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In a slowed down economy with tightened consumer spending, drawing in customers becomes an even more challenging task for many companies. Low prices and high quality products no longer guarantee customers, and the importance of word of mouth becomes even more valuable to businesses. Today’s post on the Wpromoter looks at the ways restaurants and brick and mortar shops in general can leverage online review sites to their advantage. And best of all, it’s free.

While for many Americans, 50% of all meals are prepared outside the home, a recent Zagat Survey shows that 33% of people said they are eating out less and being more sensitive to menu prices.   Without a doubt this has effected how restaurants managers have chosen to run their business, often adding new items or specials to their menu, redesigning the restaurant’s decor, or even retraining staff.  But these efforts only go so far when restaurants turn a blind eye to what people are saying about them online.

Why It’s Important

For any restaurant, an online review and presence is just as important as the physical appearance.  Monitoring a reputation online is important for two major reasons, accuracy & reviews.  How accurate is the information about your business online? Are the menu prices, address, phone number & business hours correct?  Or is there conflicting information from a recent move or change in management? A business is potentially losing business if incorrect phone numbers and addresses are online.

Now to customer reviews, are negative reviews of your business coming up #1 on Google? Negative reviews are inevitable, but it’s how a business responds and improves from the feedback that makes the difference.  As reported by Rubicon Consulting (and noted on Marketing Pilgrim, word of mouth and online reviews are the most influential factors in consumer purchasing decisions.

Where To Start:

A. Control: Controlling your business profile is the first step.  Most web sites like Yelp.com or Yahoo! Local make it very easy for business owners to control their listing.  Yelp has a Business Owners Section and Yahoo! Local offers its Basic Listing for free.

Once you set-up your profiles or verify existing profiles, make sure your business’ contact information is accurate and consistent.  That means if you are in Suite 860, Suite 860 should be written on all of the web sites, not #860, Apt. 860, Apartment 860, etc.  Once you have basic information filled out, add in more multimedia; appealing photos of your business or video often work great!

A nice feature that Yelp offers it that once registered, it will keep you informed of new reviews, messages, and the number of views you business page has received.

B. Prepare & Interact
Prepare yourself for the worst and take the reviews with a grain of salt.  Don’t try to sue customers for negative reviews.  There will be harsh words, and even potentially fake negative reviews (possibly from your competitors).  If the web site allows you to respond to the reviewer directly, consider doing so as it may look great from a public relations perspective and really have been an anomaly as to why the customer had such a negative experience at your establishment.  On the other hand, thank users who gave you a positive review! The customer has taken time out of their busy schedule to write a positive review for you.  Go the distance to acknowledge such loyal customers.

C.  Encourage Feedback & Focus Your Efforts
Encourage customers to review your restaurant.  Consider adding a print out with receipts, posting a sign on your business window, or leaving an old-fashioned suggestion box for people to write in their comments.  You may be surprised at how willing people provide their feedback when asked.

And lastly, how far does the rabbit hole go?  Online reputation management is an industry of its own.  There are technically thousands of business review type of web sites online and monitoring each one can be a very time consuming task.  Focusing your efforts to the most trafficked web sites is particularly important.  Here’s a quick checklist of suggestions on how to manage your online reputation if you only have one hour a week to spend.

1. Search On Google And Yahoo! For Your Restaurant

What comes up first? Is it your official web site, a page on Yelp, UrbanSpoon, Yahoo! Local or another result?  Scan through the result, if there’s a negative review see if there’s a way to address it.

2. Move On

Move onto the next search result.  Is this page a business listing? If so, do you already control it? If not, can you control or verify the page? Is all of the contact information updated, accurate and consistent?

3. Interact

Interact where you can, respond to negative reviews and thank customers who provided you with positive reviews.  Add on to the pages with new pictures, specials and anything else.  Ideally, in time these pages will continue growing with unique and positive content about your business and fill with dozens of positive reviews.

Our Top List Of Customer Review Sites (Mainly For Dining):

Yahoo! Local
& even Google Maps has their own review section!


3 thoughts on “Online Restaurant Reviews: Make Or Break
  1. D-Train says:

    All I’m typing is http://www.wetzels.com


  2. Josh says:

    Very interesting. It’s funny how you do something for a long time but never look at it from another angle. This has totally affected how I choose a restaurant. Time for some sushi Christian?

  3. The internet has saved me so much time in being able to read reviews prior to going to a restaurant.

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