Reputation is everything in the restaurant game. A good standing will have patrons rolling through the door, drawn in by tantalising whispers and word-of-mouth. But such repute doesn’t just happen; it can take years for any restaurateur to build a good reputation and takes but a moment for it to be destroyed.
You’re in control of your restaurant’s rep, although it takes a little effort to cultivate it. Thankfully this digital world of ours has made the process of growing and managing your restaurant’s status easier than ever.
Growing Your Restaurant’s Rep
Get in front of people’s faces
To have a reputation, be it bad or good, you sort of need people to know that you exist. It’s hard to have an opinion on something when you don’t know about that something. So the first step to growing your restaurant’s reputation is gaining that all important visibility.
Invest serious time and effort into your restaurant’s website. If you Google your restaurant’s name and your site doesn’t come up on the first page of results, you’ve got work to do. Employ an SEO expert to get your site as high up the Google rankings as possible, and get active on social media – sign up to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram at the very minimum.
Ask for feedback
Building your restaurant’s reputation rests heavily on creating a buzz; on getting people to talk about your establishment, and hopefully in glowing terms. So why not flat out ask people to publish their opinions?
If a customer has had a great night, there’s nothing pushy about your service staff saying something like “if you enjoyed yourself feel welcome to review us on Yelp – it really helps!” You can also create business cards to hand the customer with the cheque, and strategically place review site stickers around your premises.
Display reviews on your social feeds and in your restaurant
Those 5-star reviews needn’t stay as zeros and ones on the World Wide Web – why not bring them into the real world? Scrawling super positive messages from previous customers can firm your reputation as a dining hotspot and encourage others to offer up their two cents too. If you’re brave, displaying unreasonably bad reviews – this fried chicken store doesn’t even serve lobster – can serve to highlight the ridiculousness of some reviews, and will show that you’re willing to laugh at yourself.
Managing Your Restaurant’s Rep
Respond to reviews
All reviews, be they one, five or 39 stars, deserve a response. Restaurateurs who respond to those who have taken the time to review an establishment are showing that they are concerned with their performance; that they actively search out feedback and (hopefully) take it on board. If someone has commented on how much they enjoyed their night, throw them a ‘thanks so much for coming – we hope to see you again soon!’
Automate the reputation monitoring process
Yelp, TripAdvisor, Facebook, OpenTable, Urbanspoon, and Google are the major review sites worthy of your attention. Your establishment’s profile on these sites should be checked out of habit, not on a whim. Set aside time weekly, perhaps every Monday morning, to check reviews and respond to them. A tool such as Grade Us can serve to make this process far easier.
Be careful when responding to negativity
Just as much effort – perhaps even more – should be put in when responding to negative reviews compared to positive. It’s vital that you thank the reviewer for their feedback, address the concerns raised in the review, and offer either good reasons for what occurred or show that you are taking steps to improve yourself.
Remain calm – leave the CAPS LOCK and the ¡¡¡over-exclamation!!! at the door.
Flag reviews which are patently false
It’s impossible to please everybody in the hospitality game. There’ll always be someone who finds a way to be appalled, whether that be with the food, the service or the atmosphere and takes to the keyboard to vent their frustrations. If you feel as though a negative review has misrepresented the facts you’ll be relieved to learn that most review sites have avenues of appeal. Yelp, for example, allows you to flag false reviews and send them to a Yelp employee for evaluation.
Despite growing and managing your restaurant’s reputation never have been easier, it’s surprising how few restaurateurs do it properly. By taking your digital rep seriously, you’ll soon find yourself getting ahead of quite a few competitors.
And all it’ll cost you nothing more than a few strokes of the keys.