A restaurant’s online reputation with its customers plays an increasingly important role in getting new business. Diners research restaurants online before choosing where to eat. Inaccurate or unflattering information can generate negative publicity, so thoughtful restaurateurs check certain information for accuracy to correct misinformation, resolve problems and try to limit damage and refute negative comments.

Critical Restaurant Information that Appears on the Internet

Customers do almost all of their research on the Internet, usually from mobile devices. Customers read Yelp reviews, consult Google Maps for directions and check with their favorite social media networks to find goods, services and attractive places to dine. Some people go directly to a restaurant’s website, so responsive Web design, easy navigation and updated menus are important.

Correcting Inaccuracies and Malfunctions

Websites develop glitches, and information becomes outdated. Checking a restaurant’s website and social media homepages regularly helps to spot problems that damage the restaurant’s reputation, ranking and authority. Restaurateurs should also check listings, reviews and blog posts for inaccurate information, wrong phone numbers and addresses and links that don’t work.

No matter how respected a restaurant may be, people judge the business by how well its website, digital apps and customer features work. Restaurant owners can correct bad or outdated information, broken links and design problems in-house or hire a consultant to monitor the restaurant’s reputation and website functions.

Setting up Alerts

Google offers a free monitoring service that informs restaurant owners or managers about reviews and comments that get posted on the Internet. Google’s bots might not catch every reference, but it’s a free tool that helps restaurateurs track online comments, blog posts and reviews as soon as they appear. Managers can sign up for instant notifications at various online review sites to receive emails every time a new review or comment about a restaurant is posted.

Using Metrics

Google Analytics, Google Places, Yelp and other companies offer free services that help restaurant owners analyze the behavior of customers, website visitors and reviewers. Monitoring websites and social media pages provides valuable information about customer behavior and how the restaurant’s online content is working.

Testing Websites and Social Media Pages

Website design and function are critical for maintaining a professional reputation. Restaurateurs can learn how to manage their sites by using WordPress or hiring professionals to test and monitor their online pages, apps and content.

Dealing with Damaging Information

Dealing with damaging reviews, comments and posts quickly and professionally limits damage and provides valuable management insights. Sometimes, restaurateurs don’t know that there are problems with the food or service. Reviews can help restaurants take corrective actions for problems that might be affecting lots of customers who don’t bother to comment or complain.

The best approach for dealing with complaints and bad reviews is to contact the complainer, reviewer or organization. Try to make the situation right with the customer. Other strategies for dealing with negative information include:

  • Contacting a website directly if it has posted unfair, inaccurate or vindictive information and asking the administrator to remove it
  • Adding favorable content to bury damaging information
  • Encouraging customers to post positive reviews
  • Engaging customers on social media networks with responsive and informative answers, surveys, coupons and other positive initiatives
  • Hiring professionals to monitor and manage the restaurant’s reputation
  • Using keywords, content, blogs, and Q&A sections to strengthen the restaurant’s reputation, provide quick responses to complaints and resolve problems
  • Calling search engines and requesting that unflattering links be disassociated from the restaurant’s search results
  • Using complaints as opportunities for making amends to garner publicity and build brand awareness

Getting Customers to Post Favorable Reviews and Comments

Restaurateurs can take simple actions to encourage their customers to post favorable reviews and comments. Ask customers to post reviews if they’re pleased with their visits or contact a manager if they’re unhappy. Restaurateurs can also use incentives for posting reviews or use loyalty programs to identify the best customers. Sign up for various social media accounts, and encourage customers to post reviews on the restaurant’s page. Customers will soon get the idea that their opinions are valued.

Devoting Time to Monitoring the Internet

Restaurateurs should devote at least one hour each day to monitoring their restaurants online. The job can also be assigned to a trusted employee or manager or outsourced to a professional consultant.

The way that people choose a restaurant has changed because of the Internet and mobile communications. Consumers rely on their laptops, iPads and smartphones to find nearby restaurants, read reviews and place orders. If the information about a restaurant is inaccurate, misleading or malicious, customers will go elsewhere. If parts of the restaurant’s website don’t work properly, customers will just go to the next restaurant on the list. Successful restaurants stay on top of their online reputations by monitoring key information regularly if not daily.