When reviews go wrong: How to safeguard your restaurant’s reputation online

Reviews, social media call outs, and bad press are nightmares for restaurant owners. Few have the bandwidth to monitor and respond to negative or ambiguous posts in real-time.

In return, one comment can snowball into a pile of ass-kissing tasks on your day off. Circumstances out of your control can make managing your restaurant’s reputation challenging.

QSR reports on survey results published in the Journal of Hospitality of Tourism Research showing that:

The odds of patrons leaving “very negative” remarks over similarly very positive comments were 2.9 times greater on rainy days.

Each added star rating equals more clicks to your website and, ultimately, dollars for your restaurant. Don’t fight the system. Instead, develop a proactive communications style that keeps a continual stream of positive mojo headed your way.

Reviews (and their eye-catching stars) grab top slots.

Search Google for a restaurant near you. What comes up? Most likely, you’ll see a Google Local Pack. Look into each listing further and you’ll find links to review sites that mention the restaurant.

For the restaurant owner, each star equals potential profit or loss. Research published by Michael Luca with the Harvard Business School shows:

A one-star increase on Yelp can lead to a 5-9% increase in business revenue.

Where do you start when there’s no shortage of review sites? A GatherUp survey finds that consumers are most likely to read reviews on:

  • 29.2% Yelp
  • 28.1% Google
  • 16.2% Facebook
  • 14.2% Trip Advisor
  • 9.8% Open Table
  • 1.7% Zagat
  • 0.9% Zomato

There are tons of sites because there’s a demand for them. BrightLocal says, “consumers read restaurant reviews more than any other industry.” Their data shows:

60% of people read online reviews for a local restaurant or cafe.

Review management tips:

  1. Check with your social media scheduling app to see if the services include review tracking. Hootsuite helps business owners with an app called Reputology.
  2. If the majority of your resources go into tracking, then save time with pre-written statements. Personalize your responses according to the review.

Social media call-outs get attention.

The restaurant, food, and beverage industries earn more than one million mentions on social media sites. According to Statista:

57% of these were about quick-service restaurants.

Granted, a good number of these are tagged photos on Instagram. However, customers also ask questions and post complaints. Staying up on social conversations is essential because 40% of customers who complain on social expect a response within one hour.

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Social reputation tips:

  1. Use a free tool to monitor social mentions. Set reminders for status updates or designate a person to do this job.
  2. Have a plan of action that elevates particular mentions to a higher level for faster response.

How to manage your restaurant’s online reputation

While it’s impossible to control everything that goes on online (or with the weather), you can redirect the conversation. The key is to roll out plenty of positive info while proactively managing your restaurant’s reputation.

Blogger outreach. Keep a flow of positive mentions with a communications plan that includes media and PR outreach. Remember that Google box on the SERP? It also contains links to media mentions, from newspapers to local blogging “best of” lists.

Social listening. A complaint on Twitter or ugly post on Snapchat garners negative attention. Monitor your mention, then provide a timely response to slide the scale back in your favor.

Brand ambassadors. You may have noticed a few of your fans jumping in to answer someone’s question about your restaurant or sticking up for your company on a negative post. These people make up your brand ambassadors. Create more of these people.

Tracking your restaurant brand’s reputation can feel impossible. However, it’s an essential part of doing business. Not only to protect your restaurant’s reputation but also to grow your company. Every review, every mention, symbolizes money made or lost. With the right communications strategy, you’ll ensure that it’s money made every single time.

Management consultant and brand strategist for small teams. Fan of dark tea, thick books, peace, and unity.

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