Hungry people shopping around for a place to eat don’t have to look far.
Websites and mobile apps such as Yelp, Foursquare and Urbanspoon customers find restaurants and sort them by location, price and cuisine type, as well as act as a sort of archive of user-submitted reviews.
For all the convenience they offer to consumers, these sites also present opportunities and risks for restaurants, whose reputations could be boosted or sunk by user reviews.
Such sites allow customers to view pictures, see the menu and hear how others rate the overall experience, potentially drawing in brand-new customers. But even the reputations of the best establishments could spoil from a few bad reviews — whether they’re true or not.
Either way, it’s almost certain that most restaurants are being talked about in some capacity. And most experts say operators should jump right in to that conversation, responding to negative criticism and even answering positive reviews. But some are going further, manipulating search engines or even composing fake reviews.
Whatever you do, it’s clear you’ve got to be active. That’s true for a brand’s entire online strategy, which should include official business websites, social media engagement and review sites.
“Whether restaurants believe that review sites like Yelp or Urbanspoon are good or bad is a moot point,” says Brooke Hovey, executive vice president, digital, at Cohn & Wolfe communication agency. “The size of those communities is growing. And the reach and the influence of that content is also spreading.”