Restaurateurs threatened by Social Media, and what to do about it

Some of my family has restaurants, like every other restaurant in the bay area (and I’m sure elsewhere) they are rated on Yelp, local dining reviews. In some cases, these reviews actually score higher than the actual website or Yahoo directory. One time I invited a well known blogger to lunch and left it in his comments with the restaurant name. His comments are open for web crawlers to index, and if you now do a Google search on the restaurant, his blog comes up first.

On several occasions when I took pictures of the food, I was asked by staff if I was a food reviewer, of course I wasn’t. But I will tell me network of hundreds on Twitter if I do have an interesting experience.

The SF Chronicle takes a swipe at those that are reviewing restaurants, here’s the title of the article:

“Food bloggers dish up plates of spicy criticism
Formerly formal discipline of reviewing becomes a free-for-all for online amateurs”

I realize newspapers are under attack by citizen “journalism” and anything that can be done to subdue the inevitable is a natural defense reaction. If I wrote the article, I would have titled it:

How I would title the article:

“Customers share opinion with community
Patrons document experience with others, giving Restaurateurs opportunity to improve service and product.”

As PodTech, I consult the Fortune 1000 on how to deal with bloggers in their industry, for the most part, the rules are the same, here’s a few things that Restaurant owners can do to stay relevant:

1) Listen to these reviews, continue to read them
2) Respond to the comments in the thread or review
3) Improve one’s product or service
4) Continue to invite those influential bloggers to your restaurant to review

Get creative and proactive

Consider creating a social media tool for your business, whether it be the “Chef’s Blog” (Free to setup) or a live webcam, or a way to encourage patrons to vote on their favorite dishes in a free Yahoo Group (free). I can imagine some boutique restaurant marketing company to appear and help out and organize blogger dinners that traverse these friendly restaurants.

Restaurants spend money on marketing, advertising, and decor, savvy restaurants will have to understand the social media impact.

I’m trying to be a resource here, so please don’t complain restaurateurs, but take this opportunity to build a better experience for your patrons, what’s happening is unavoidable.