11 Nov

21st Century Restaurant | Online Reputation Management

Most small businesses are faced with many of the same problems. Perhaps the most pernicious is the missing 25th hour in a day. The introduction of new technology and various platforms to market a service or product does not help the situation.

Restaurants are especially bombarded by new ways to market their establishment. Group buying platforms and mobile payment systems are only a couple of the recent trends that have exploded in popularity.

Alas, the popularity of trends does not imply a popularity of methods. Thus the growth of the “Splinternet” – technology and channel fragmentation caused by the availability of multiple tools used for the same end-goal. User and business dissatisfaction is the result.

Between the hundreds of user-review websites and online ordering platforms, the mandate to build a positive online presence and engage customers across social networks becomes more and more unwieldy for restaurants who feel left-behind before they even open their doors for business. The most basic step – designing and developing a simple website – poses a significant challenge!

Unfortunately, things are going to get worse before they get better. With so many marketing channels to manage and daily responsibilities, managers have great difficulty keeping up with new technologies. For example, the introduction of iOS5 and the personal assistant Siri is predicted to have an enormous impact on visibility for restaurants.

How are potential customers going to find you? Well, now with a simple question:

“Where can I get a slice of pizza?”

Traditional search engine results were populated based on specific metrics, which could be semi-controlled by search engine optimization and pay-per-click. The results from Siri are – at this stage – far less transparent.

Worse, social media is now influencing search rankings. How many times has your pizza-joint’s webpage been shared on Facebook or re-tweeted on Twitter? What about your new Google+ Business Page for your 5-star steak house? Do you even have one? Even more importantly, what are past patrons saying on Yelp? Are they leaving positive reviews?

Not only are search results being ranked by their social relevancy and popularity, but some mobile applications and convenience systems (e.g. Siri) are only delivering the top result from one of the many channels (i.e. Yelp’s best reviewed restaurant located closest to you at the time of inquiry).  What if you don’t manage your Yelp page and only focus on garnering a reputation on TripAdvisor? Siri may ignore you entirely.

The consequence of all of these changes is that utilizing your time wisely is essential.

It’s important to know where to focus your energy: what customer segment frequents which channel. If your target audience is primarily active on Yelp and refuses to order from anywhere other than Seamless Web you will have a much larger return by focusing a majority of your time on those two channels.

But for now, where do you start? It remains early days, and I am eager to hear what you think of all this. Share your stories below and don’t be afraid to ask questions.