Restaurants using User-Generated Content for Feedback

QSR Magazine recently writes about how to use feedback from consumer review sites, blogs, and other social media to help the marketing and operations at your restaurant – in this case, they’re referring to chain restaurants, but their advice is still good:

“Responding to those who post such comments is a crucial component in monitoring customer feedback…you have to tell the customers you have heard them and are working to address their concerns.”

I’ve written a case study analyzing user-generated content about the 88-location Buca di Beppo restaurant chain – you can read more about the case study and download a .pdf version of the restaurant reputation tracking case study on the BooRah.com blog.

One-in-four restaurant visits driven by a deal – NPD Group

Wow – the NPD group claims that 1 in 4 restaurant visits during June, July, and August was driven by a deal:

Nearly one out of every four restaurant visits during June, July and August was prompted by the offer of a deal, a 9-percent jump in bargain hunting from the same period of 2007, according to research released by The NPD Group here. The researcher’s CREST data show that overall restaurant traffic for the quarter was up 1 percent, with all of the gain coming from deal-making. (via NRN)

That’s a huge number – what types of ‘deals’ are most effective?  Good question.  I’ll try to feature some anecdotal offer returns here in a future post.

In the meantime, if you want to learn about BooRah’s restaurant loyalty program – that combines a “deal”  with an incentive for customers to come back again, and to share their email, see this post on blog.boorah.com.

Restaurants using Twitter

UPDATED:  Mar 5, 2009 – More restaurants are using twitter!  I’ve added 17 more to my original list, and I’m sure there are a lot more out there.  Please add any you know to the comments!

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or, how some are using the social media tool Twitter.com to engage diners online!

What is Twitter, you ask?

The easiest way to think about it is as a “mini blog” – it’s a series of posts you make that’s limited to only 140 characters — perfect for the busy restaurateur or chef!  Here’s the wikipedia definition:

Twitter is a free social networking and micro-blogging service that allows its users to send and read other users’ updates (otherwise known as tweets), which are text-based posts of up to 140 characters in length.  Updates are displayed on the user’s profile page and delivered to other users who have signed up to receive them. The sender can restrict delivery to those in his or her circle of friends (delivery to everyone being the default). Users can receive updates via the Twitter website, instant messaging, SMS, RSS, email…”

Here are some of the restaurants or owners/GM’s/chefs I know of using twitter — check out what they have to say.  And, feel free to add others I don’t know about in the comments section below.

Restaurant / Twitterer Location Number of Tweets
http://twitter.com/21stAmendment San Francisco 139
http://twitter.com/BambooStix Wichita, KS 179
http://twitter.com/Caffeposto Wichita, KS 1003
http://twitter.com/CarlsJr Chain 561
http://twitter.com/ChefTony Bethesda, MD 1438
http://twitter.com/CrustRestaurant Phoenix, AZ 14
http://twitter.com/Devotay Iowa City, IA 303
http://twitter.com/DunkinDonuts Chain 468
http://twitter.com/herbstreet Dublin, Ireland 57
http://twitter.com/hottunavb Virginia Beach, VA 10
http://twitter.com/jasonsdeli Various 774
http://twitter.com/kogibbq LA 822
http://twitter.com/lafuriachalaca Oakland, CA 26
http://twitter.com/laudisio Boulder, CO 46
http://twitter.com/louisianacafe Denham Spgs, LA 11
http://twitter.com/meadscorner Wichita, KS 88
http://twitter.com/Ndelhi Philadelphia 20
http://twitter.com/ninemile Asheville, NC 1059
http://twitter.com/oldglory_gtown DC 1
http://twitter.com/OmahaNashville Nashville, TN 43
http://twitter.com/orlandoichiban Orlando, FL 497
http://twitter.com/Panaros Buffalo, NY 334
http://twitter.com/PopeyesChicken Chain 1400
http://twitter.com/queencitygrill Seattle 45
http://twitter.com/rbrig2 Boulder, CO 1132
http://twitter.com/RickshawTruck NYC 200
http://twitter.com/RileysCafe Cedar Rapids, IA 90
http://twitter.com/RiversidePerk ? 50
http://twitter.com/shultzys Seattle 236
http://twitter.com/snowcitycafe Anchorage, AK 82
http://twitter.com/squareonebistro Bryan, TX 776
http://twitter.com/Starbucks Chain 1162
http://twitter.com/thedonutwhole ? 38
http://twitter.com/TheTreatsTruck NYC 195
http://twitter.com/vintagekitchen Norfolk, VA 6
http://twitter.com/waffletruck NYC 349
http://twitter.com/westcafepdx Portland, OR 194
http://twitter.com/Yats Various 28

Where customers go to Praise (or Bash) You – BusinessWeek

BusinessWeek ran a profile on business and restaurant review websites last week — giving a good overview of some of the online review sites.

There are a dozen or so Web sites that review local businesses across the country. Take a look, and read what people say behind your back.

There are many more sites out there — be sure to see my previous post on how to make sure your restaurant is listed correctly on all of them.

Restaurant Loyalty Programs engage your diners

Loyalty programs have been around seemingly forever (Sperry and Hutchinson Co. launched “Green Stamps” in 1896!) Yet restaurants lack far behind other service industries with high competition and buyer frequency — like grocery stores, hotels, and airlines.  Restaurants & Institutions talks about some of these user stats here:

“Chicago-based consultancy Technomic indicated that while 8% of diners currently participate in frequent-diner programs, two-thirds of customers surveyed said they would likely increase their visits to a favorite restaurant if it offered a reward program.”

Why is it the case that so few restaurants offer loyalty programs?  According to Direct Magazine, it’s often due to the cost and complexity of implementing a program and system.  Sometimes too, it’s the feeling by a restaurant owner that a loyalty program is just a glorified coupon program —

“The purpose of a loyalty program is not points or rewards or plastic cards or discounts. These are just means to an end. It’s rather to discover who the restaurant’s customers are, and to track their behavior, find out their preferences, cater to those preferences and keep two-way communication going. The result should be an ever-stronger relationship with customers that increases frequency, per-check revenue, marketing efficiency and competitive advantage.”

In this age of “drive-by Internet reviews“, a properly designed loyalty program that couples an in-store component with an online component can even help reduce the feeling of increasingly anonymous user-generated drive-by reviews, by building engagement and conversation between the restaurant and the diner.

With that in mind, my company BooRah has a loyalty program for restaurants that seeks to provide these loyalty program benefits without all the complexity — by making use of the Internet.  If you’re a restaurant owner interested in trying this out, sign up for the free 30-day trial.

Update: Google Local shenanigans with restaurant listings

As I previously wrote, Google appears to be replacing restaurant web site links with links to third-party review sites such as Yelp and Citysearch. It also appears they’re messing up on the algorithm that assigns these links to local businesses, or there is some malicious activity going on — both cases possibly evidenced by the following links — for Emile’s restaurant in San Jose and Evvia restaurant in Palo Alto, both top-10 restaurants in their respective cities:

I can see how Google may have mis-interpreted “Emile’s” into “e-Miles”, but how the heck did “predictablyirrational” get linked to Evvia? I’d guess this is a result of Google’s new policy of allowing users to edit local business listings – in this case with no real check mechanism to stop abuse. There’s other evidence (here, here, here) that this kind of activity is more widespread than these few restaurant examples I provide.

If you’re the owner of a restaurant, the best defense against this kind of activity is to “claim” your listing through Google’s Local Business Center – it’s free (and for that matter, claim your listing on the other search engines as well).

Google: Build your business’ website, or else we’ll assign you one??

I came across a strange scenario on Google the other day — it appears Google has begun assigning third-party website listings to businesses that don’t have a website!! Here’s a couple examples in our old neighborhood – notice how the websites listed for both of these businesses is “Yelp.com”:

Printers Inc Hijacked Google link

Hommas Hijacked Google link

UPDATE: Here’s another example, this time linked to a Citysearch profile page:

Swan Oyster Depot hijacked to Citysearch

And if you look on Google local for Homma’s, you’ll see it’s also linking to Yelp:

Hommas Hijacked Google Local link

So I was wondering — had a person hijacked the “business owner” claim links of these restaurants?

Well, the listings in Google still had the “Edit – New!” link active. Clicking on the “Edit” link took me to the Google Maps page, which still had the link for the business owner – “Are you the owner? Claim your business” link active. So no — in fact Google itself had assigned Yelp’s (or Citysearch’s) reviews page to each of these businesses!!

Next, I talked to the owner of Printers Inc Cafe. She wasn’t real thrilled about the latest reviews on Yelp – which now were top-of-list when someone clicked on her restaurant’s name on Google. Interestingly, Printers Inc Cafe does actually have a website — http://www.printerscafe.com — which Google had NOT picked up.

So, I helped her setup and “claim” her listing on Google, validated the listing using their telephone validation step, and entered her actual website address through Google’s Local Business Center. Almost immediately, her Google maps listing was updated to the following:

Printers Inc Corrected Google Local link

Note that the Google Maps search results now include her website address in place of the old Yelp profile.

Unfortunately, Google’s main search results are not so quick to respond. As of several days later, the main Google search results have not been updated to reflect her website, and still show the Yelp url.

If this action is widespread on Google, this has pretty scary implications — that is, as a small business owner you better (1) have a website that you control, and (2) make sure Google knows what your website is, by claiming your listing through them. Otherwise, who knows WHAT Google will decide to link to from YOUR restaurant’s listing!?

In case you want a complete list of websites that offer free listings for your restaurant and/or links to your website (including Google), see my previous blog post here.