What Do You Do When Your Restaurant is Attacked Online?

When your restaurant is attacked online your first thought is: How do I combat this? If you envision an unknown assailant spewing negativity from their laptop… and feel helpless and fearful of the outcome. You are not alone!

We are here to tell you it is not helpless and that there are ways to protect your brand and your reputation. All you need are the tools to arm yourself and some dedicated time and attention to mitigating attacks.

In fact, VSAG’s Dan Simons recently spoke on a panel at the 94th annual National Restaurant Association Show about this very timely (and intimidating) industry topic.

As this year’s NRA Show proved the place to be for U.S. restaurant, foodservice and hospitality industry professionals with over 58,000 of us (plus representation from over 100 international countries) converging on Chicago for four days of the latest and greatest restaurant industry information in the form of exhibits, demonstrations, networking opportunities, panel discussions and more – VSAG was well represented, and the panel discussion proved one of the show’s highlights.

So, what exactly can you do when your restaurant is attacked online?

Get Out in Front. In short: Proactively manage and protect your brand EVERYDAY! Negative tweets, Facebook posts and reviews of your establishment don’t have to signify the end of your business and each should be examined for what it is. But not actively monitoring and responding to all guest reviews (good and bad) on a daily basis can have detrimental effects. Engaging with guests and using available social media tools to monitor and mange reviews will help build relationships and even win back dissatisfied customers. So, open a Yelp business account, utilize OpenTable’s Restaurant Center, obtain regular Google alerts, keep tabs on your restaurant’s reviews on TripAdvisor and the like – and be ready to commit to reading and responding.

Determine Your Voice. Craft genuine review responses that fit within the voice of your brand and establish your response guidelines: What’s your stance? How will you go about recovering a guest? Will you apologize and invite them back on the house or take full responsibility while still defending your business? What is the scale of the response – the punishment to your business should fit the crime that your guest feels was committed and felt by them.

Whatever your voice, guests want to be acknowledged. This is your opportunity to win them back and stop any further negativity. Note: if replying to reviews daily is not possible, then hire/train someone to help and do it at least every other day, or every three days, depending on the frequency of the posts and the urgency of the content. Protecting your business and its reputation is well worth it.

Better Your Brand. Identify recurring issues, hot topics or false information about your brand, get it corrected and get the situations addressed internally, and then utilize that information to your benefit. Knowing that online ‘attacks’ are not personal while determining where you went wrong will help you better your brand. Share this knowledge and insight with staff to proactively improve their guest interactions and mitigate negativity online.

Defending your brand and putting tactics, tools and tenacity on display will help keep your reputation in tact. If you run your playbook correctly, there’s no review, tweet or post to ever fear – you’ve got the confident response!

Photo courtesy of the 2013 National Restaurant Association Show (official website)AUCTION