Having a good public image is important in many industries, but it is uniquely important in the restaurant industry. Restaurants thrive or die by their customers’ opinions. A spot known for good food and service will succeed, while a spot that is known for mistakes or low quality may see nothing but empty tables. You can help ensure the ongoing success of your restaurant by creating and maintaining a comprehensive public relations policy. If your restaurant doesn’t have one yet, here are four tips to get you started.
1. Cultivate your social media presence
Social media is such a powerful tool in today’s interconnected world that a computer has become a vital piece of restaurant equipment. You can expect that most of your customers will have at least one social media account, and many will use their accounts frequently. Having an established presence on multiple social media websites can help you build and engage with a loyal customer base. Choose the tone and content type that you want to utilize to properly reflect your brand’s ideals. Then, show photos of your newest specials on Instagram, share coupons and special events on Facebook, engage with followers on Twitter, and more. You can even leverage your existing followers into helping you expand your online reach through shares and reposts.
2. Respond to online compliments and complaints
Online review sites, such as Yelp or Google Reviews, can be places full of unhappy people. You may feel that it’s best to avoid even looking at reviews. However, many potential customers rely on these reviews when deciding if they want to try your restaurant. If there are too many negative reviews, your public image may suffer. Being proactive and responding genuinely to negative reviews, as well as thanking patrons for posting positive reviews, can show that you truly care about your customers’ experiences. This can boost your public image and give potential customers a reason to stop in.
3. Speak to your customers in-person
Many restaurant managers and owners enjoy talking with customers at their tables. It is a great way to make the customers feel special. It can also be a great source of insider information. You may find that an employee is constantly getting praised by customers for going above or beyond and deserves special recognition, or that a new menu item isn’t as tasty as you’d hoped it would be and needs to be reworked. Whether it’s positive or negative feedback, hearing from your customers while they are still in the restaurant can give you the freshest possible data points.
4. Hold employees to a high standard
Another way to build and protect your restaurant’s public image is to hold your employees to a high standard of behavior. This includes everyone from the hosts to the servers to the kitchen staff. Set clear expectations for customer service and safe food handling and ensure your employees fully understand those expectations. Then, hold your team to those expectations. Breaking the rules should result in quick but kind correction. After all, your team are the ones on whom your customers will base their opinions about your restaurant.
Most customers want the same things out of a restaurant experience: good food, good service, and to feel like their patronage is valued. You can deliver on those expectations by having a solid public relations policy. Use social media to build your audience online and be proactive about responding to reviews. Engage with your customers in-person by stopping by their tables and listening to what they have to say. Train your team on best practices in customer service and then hold them to it. Doing all these things right can help keep customers coming back for more.