Gone are the days when word of mouth was the only kind of reputation a restaurant needed to wrangle. Today, most restaurant reputation management takes place online instead of within the restaurant’s four walls. A great reputation can bring in a steady stream of new guests while a boring talk keeps people away. It’s essential to keep a handle on what people are saying out there.
Here are the most important actions you can take to safeguard and enhance your reputation everywhere people are spreading the word about restaurants.
What is restaurant reputation management?
A restaurant’s online reputation is among its most valuable assets. Public opinion can make the difference between success and failure.
That’s where restaurant reputation management comes in. Simply put, restaurant reputation management is a defined process for tracking, responding to and addressing feedback from the many places opinions circulate online and beyond.
Here’s how you do it:
1. Spruce up your online presence
One of the best ways to manage your reputation involves improving your online presence. Think like a potential guest and look at every digital asset you occupy online with fresh eyes. Make sure your website is easy to navigate and mobile friendly. Check your Google business listing for accuracy. Visit your OpenTable profile page and update it with the latest photos, menus and information.
For better or worse, some people form their opinions about restaurants based on their impression of your online presence alone. Make sure it represents you accurately. Not only will this enhance your reputation, but it’s also a basic of good restaurant marketing.
2. Set up a Google alert
One of the best ways for a local business to stay on top of what people say about your restaurant is to set up a Google alert. The search engine will send an email when the restaurant is featured in the media. Being on top of all media mentions, positive and negative, can help you stay informed of how you’re perceived and correct any factual errors as soon as they happen.
3. Monitor social media
Twitter, TikTok, Instagram and Facebook are now the public square where people gather to share thoughts, opinions and photographs from their latest restaurant meal.
Set a schedule for searching these social media platforms, looking for tags and mentions. When done consistently, this monitoring provides a good lay of the land of brand perception. For brownie points, engage with this audience. Follow fans back, ask them questions, and respond to things that are said out there. It’s an opportunity to become a better known, trustworthy voice in the local dining scene.
4. Ask guests for ratings and reviews
Don’t be shy – when a guest is saying how much they enjoyed their meal, it’s completely appropriate for you to ask them to leave a rating and review online. Remind them that leaving a star rating (instead of writing a review) is easy and only takes a moment.
Oftentimes, people don’t realise what a huge impact this has on a business until someone tells them. When people are delighted by the food and service at a restaurant, they’re typically delighted to help spread the word by rating and reviewing.
5. Stay on top of online reviews
It can be painful to read online ratings and reviews, especially when so many people use their anonymity to share off-base opinions that have little to do with food or hospitality. If you can learn to discount those reviews and focus on feedback from actual guests, you can learn a lot about what people experience when they dine with you. These customer reviews contribute in a big way to the overall reputation of your restaurant. Don’t be left out of the conversation.
6. Respond to negative reviews
Craft honest, courteous responses to people with negative feedback. The temptation to correct or tell these people off will be high, but that is likely to compound the issue and erode your reputation. Wait for the emotions to pass and provide a calm, professional response to the issue when appropriate.
Remember, for every valid negative review there will be one that has nothing to do with the restaurant at all. Perhaps people disagree with the current policy or they dislike the name or location of the restaurant. In those cases, feel free to let these reviews go without a response.
7. Thank guests for positive reviews
Engage with those who have left you glowing online reviews. This kind of customer feedback is a pleasure to respond to. Cement goodwill from guests by taking a moment to respond to their reviews. Thank them for their kind words. You may even want to make a note in their guest profile so they can be thanked with a small gift from the kitchen when they return. These gestures of hospitality have the power to create loyal regulars.
8. Find the valuable feedback
Positive or negative, most reviews contain valuable nuggets of information. Mine them for tidbits you can convert into actions that will make your restaurant better. Be especially alert to any issues noted by multiple reviews and try to get to the root of the problem.
If people complain about wait times or order mistakes, it may be time to tweak shift staffing. A single review that mentions loud music doesn’t mean much, but if there are a dozen similar complaints within a month, turn the stereo down. And don’t overlook the positive things that come up in reviews. These represent opportunities to double down on what you already do well to make them even better.
9. Upgrade tools
You don’t need specialised reputation management software to handle this part of running a restaurant business, but it can help. If you use OpenTable, you already have a relationship management tool at your fingertips that lets you check out all reviews from the most popular review sites at a glance.
It can feel impossible to shape the way guests feel about your restaurant, but these strategies offer a way to influence people. If you take care of reputation management, a glowing reputation will help take care of you.
Describe the type of outdoor dining available. That could mean terrace, courtyard, canalside, garden or a rooftop. Mention any shelter that keeps tables dry in the rain. In cold weather months, guests will look for heated outdoor areas; in summer, they may wonder about fans. Include those details as well. One of the best ways to convey what guests want to know is with photos. Add clear photos of your outdoor seating areas to your website, profile and social media feed.
Outdoor or indoor isn’t the only distinction guests make. The type of seating matters to some as well. Guests may want to avoid communal seating, picnic-style tables or tall bar tables and stools. They may wonder if there are booths or banquettes in addition to tables and chairs and if it’s possible to request their preferred type.
Setting specific dining areas can answer some of these questions during the reservation process, as can ample photos of the interior. Feel free to over-communicate about table types – those with specific needs or preferences will appreciate the information.
Policies and rules
Tell guests about any health and safety policies in advance. Your profile offers a place to make this clear, so consider using it to explain any expectations. There may be other rules diners need to understand, including the maximum time their reservation grants them at a table, whether the host will seat incomplete parties and what kind of grace period guests have after their reservation time. When it comes to rules and regs, more information is always better.
One of the most sought-after sources of information is the restaurant’s menu. As much as possible, ensure any posted menus are accurate and up-to-date. You don’t want guests coming in excited to order off last month’s menu and be disappointed.
Even if all menus are posted on the restaurant website, add them to your profile as well. When people click off the profile page, they may not come back to make the reservation they intended to.
Some people seek out menus because they have special dietary requirements. Highlight any dishes that work for popular ways of eating, such as gluten-free or vegetarian. If the kitchen is (or is not) able to modify dishes to accommodate dietary restrictions, add that information. And post all menus, not just the food menu. If there are happy hour menus, dessert menus, wine lists or speciality drink menus to share, add them to your profile as well. You never know what will catch someone’s eye.
Take pride in what you’ve done to make your restaurant accessible to all by showcasing it on your website. Note if the restaurant is wheelchair accessible in your profile, too, because people can and do search for it.
In cities and towns that are made up of newer buildings, wheelchair accessibility is usually a given because it’s required by the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA). But if your restaurant is in an area with old buildings, it’s especially important to let people know if wheelchairs can move around the space. And if you’ve gone beyond DDA requirements by providing a braille menu for vision-impaired guests, be sure to include that information as well.
Parents want to dine out with their kids, and they look for certain key pieces of information to decide where to go. They want to know if restaurants have highchairs, family bathrooms, and a kids menu, for starters. Give these amenities a place of pride in your website and include it in your profile, if you have them. Adding some photos of families enjoying a meal can underscore the point.
Nailing restaurant reputation management
While these are the most common details people look for, it’s not an exhaustive list. Make these things obvious but also remember to communicate with guests after a reservation is on the books.
Direct messaging is a great way to dial in the details on issues related to special diets and accessibility in particular. When people can find the facts, it sets the tone for a positive relationship between a restaurant and a guest.