Be quick! Make sure that you respond to reviews in a timely fashion. We suggest within 24 hours.
Extend an olive branch. In the cases of negative reviews, make sure that you respond with an invitation to come back and give your business another try
So you’ve gotten feedback and have responded to the cheers and jeers. Now it’s time to analyze what your guests think about you and how successful you were at getting second chances from the critics.
Analyze your reviews. Look across all your platforms. Do you see a trend? Is there an issue with a particular shift/employee? What else can your reviews tell you?
Compare & contrast. See how stack up with your competitors. How do you compare?
Second chances. Were you able to get customers give you another chance after they had a bad experience? If not, what can you do differently for next time?
Based on answers you should be able to take corrective actions and also manage your listings better.
Your reputation is what matters in today’s competitive world, and you need to go all-in in order to manage and improve it. Have a dedicated team or person who constantly monitors your reviews online. Have them respond to reviews in a timely fashion. Remember: this directly impacts your top line growth.
About the Author:
Seshu Madabushi is the Founder & CEO of mKonnekt. He has more than 15 years of experience working for Fortune 50 clients to mom-and-pop stores and also have worked on multiple startups. mKonnekt creates a marketing platform that mines customer data to create personalized dining experiences. The platform consists of different modules that includes online ordering system (FoodKonnekt), loyalty program (FreeKwent) etc. The intent is to capture customer data as they interact with restaurants and use this data to better market restaurants.