A restaurant’s reputation is vital to its success. Your customers may decide to visit or avoid your business based on what they’ve heard from friends and family or read online, after all. As a restaurant owner, you have many different priorities, but it’s so important not to overlook the necessity of protecting and managing your restaurant’s brand and reputation, both on and offline.
Luckily, with some planning, this doesn’t have to be a massive task and is something that you can do on an ongoing basis.
Establish Social Media & Online Review Policies
Social media marketing is a great tool for your restaurant, and it can help you to communicate directly with your audience — but social media can also be full of pitfalls, especially if you’re not sure how to navigate the nuances of it. As your restaurant gets involved with social media, establish a policy outlining the types of content that you post, as well as what you don’t post.
For example, when you’re just getting started, you may want to draw inspiration from brands who are marketing their restaurants on social media well, but try to develop your own unique approach, too.
Social media makes it easy for your customers to leave reviews, but you’ll need to be prepared to protect your restaurant’s reputation when negative or other harsh reviews are posted. Establish a response protocol that involves promptly responding to the review publicly, attempting to correct whatever issue occurred, and publicly presenting your side of the story so that other customers can see.
In addition to responding to negative reviews, be sure to also respond to the positive reviews, writing a personalized response and thanking each customer. This simple act can build a great relationship and turn customers into regulars. It also demonstrates to anyone reading the reviews that your business is responsive to and values its customers.
Remember that reviews aren’t just on your main social media pages, either. Monitor other sites like Yelp and Google Reviews, as well, so that you can actively respond to all of the feedback that your restaurant receives.
When you’re online, it’s also important to be prepared for potential social engineering attacks that you could face. Email fraud, for example, could get you to inadvertently give away passwords and personal information, while phishing scams both online and over the phone could also trick you into giving your personal information over to a thief. To help protect your business against these attacks, talk with all staff about how to identify and avoid phishing attacks.
Encourage Your Guests to Get Involved
Generating plenty of positive reviews for your restaurant will help to offset the negative reviews that you do receive, but you may need to do some work to get your customers to leave those positive reviews. Encouraging user-generated content (UGC) for your restaurant takes some time and creativity, so now is the time to start thinking about how you can encourage your customers to get involved.
You may want to try a variety of strategies. For example, creating an Instagram photo opportunity space in your restaurant will naturally encourage customers to take photos and post them to social media. Be sure to prominently display a restaurant hashtag if you want customers to include it in their posts. If you’re planning to create a photo opportunity space, it should keep with the guidelines in your restaurant branding guide so that it fits in well with the rest of the decor and the branding behind the restaurant.
To further prompt reviews, consider offering guests a free beverage or other small item off the menu on a return trip in exchange for an honest review on Yelp or social media. You can also run contests that customers can enter by posting a review. Be sure to never request “positive” reviews, since this could create a negative image for your brand. Instead, ask your guests to share their thoughts and honest opinions.
Monitor the Competition
Your restaurant can gain a competitive advantage by monitoring your competition, and reading reviews of your competition can give you greater insight into ways to improve your own business. If other restaurants receive frequent positive reviews that praise one particular element, like the friendliness of their staff, then you might look at ways to improve your own business to offer that same positive quality. Similarly, if your competitors receive negative reviews about a certain factor, you can use this to your advantage and find ways to make sure that your restaurant excels in the areas that your competition doesn’t.
Be careful that you don’t become too focused on what your competition is doing, though. While the insights described above can help, remember why you started your restaurant in the first place, and always make sure that you return to those values that you outlined when establishing the business and building your restaurant’s brand. Focus on your customers and what unique elements you can deliver to them to create a great dining experience that they’ll want to share with all of their friends.
Protecting your restaurant’s brand and reputation is an ongoing task, but it can be integral to your business’ success and is an important part of managing your restaurant.