The Taco Bell beef scandal will probably go down in history as a great example of how to use social media to repair your reputation in the face of negative press. Based on a former employee’s claims, Taco Bell came under fire for stating that its meat is “seasoned beef” when it contains oat products as a part of its seasoning. The issue is that oat products are filler, not seasoning, which lowers the classification of the beef. Taco Bell’s reputation defenders, in the best tradition of modern crisis communications, dedicating its website to the controversy and taking to Twitter with a mixture of serious tweets (from the CEO) and links to humorous news about the scandal (like video from the Colbert Report, which was referring to the controversy as “tacogate”). Staying consistent with their fun image, yet seriously addressing the problem, gave Taco Bell an advantage when communicating with its core customers.
You don’t need to have the marketing budget of Taco Bell to succeed in improving your restaurant’s online reputation. Below are some reputation management tips for restaurant owners:
1. Monitor online customer reviews. Websites like Yelp, Urbanspoon and Google+ for business let customers discuss their dining experience at your restaurant. As these user-feedback type websites gain popularity and exposure from Google and other leading search engines, restaurants around the country are paying attention to online reputation management.
However, a recent study by The NPD Group found that online reviews and recommendations do not drive a ton of business to restaurants. The survey found that only 14 percent of diners’ destination decisions were influenced by online reviews. This is good news for restaurant owners who have received negative reviews online since it may not have a huge impact on their business. Regardless of the statistics, restaurant owners can’t ignore online reviews and no business owner is willing to give up on 14 percent of potential customers.
2. Use social media to connect with diners. While The NPD Group’s study found that diners aren’t as likely to choose a restaurant based on online reviews, they did find that diners are highly motivated by deals and special offers. More than one-third of dining decisions were based on what deals and specials the restaurant was offering. Use Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and other social media sites to communicate your daily specials to your existing and potential customers. Offer exclusive deals to Facebook users and encourage feedback on review sites.
3. Share your secrets and your specials. Start a blog to share some insider tips to engage your customers. Post recipes, hold contests and offer prizes to drive traffic to your restaurant and connect to your best customers.
4. Hire an internet reputation management company. Leave online reputation management to the experts so you can focus on running your restaurant. A highly rated online reputation management firm will help you achieve positive search results, while diminishing the visibility and impact of negative reviews. While you can’t delete negative reviews, you can fight back with a strong, positive online public relations campaign. An online reputation management company, like Reputation Rhino, can help you grow your business by making sure your customers see your restaurant at its very best.