Managing Your Restaurant’s Online Reputation

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Managing your online reputation is now essential. That’s a simple and unavoidable fact in a world empowered by Google and other search engines. Potential customers now “scout out” restaurants online, whether that be from their desktop PC at work, or on their mobile phone while riding the subway home from work. One major part of managing your online reputation is to watch out for bad reviews on major sites, such as Yelp, TripAdvisor, and others.

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The sad fact is that online reputation ranking systems can be “fiddled” with to paint one restaurant as good and other restaurants as bad. There have been reports that some restaurant owners will hire people to write good reviews for their restaurants, and publish bad reviews for competitors. This is clearly unethical and can permanently damage the reputation of the targeted restaurant.

By monitoring your reviews you can learn about what customers are liking and disliking, and then adjust accordingly. Not only that, you can watch for signs of fraudulent posts and reviews. For example, if your restaurant is in a small town in Idaho and you have received a dozen negative reviews from the Philippines there’s a high chance that the reviews are falsified.

Managing Reviews

You need to make sure that there are as few bad reviews as possible. The first step to minimizing bad reviews is to listen to your customers and their reviews. What are they not enjoying about your restaurant? Are there any observable trends? Perhaps, for example, numerous people are commenting that you serve weak coffee? If so, change your coffee to make it stronger.

Another smart option is to provide feedback options at your restaurant and on your own website. If people receive bad service, they are going to want to vent. You should try to get them to vent on a medium you control, that way you can address their concerns, but in a more private way. If customers have a complaint, you should work hard to address their problems. Remember, the customer is always right, even when they are wrong!

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Also, make sure your own website is as attractive as possible. If you have a great restaurant website there’s a good chance that you can draw away a significant amount of traffic from sites like Yelp. This will help you protect yourself from bad reviews.

If you believe that something is “fishy” about the reviews on a particular site, you can try to write to the site’s managers and let them know. If you suspect that another competing business is trying to game the system, you should explain that to the relevant authorities.

Make sure you monitor review sites as closely as possible. Some tools, such as Google Alert, will actually help you automate the monitoring of sites. This will take some of the burden off of your shoulders and also ensure that you are responding quickly to problems as they arise.

Building A Strong Reputation

You can also encourage customers to leave positive reviews, assuming they are happy. You can offer people who leave you a good review a discount or free item off the menu. You should never pay someone, and especially someone who has never even eaten at your restaurant, to write a good review. This is unethical and is nothing more than a scam. Still, if customers are happy with your restaurant, there’s no problem offering them a 10% discount to project their own genuine thoughts out over the Internet.

You can also check for local food review experts. If someone is running a  blog that reviews food in the local community, you should reach out to them and offer them a free meal. People trust experts, so if can rack up some good reviews for your site, you can really build up your reputation.

Of course, at the end of the day the best thing you can do to run a good restaurant is to serve good food and offer world-class service. If you run a good restaurant people will write good reviews about it. These good reviews, in turn, will draw in more customers. This is why managing your online reviews and customer feedback is so important for any business.

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