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Preserve Your Restaurant’s Online Reputation With These 7 Tips 

Restaurants can’t solely rely on word-of-mouth marketing to get patrons in the door. Nowadays, every business must have an online presence to reach and retain customers. However, what happens when people publicly air their distaste for their dining experience in online reviews — even if they never even visited your eatery in the first place?

Maintaining your restaurant’s online reputation is critical to stay afloat and appeal to customers. Here are seven things you can do to manage your online reputation effectively and reply to negative feedback.

Take Control of Your Listings

As a restaurant owner, managing your eatery’s online listings is crucial. Common platforms for customer reviews include Google, Facebook, TripAdvisor and Yelp. Food delivery and reservation services are other places people can leave feedback. 

However, online impersonation has taken the digital world by storm recently, leaving businesses vulnerable to bad players and crumbling reputations.

By setting up accounts on each platform, you can claim your restaurant online before someone with bad intentions does it for you. Having control over your listings also enables you to enhance your online presence with upgrades to your contact details, photos of your restaurant and food, menus, and other essential information.

Report Fake Reviews

Fake listings aren’t the only threats to restaurants’ online reputation — fake reviews are, too. As much as 42% of online reviews are fraudulent, driving customers away from businesses and hurting revenue.

Restaurants rely on authentic, positive reviews to attract new customers. Nearly 97% of consumers read online reviews before they visit a new business. Many also make their buying decisions based on reviews.

If you suspect someone who has never visited your restaurant is behind a negative review, contact the platform and flag the comment for removal. Reviewing each website’s guidelines to understand whether a negative review breaches the rules — impersonation, hate speech or something else — helps validate your removal request.

Ask for Reviews and Ratings

If your restaurant doesn’t have many reviews, you can boost your online reputation by requesting patrons leave positive remarks. If a guest expresses they enjoyed their meal, have the waitstaff ask them to review the restaurant.

It doesn’t have to be a comment, either — a five-star rating is a simple click of the button. You can also add reminders for reviews at the bottom of the menu and on a sign by the hostess stand. If they were pleased with their experience at your restaurant, they should also be open to rating or reviewing you.

Respond to Negative Reviews

Negative reviews may not be a good look for your restaurant, but responding to them with the utmost care, honesty and respect is. Prospective consumers watch your every move, trying to decide whether your establishment is worth eating at.

Refrain from being argumentative with upset patrons — this could further hinder your reputation. Instead, reply politely, apologizing for whatever issue they have raised and delivering a solution. You might welcome them to contact you to discuss what went wrong or offer to correct it during their next visit.

These gestures often go a long way with the person who wrote the comment and others reading them. Likewise, you should aim to respond quickly to negative feedback — at most, one to two days.

Remember to thank customers for positive reviews, too. After all, they have taken time out of their day to express their satisfaction with your business.

Engage Users on Social Media

Social media platforms are powerful marketing tools for restaurants. They’re also where everything can go downhill if you don’t tread carefully. Regardless of your industry, companies must balance tactful and respectful online communication while effectively defending their brand against negativity.

Owners can disseminate important information on social media about their eateries, including updated hours, new menu items, happy hour discounts and upcoming events — all of which help build a loyal base. In fact, brand loyalty is three times more likely when enterprises engage their customers on social media. 

To keep your online reputation intact, remember these user engagement etiquette tips:

  • Consider what you’re sharing before you post. Does it have value? Is it offensive? Does it align with your restaurant’s mission or values?
  • Avoid spamming followers with likes, comments, shares and posts. 
  • Acknowledge customers’ comments and direct messages.
  • Respond to criticism respectfully, just as you would on online review platforms. 
  • Avoid complaining about sour customer interactions or your competitors.
  • Don’t purchase followers or spam bots to increase your following — this can harm your reputation.
  • Use humor when it’s appropriate, paying attention to sensitive topics.
  • Avoid political discourse and other controversial issues.

Set Up Alerts

Setting up a Google alert is one of the easiest ways to stay up to date with what people say about your restaurant. You’ll receive an email notification whenever a media outlet mentions your establishment, good or bad.

Google alerts allow you to hear about it first, giving you a chance to respond to inaccurate information immediately. If there is any truth to the matter, improve the customer experience and your restaurant’s overall reputation.

Create a Review Management System

Worrying about catching every negative online review won’t do you any good — there’s too much to do when running a restaurant. A review management system lets someone else monitor, respond to and improve your restaurant’s online reputation for you.

Some tools have engagement and feedback software built into them, summarizing reviews across various platforms. Otherwise, you can hire someone to search for negative reviews, manage social media engagement and dispute fakes as they pop up.

Maintain Your Online Reputation for Restaurant Success

Negative reviews — whether real or fake — can damage your establishment’s online reputation and hinder business growth. Take the necessary steps to identify and reply to genuine criticism in stride. Even restaurants with poor feedback have a chance to redeem themselves.

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