Leslie Park Lynn is a 15 year restaurant industry veteran.
The world’s gone digital. Everywhere, consumers are engaging the digital landscape in nearly every area of their daily lives and visiting a restaurant and talking about the experience is no exception. Whether it’s choosing where to go, capturing the experience with photos or telling their social media network about it, restaurant diners have embraced the digital landscape in a big way. This significantly raises the bar for restaurants trying to stand out in an extremely competitive environment. Restaurants must be firing on all digital cylinders to keep up in a rapidly changing online world.
Local SEO Is The First Step To Building A Digital Presence
When consumers are looking for a restaurant to visit chances are they will begin their search online. More often than not that search will be initiated on their mobile phones. Therefore, a restaurant’s digital dining strategy must begin with building a local digital presence by first claiming their business on sites such as Google my Business, Yelp, Tripadvisor and other local directories. Restaurants should mind their NAP (name, address and phone number) across all sites because consistency in the information is extremely important for building a solid local presence and for local SEO. For instance, if your restaurant is listed as Joe’s Pizza in one listing and Joe’s Pizzeria in another, search engines will often treat them as two different listings. This undermines a restaurant’s digital footprint and its “authority” in the search engines. Restaurants should also make sure that their profiles are complete with links to their website, hours of operation and menus. Making it easy for your potential customers to find you and the information important to them will bring you more business and will provide a sense of consumer confidence in your restaurant.
In-Restaurant Technology Is An Important Part of Digital Dining
Once your customers are in your restaurant they will want to be able to connect with social media to do check-ins (which is great marketing for you), post pictures of their food and see what others are up to. Providing wifi in your restaurant provides a more seamless digital dining experience for your customers and gives them a positive feeling about your ability to keep up with the digital dining pace. Make sure you have an easily accessible network that has the capacity to handle a restaurant full of guests. Slow wifi is aggravating and frustrating to guests and not conducive to a positive experience. Managing the customer experience from greet to goodbye will pay big dividends in the digital dining space with positive reviews, Facebook posts with pictures and on other social media sites such as Twitter.
However, there is a significant digital downside to not providing a good experience to the customers in your restaurant. With the digital dining revolution comes the ability for customers to talk about their experience in your restaurant in real time. Slow and inattentive service, food that is not well prepared and lack of cleanliness, for example, are likely to be broadcasted to social media sites right from the table. The upside is that an over-the-top customer experience is just as likely to get some positive attention. So make sure you are leveraging your customers ability to communicate the experience they are having in your restaurant.
Managing Your Digital Reputation
After your guests have left the restaurant they now become soldiers in the digital battle you are waging with your competition. Either they are going to be working for you or against you. There is a little bit of food critic in all of us and many enjoy leaving restaurant reviews on sites like Google reviews, Yelp and and Tripadvisor. No matter how well you run your restaurant there will be times when things don’t go well and the customer will have bad experience and chances are a bad review will end up somewhere online. This happens to the best of restaurants and there is a very specific way that these reviews should be handled. First of all, always respond as quickly as possible, don’t be defensive and address their concerns directly and honestly. Lastly, invite them back. It shows confidence that your restaurant can provide a great experience and that you genuinely care about your customers. A bad review can almost never be removed so surrounding it and burying with good reviews is the best strategy. Train your servers and other employees to recognize happy customers and to then encourage those customers to leave a positive review.
The digital dining revolution is here and it’s here to stay. Keeping pace will help your restaurant grow and remain competitive in a highly competitive landscape. Remember that local SEO, in-restaurant technology and managing the customer experience are all parts of thriving in the digital world. Make sure your restaurant is doing everything it can to stay in step with the digital dining revolution.