In recent years, businesses have discovered that how they’re perceived by internet users can make a big difference, not just in their online reputation, but also in their reputation as a whole. For restaurants in particular, online reviews and testimonials are a big part of that perception, and restaurant owners can certainly take steps to respond appropriately to those reviews, both the positive and negative ones.
However, that’s not the only way potentials customers learn about your business. In fact, the information you manage online yourself can be a big influence in how they view your restaurant. Yes, you only have so much in your control in terms of your online reputation, but make sure the things that ARE in your control can be made the most effective.
Your Online Reputation
Are you registered in local business directories? YP, AllMenus, CitySearch, and Google My Business are just a few of the many helpful online listings for businesses. Certainly, making sure you’re registered in these local business directories and the other major ones in your area is an important factor in targeting the right customer for your restaurant.
You can manage your brand (and to an extent, the perception of your brand) by being registered for these listing, as well as your social media and professional websites. But for these profiles to do you any good, there must be consistency and accuracy in submitting and updating this information, particularly in the areas below.
Name and Phone Number
But if you’re going to be in these local directories, make sure that every listing is a consistent as possible, starting with your name. The business name needs to be same in every instance. If your business is a multi-unit, you need to name each unit’s designation consistently. Store numbers typically don’t need to be included – those are more for your internal reference. Think about what a consumer would call your restaurant – you want to be listed as how they’re going to search for you. If the phone is different for each location, be clear about that for each location’s listing.
Even how you spell out your address should be consistent across all platforms, including whether you spell out designations like “North” or use abbreviations, and if you use a suite number.
And for that matter, make sure it’s all spelled correctly! The reason behind this consistency is not only to make your information as clear as possible for visitors to use (no good comes from adding barriers to a customer’s visit), but also because it reflects on your professionalism and online reputation as a business. If you’re sloppy with how you present your basic business information, how can consumers know you aren’t sloppy with other parts of your business, too?
Every platform your information is on should include an up-to-date menu. And in order to expedite that process, an easy-to-edit menu document should be kept on your computer at all times. That way, whenever you have a new menu item or need to change your pricing, you can easily update the document and re-upload it wherever it’s been posted.
Hours of Operation
Your hours should also be consistent and correct throughout all directories, your website, and your social media accounts. Be aware that there are some platforms that have restrictions in how you fill out your hours. For instance, if you close in the middle of the day (between shifts, for instance), then certain directories might not allow for that split in time. Even then, make sure you put that information SOMEWHERE in the description, even if the “Hours” area doesn’t let you do that.
Describe your cuisine accurately. A common perception is that the more specific you are, the more you’re hurting yourself if no one is searching for that specific thing. Cuisine types should be about the style or cultural traditions, not individual specialties you offer – save this for your marketing and business description. You might also have the instinct to put your restaurant down for as many categories as you possibly can on any given business listing website. After all, if your business shows up on more pages, the more likely you’ll get picked, right?
But potential customers click on certain tags because they’re looking for that certain thing. Putting yourself down for a cuisine that doesn’t really fit your food is not only misrepresenting your menu, but it’s also misleading consumers. They’re going to notice when they look at your menu, and they won’t be happy.
Multi-units also need to be consistent when it comes to cuisine description and brand. If your restaurant wants to be listed under “Mexican” and nothing is different about the brand from location to location, all of your locations need to be listed as Mexican.
The same goes for categorizing the type of restaurant your business is. For instance, if you’ve stated you’re a general casual restaurant, but you want to promote yourself as upscale casual, then just say upscale casual – but make sure your atmosphere and price point accurately reflects this designation.
If the platform allows you to describe your price point from $ to $$$$$, pick the most accurate point and make it consistent throughout all the different listings. Don’t try to be everything for everyone. That can often lead to being nothing for nobody in particular — a deadly result for any business’s online reputation.
Delivery Radius and Neighborhood
Service area (and location area) needs to be accurate. If you say you deliver within a certain radius, someone calls in a delivery order and you tell them “sorry, we don’t deliver there,” the would-have-been customer will be rightfully frustrated and less likely to visit your location when they’re actually in the area.
If you’re going to include your restaurant’s neighborhood in the listing, make sure you specify the right neighborhood, not just a popular one that’s sort of near you. And unless it’s officially part of your business name, put the neighborhood on a separate line to keep your branding consistent. Speaking of …
Your logo should also be consistent across all platforms. When you update your branding, make sure to update your logo everywhere, not just your business’ own website. Make sure all of your links work on your website, and keep your staff pages updated. On top of that, be prepared to have a shorter description AND a longer description of your restaurant that you can share on different sites quickly.
Ultimately, if you can keep track of your listings, your social media, and your website information, you can take control of your online reputation and brand — and help your future customers find you.
Want to look at other ways to improve your online reputation? Download our free ebook “Guide to a Successful Restaurant Website” today!