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5 Ways to Maintain Your Restaurant’s Positive Online Reputation

Don’t let your restaurant reputation go downhill because you were too busy running your restaurant to stay on top up of online reviews.

Have you checked the status of your restaurant’s online reputation lately? Even if you haven’t looked at online reviews recently, you can bet that plenty of potential customers searched for  both positive and negative reviews on Yelp, Google and other review sites.

A 2022 survey by marketing software provider BrightLocal found that 77 percent of consumers surveyed “always” or “regularly” search online reviews when browsing online for local businesses.

More findings from the BrightLocal survey include:

  • 67 percent of consumers who have a positive experience will consider leaving a positive review and 44 percent will consider posting a negative review if they had a poor guest experience.
  • 89 percent of consumers are “highly” or “likely” to patronize a business that responds to every online review.
  • 57 percent of those surveyed said they would be “not very” or “not at all” likely to patronize a business that never responds to online reviews.
  • 81 percent of consumers used Google reviews to evaluate businesses in 2021.
  • Just three percent of consumers surveyed said they would use a business with only a two-star or one-star review.

“How your restaurant appears on social media, review sites and the way you conduct yourself online will determine a guest’s first impression of you before they even visit,” according to Eat App, a restaurant reservation and table management platform.

“Potential customers will create an impression of your brand in their minds based on what they can see for themselves and what others have to say…Reviews are a double-edged sword. They can either be the reason for jam-packed tables or for empty chairs on a Friday night. This is where the importance of reputation management comes in.”

Read on for five tips for maintaining a positive online reputation.

1. Check in with diners at the table

Eat App recommends that staff and management “touch tables” by stopping by to check in on the customer’s guest experience while they’re dining. That way, you may be able to halt the itchy fingers of a disgruntled diner by resolving any issues before they leave the restaurant and post a bad review.

2. Ask guests to leave an online review

“It’s always good to give diners a little push to encourage them to leave a review,” says Eat App. “Consider reminding them to drop their feedback by sending a follow-up SMS/email right after they leave.” Another option is providing the restaurant website on the guest receipt so they can review their guest experience.

3. Keep your Google business profile listing updated

The Google listing for your restaurant is usually what pops up on people’s phones when they’re searching for a restaurant. Email marketing company Constant Contact advises optimizing your Google business profile listing for better search results.

Your Google business profile (GPB) should include:

  • Business name and address
  • Business address
  • Business hours
  • Photos that showcase happy guests, staff and attractive food items
  • Positive review

Once your restaurant is listed on the GPB, “claim the listing as your own and fill out all pertinent information,” says Constant Contact. Also, add your business profile to Trip Advisor, another popular site for consumers looking to dine out.

4. Monitor online reviews

Since online reviews have a major impact on your restaurant’s potential and maybe even current customers, the owner or manager should monitor reviews or assign the task to a reliable employee, advises Constant Contact. Then respond to as many reviews as possible, whether positive or negative.

5. Manage Negative Reviews

Even when nearly every online review is positive, one angry or disappointed customer posting a bad review can cause people to be skeptical of your restaurant and continue searching for a restaurant without bad reviews. But responding to negative reviews with positive interaction may sway potential guests to still give your restaurant a try.

Don’t be defensive or snarky in your response, as tempting as that may be. Instead carefully read the negative review to determine whether it stems from frustration about a genuine issue. Either way, it’s important to respond in an empathetic and caring manner.

“When a customer makes a complaint, they are giving you an opportunity to correct the issue and restore their positive impression of your venue,” says Eat App. “How you handle the situation may change their opinion and see them championing your brand where they might have otherwise ignored or negatively responded to it.”

Eat App recommends researching the incident and identifying the root cause of the guest’s frustration. That way, you can strengthen your procedures and business and determine whether additional training to your staff is necessary.

“The more good reviews people see of your restaurant, the more trusted and valued your brand will become,” says Eat App. “This will allow you to thrive and grow, building a sustainable community that is actively interested and invested in the success of your establishment.”