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How to Fix Your Restaurant’s Bad Reputation

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Dealing with Criticism

Negative criticism is inevitable, and it’s important to learn how to deal with it properly. However, not all negative criticism is there simply to discourage you (more on that later); it can be necessary feedback that’ll help you improve. 

Constructive criticism is there with the intention to help you improve and it should be viewed as such. Look for any recurring elements (i.e., complaints about the service during a specific shift, customers regularly disliking a certain dish, something about the atmosphere or cleanliness, etc.) and decide what needs to be improved upon going forward.

Given the anonymity allowed via social media, there will be many individuals who will take that opportunity to be as unhelpful, hurtful, and vitriolic for one reason or another. Unfortunately, these kinds of responses may be inevitable. What is important is not allowing these responses to get to you and being able to maintain your composure.

Here are a number of tips for your consideration:

Keeping a Cool Head

It’s always important to remain free of bias and be impartial when evaluating your reputation. Getting clouded by impulsiveness will prevent you from being able to make proper judgments which run the possibility of worsening your establishment’s reputation further. Having a plan can help you keep that head cool and Repute PR can help with that.

Responding to Criticism

Responding to criticism is a good idea, but it must be done in a civil manner. Learn to figure out how to break down the negative reception in more practical terms and use that as the basis for improvement.

Best to also remember that as a business owner, the reputation of your restaurant affects more than just you. It also affects each of your employees and business partners. A business is not a monolith or product of a single person’s efforts and talents. As such, you should keep the livelihoods of everyone you work within the mind in how you conduct yourself online and offline.

Be Honest and Have Integrity

You must be willing to take an honest look at yourself, your employees, and your business.  No improvement can come if there is no honesty or self-awareness.  It might be hard to acknowledge problems in the same way it can be hard to acknowledge negative criticism, but those problems cannot be resolved until they are dealt with properly. It is imperative that you be willing to maintain a sense of integrity as well. Without some level of integrity, you won’t be able to maintain positive relations or trust.

Always Strive to Improve

It seems like a no-brainer, but you must always be looking to improve instead of resting on your laurels and falling into complacency. Just because things might be going well doesn’t mean they will always stay that way. There will always be some level of hardship or competition, and staying vigilant is imperative.

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” or so the saying goes. But fixing and improving aren’t necessarily the same thing. Consider the feedback you’re currently getting and see if there is anything you may not have realized, and use that as a jumping-off point. Similarly, you can also look at the feedback your competitors are getting and see if any of it applies to you or can be used to further improve your reputation.

If it seems like you’ve thought of everything, diversifying your network and portfolio is an excellent way to open the door to new opportunities. By having newer and different perspectives around, you can find newer and different solutions than what you may have thought of before. Everyone has something to bring to the table, and it is the leader’s job to make the best use of that something.

Using Social Media

Social Media is an excellent tool for connecting with all sorts of people. This can be used to expand your network and thus expand your capabilities and consumer base. Just as whatever happens inside the restaurant can affect its reputation, whatever happens on social media can do the same.

It’s imperative that you understand how the world is connected via social media and keep that in mind because whatever happens in the restaurant can end up on social media and spread quickly. The reverse is also true; a good social media presence can help bring in more customers.

A few different social media platforms that can serve as helpful tools for you:

  • LinkedIn – for searching out and hiring potential employees and partners;
  • YouTube – Good for content creation and advertising;
  • Twitter – For conversation, advertising;
  • Yelp – A crowdsourced review site on various businesses;
  • Facebook – Platform for advertising, recommendation, platform for discussion.

Reaching Out to People

When reaching out to people, especially if someone posts a negative review or comment that you’d like to address, remember to be civil. When addressing criticism, it is important to address their points and argument and not to attack their person or character. Instead of simply denying or refuting their points, use those points for feedback and consider offering them an alternative menu item or free meal assuming they are reasonable about their points. Only reasonable people can be reasoned with after all.

No matter how unreasonable one may seem, sometimes a, “Thank you for bringing this to our attention,” can go a long way to quell the negativity. Try seeking out someone you can trust such as ReputePR and ask them to give you an honest assessment of your work.

Getting Reviews Removed

On review sites like Google Reviews or Yelp, you can have particularly harmful reviews taken down or marked as spam if they aren’t constructive or accurate. However, sites like Google will review each claim, so it’s wise not to abuse this. When addressing a reasonable negative review, it’s important not to take a combative approach as that will only make the reviewer less likely to change their tune. Consider showing humility and apologizing for the issue. Maybe even offer them a free meal on their next visit.

Don’t Pay for Fake Reviews

It should go without saying, but paying for fake Yelp reviews is a terrible idea. Not only is it against guidelines, but people will find out, and it will be held against you. Yelp reviews do hold a considerable degree of influence over a restaurant’s reputation, and taking advantage of them will only end poorly for that very reason. 

What you should focus on instead is on improving your services and fixing your mistakes. Do not mistake the symptom (bad reviews) for the cause (some problem with your restaurant or business).

Identify the Root of the Problem

Once you’ve figured out the problem, figure out what caused the problem in order to fix it. If the problem is related to a certain menu item, consider revising the recipe or inspect what it is your chefs are doing. If the problem is related to a specific location, then it may be best to reassess that location’s operations. Understanding whether or not the problem stems from a more systemic or operational issue is important to differentiate because it may require a substantial change in how you run the business going forward. 

Consider this: problems are like weeds. If you let them be, they will keep spreading beyond your ability to control them, and they won’t go away until you pull them up by the roots. Once again, finding a third party to act as a fresh set of eyes can be a very useful tool.

Maintaining a Positive Online Image

Maintaining a positive public image will require constant diligence and research. Not only will you have to maintain a welcoming atmosphere within the restaurant, but you also have to maintain a positive social media presence. The current social media landscape is one that rewards constant, consistent engagement. Consider using your social media account to humanize your brand to present a positive image. Consider creating a persona much like Wendy’s Twitter or allowing your staff and customers to participate just like Kohls Inc. This works as an excellent avenue to connect with your customers and make them more likely to return and recommend your restaurant to their friends and families.

Remember to be Earnest and Sincere

Whether it is reaching out and responding to critics, connecting with your customers, or even communicating with your own employees, honesty is the best policy. Remember to communicate your intentions clearly and concisely. Giving feedback is as important as receiving it. Remember to be as impartial and level-headed when offering criticism.

People are not to be treated as a means to an end and shouldn’t be treated that way. Take care of the customers, and the business will take care of itself. People will respond better when they know you have their best interests in mind. As having a social media presence will bring you closer to your customers, it also means that customers will be more likely to respond to you more as if you were a close acquaintance.

Market Research: Do Your Homework

Times are changing and will keep changing. Part of being diligent involves market research. Not just researching reviews, but you need to take current and upcoming trends into mind as well. Not just what are your competitors doing and what are people saying about them, but what are people saying in general.

Any good business person will be quick to adapt to the times, and restaurant owners should be no different. Knowing how to go with the flow and anticipate change will get you through the tough times. A business exists to provide a service for its customers. Always be on the lookout for new ways on how best that service can be provided.

Getting People to Come Back for More

Keeping people coming in sounds like a no-brainer, but how do you get them to come back? The best way is to make it easier and more rewarding to come back to the restaurant. Changing up the menu every now and then (i.e.having certain menu items available during the holiday season) or having some kind of loyalty program (such as allowing for a free meal after getting ten holes punched) can serve as an excellent way to reward regular and loyal customers while offering an incentive for becoming one.

While managing a social media presence, the best way to go about it is to use it as an avenue to further customer engagement outside the restaurant. A number of people already have social media accounts they engage with frequently, and it shouldn’t be difficult for them to use their accounts to engage with your brand as well. The key is to create avenues between the customers and further engagement. The easier and more rewarding it is to engage with your brand, the more customers will be willing to come back and spread the word about how much fun your brand is.

How Repute PR Can Help You

Sometimes, the path forward isn’t clear, and you’re at wit’s end. Hiring a reputation company. ReputePR can help clear that path.  ReputePR can research your brand and figure out what exactly you need to do in order to improve that reputation. ReputePR can help remove negative material, assist in improving search engine optimization, and use media relations outreach and online affiliate programs to help promote your best moments.

Repute PR is a results-driven PR and Reputation Management Agency.  We believe in making sure our clients excel in what they do.  We treat our clients’ bottom line as if it were our own and deal with their crises with an all-hands-on-deck approach and an ownership attitude that lets our clients thrive in any environment.

Repute PR does this by bringing an array of talent and expertise to the table.  We galvanize teams that understand our clients’ industries.  Our firm is composed of professionals with expertise in business, law, journalism, press relations, campaign management, marketing SEO, and branding.”