By Jeff Quinn
These days, people are more likely to check out your restaurant online before they check it out in person. With some more competition out there, it’s extremely important that your restaurant stands out from the crowd and to continually attract new diners.
Without your great food and ambiance to sway diners, you’ll need to rely on your restaurant’s online brand to make a great impression. In this blog, we’ll cover what an online reputation is and how you can successfully manage it in order to boost your brand and bring new diners in from online.
What is a Restaurant’s Online Reputation?
Years ago, restaurants could boost their local reputation by getting a great review printed in the local paper or in a food magazine. Their brand could be built by having a great looking interior and great press. These days, those details are still extremely important, but you’ll be better off investing time in gathering better online reviews than you would hunting down a food critic.
Anything that appears in an online search for your restaurant constitutes your online reputation. This means that your restaurant’s online profiles -- like on Google, Yelp, and Restaurants.com -- call weigh heavily in your online reputation.
More importantly, what is being said about your restaurant on these profiles is what really matters.
How to Manage Your Restaurant’s Online Reputation to Get New Diners Through Your Doors
Successfully managing your restaurant’s online reputation is what’s going to differentiate your restaurant from the competition. More and more, people are weighing online reviews more heavily than even personal recommendations.
Unlike personal recommendations, which may only reach five people, online reviews have the capacity to reach thousands of potential diners. Additionally, the better your restaurant’s online reputation is, the more likely search engines are to show your profile when someone makes a related search.
To help you successfully manage your restaurant’s online reputation, we’ve put together five tips you can put into action.
Claim Your Restaurant’s Profiles
The majority of businesses around the US already have profiles on review websites. These profiles, generated by the websites using public information or by users themselves, are the foundation to your restaurant’s online reputation.
Make sure you compile a list of every website your restaurant has a profile on. Claiming each profile makes sure that competitors or hackers cannot alter your business’s information.
Update the Information You Have Online
Once you get access to your restaurant’s online profiles, it’s time to update the information that’s available on them. This includes standard information like your address, phone number, and business hours as well as more specific information like what’s on your menu.
Many review websites will have additional sections that allow you to input information about accessibility, ambiance, and what credit cards are accepted.
It’s also important to make sure that you have great photos available online. It is beneficial to have professional photos taken of your interior, exterior, and some of the most popular dishes available.
The more information you give potential diners, the more of an informed decision they’ll be able to make about where they want to dine.
Solicit New Reviews from Guests
One of the best ways to stand apart from the competition is to make sure you have a better rating and review than them.
Make sure your restaurant is competitive by checking out what similar restaurants are rated and how many reviews, on average, they have. These stats are now your goal to beat. In the case where you are already ahead, make sure you are consistently adding new reviews to keep your advantage.
Many restaurant owners and managers elect to manage their online reputation using tools that keep everything centralized on a single dashboard. These tools will often allow businesses to send out emails and texts that actively solicit reviews from customers.
Simply collect guest information like their first name, phone number, or email address and send them a follow-up message after their visit!
It also pays off to train staff on how to properly ask for reviews in person, complete with letting them know which profile to specifically direct diners to leave their feedback on.
Respond to Each Review
Now that you have reviews regularly coming to your restaurant’s profiles, you will want to put a system into place that supports quick responses.
Responding to reviews, both negative and positive ones, sets a good tone for how much you value customer experience. Whether someone is leaving a rave review and you send them a thank you, or someone leaves a negative review and you respond with a request for more information, you are showing potential customers that you care.
Designate a specific staff member as the person who is responsible for responding to reviews. Giving this responsibility to one person will ensure that it won’t fall through the cracks and that the job will get done.
You can also streamline this process by creating a group of pre-written responses that are approved. When a new review is published, one of those responses can be posted with just a few personalized edits.
Promote Real Reviews on Social Media
One of the best parts of online brand reputation management is how widespread the results can be.
Once someone leaves a review for your restaurant, you can use that review to build and reinforce your brand.
For example, taking a quote from a positive review, placing it in a nice graphic, and sharing it to social media can be a great way to show people what your customers are saying about you. Each reviewer can effectively become a brand ambassador that is promoting your business after their own great experience.
Anything that you can do to promote your restaurant’s reputation will, in turn, build your brand. So, keep asking for new reviews, creating a great dining experience, and showcase the great work you’re doing by promoting your online reviews!