Owning and operating a restaurant isn’t an easy job – it’s demanding, stressful and busy, but ultimately rewarding when customers praise your food, enjoy the atmosphere and recommend you to their friends and social peers.
It’s a basic fact of the service industry that you will never be able to please all your customers all the time – between dietary requirements, experimental dishes, and individual tastes, the best a chef can do is produce a dish that ‘most’ customers will enjoy.
Customers base their dining decisions on a variety of factors, including personal taste and the opinion of others. What people are saying about your restaurant’s reputation can have a huge impact on the type of experience diners will be expecting, and whether they decide to eat with you.
Over 80% of consumers now trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, and your potential customers will see you before you even realise that they are there. Your restaurant’s reputation is the foundation of your business – it’s what inspires trust, loyalty and custom. How you manage your restaurant’s reputation makes a noticeable difference in sales, enquiries and bookings.
You cannot leave your reputation to chance – you need to have a management strategy in place that evolves and changes over time, and is optimised to not only protect your restaurant’s reputation but strengthen and grow it too.
What Do You Need for an effective RESTAURANT Reputation Management?
Firstly, you need to analyse your restaurant’s reputation. Using specialist tools, you can use data analytics to work out your current positioning in the market – where you rank online, how well your website is performing, where traffic is coming from and when, how well your social media channels are connecting with your target audience.
Once you know how your restaurant’s reputation is positioned, you have the foundations to work from – you can use this data to make smart decisions about your marketing and advertising strategies as well as increasing your reputation.
Invest some time in ensuring your Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is functioning correctly – think like a customer and try different search terms to see where you are ranking in the results. If you are appearing low on the list, or not at all – you need to rethink your SEO strategy and the keywords you are using on your website/s.
Using monitoring software, you need to set up alerts and notifications to inform you when your venue has been mentioned online when a review has been left and events happening in your local area that may be of interest to your customers.
The main focus for Online Reputation Management should be Social Media channels and Review Sites – these are the main hubs of information for most consumers when they are looking for information.
RESTAURANT Reputation MANAGEMENT ON Social Media
Social Media channels aren’t just places for you to speak with your customers – they are places where your customers, and potential customers, can speak with you.
Monitoring questions and comments on your posts is extremely important – if your customers are taking the time to speak with you, then you should respond in some way, even if it is just to ‘like’ the post.
Unanswered questions give a negative impression – you need to be seen to be engaging. If you are going to reply privately, then say that is what you’re doing so other visitors can see that the individual hasn’t been ignored.
Your Social Media team need to know what they should be posting and when, so they all speak with the same company ‘voice’. The business channels cannot be treated as a personal account – they must reflect your values and image at all times.
Time is also of the essence – users of social media expect quick responses, you cannot just attend to your channels once or twice a week, someone needs to keep a constant eye on them, responding and engaging as soon as there is customer interaction.
RESTAURANT Reputation Management ON Review Sites
Unlike Social Media, where you can directly interact with potential future customers, review sites are a format for past customers to document their experiences for others to use in their decision making process.
This does not mean that you can simply ignore these reviews – it is vital that you engage with your past customers, both for their satisfaction and for the benefit of future visitors.
By replying to happy customers, you are doing two things – acknowledging the importance of their experience, and providing your SEO with a secondary source of positive remarks to draw from and display in the rankings.
It is estimated that an unhappy customer is likely to personally tell between 9 and 15 people of their experience – but when they leave a review, every person that looks at your venue rating will be able to see their opinions.
Unhappy customers may have legitimate complaints that your staff can learn and improve from. It is important that you contact these people, don’t expect them to contact you – they’ve already taken the time to express their problems, they are unlikely to be receptive if you ask them to contact you again. With the right handling, an unhappy customer may change their opinion of your venue, and decide to visit you again. By ignoring them or expecting them to reach out to you again, you are underscoring the negative aspects of their visit.
Whether the review is positive or negative, your Reputation Management team should be interacting and responding. Due to time constraints, many businesses use an auto-responder or copy and paste a standard response. In an environment where personalisation is becoming more important than ever, this can be extremely damaging because it lacks the one to one customer care consumers have come to expect.
What Happens when you DON’T have Effective Online Reputation Management?
- Your reputation is left in the hands of uninvolved 3rd party individuals
- Lack of response to queries or comments will see potential customers decide to go to actively engaged competitors instead
- Customers who’ve had a negative experience will inform their social circles of this, and actively discourage them from spending with your business
- Search Engine results could show negative reviews, putting potential customers off before they decide to visit you
- Your business will get a reputation for being uncaring and uninterested
- Repeat custom will fall
- Your profits will fall
- False reviews or slanderous comments will be left unchecked, leaving potential customers to believe they are real
- Your Social Media channels will not function at optimised levels, meaning that brand recognition will decrease
- Brand Trust will be severely damaged
What Do You Do if You Don’t Have the Time or Staff to Maintain an Effective Online Reputation Management Strategy?
It is vitally important that you have an Online Reputation Management strategy in place, but if you don’t have the time or the available staff to manage it, there are options.
Reputable and reliable Reputation Management services are available, but you must ensure that you choose a company who aligns with and understands your brand ethics, can accurately and consistently project your company voice, who uses the latest technologies to monitor trends and engagement.
Leaving your reputation in the hands of others is something that you can do – but only if the company you are leaving it with is trusted, proven and reliable.