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Your Restaurant's Online Reputation is Priceless and Deserves Attention

By Rick Zambrano (Op-Ed)

From childhood, we have an almost innate desire to protect our reputation and good name. No kid wants to be known as a "bad boy" or a "bad girl," and it’s natural that we seek approval—even as adults. After all, a person’s reputation can affect his professional success.

So, what about our restaurants’ reputations? The same holds true. Poor reviews and a negative reputation can be just as—or more—damaging.

In these days of social networking and online communities, managing a restaurant’s reputation is an art and a deserving discipline. Think: Yelp, Bing™, Google Places, and Citysearch. And that's just for starters. Don’t forget Zagat, Yahoo, Urbanspoon, and other public review sites. Layer in Facebook comments, and mentions on Twitter, and as an operator, you’ll find you are charged with an enormous task.

Even if you have the human resources, managing your reputation can be expensive. But it becomes even more costly if your contractor or employee makes a faux pas or mistake resulting in a public relations nightmare or public crisis.

To be proactive about managing your restaurant’s reputation, Grovo and other seasoned restaurant experts recommend claiming your "place pages" and "business listings" on various review sites, then making sure they are populated with complete information about your establishment. After that, they say, it's important to launch a campaign to manage both past and future reviews.

These other steps are a combination of my own lessons’ learned, and those of experts offering up advice on LinkedIn and elsewhere online:

  1. Create and populate business listings with the various review sites to engender good will and reflect professionalism.
  2. If a listing already exists, learn how to 'claim' your place page or business listing, and make it complete. These pages may get thousands of more hits than your own website.
  3. Create a campaign to solicit feedback, by conducting surveys or investing in customer feedback tools that are readily available to restaurateurs, for example.
  4. When pressed for time, use technologies to help speed your collection and surveillance of reviews.
  5. Educate yourself about how to manage restaurant reputation, as well as about all your menu items and seasonal changes in a comprehensive fashion.  Then, teach your staff; one of the biggest complaints behind poor service on review sites is lack of knowledge by staff, managers or owners.
  6. Respond promptly to complaints, comments and questions, whether they originate on Social Media, your website, in-person or on review sites.
  7. Find as many online resources of information as you can. Search Google and other search engines, join LinkedIn and other networking sites. Get help when you need it.

With these points in mind, you are one step closer to keeping your restaurant's reputation spotless.

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Rick Zambrano is the founder of Kandessa Media and lives in metro-Boston, Mass.  After nearly a decade of working at a leading Northeast fast casual chain, mostly in support of the Finance, Operations, and Culinary groups, he founded Kandessa Media. He later launched Quick Serve Leader magazine for chain executives, franchisees and independent owners. Zambrano can be reached at rickz [AT] kandessa.com.

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Kandessa Media has partnered with its network of consultants to offer Northeast restaurants affordable marketing services that elevate them into the social media space and enhance their web content. The venture is called SYESTO. Get more information at SYESTO.com.

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(08-26-11)

Copyright: Kandessa Media. All rights reserved.

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