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What This New Google Places Change Means to Your Restaurant Business

Google has just rolled out a major change to Google Places. In fact, there are two major changes that concert restaurants.

  1. Google Places is now merged into Google Plus (or Google+), the social media platform from Google.
  2. Reviews on Google Places are now provided and manages by Zagat. So instead of the usual 5-star rating system you will start seeing 30-point Zagat ratings based on a several parameters (I.e., the food is ranked separately from decor etc).

As a sidenote, Google does own Zagat, which it purchased last year for just over $150 Million.

So what do these changes mean to your restaurant business and the way you marketing your restaurant?

  • You can no longer ignore Google Plus as it becomes a much more important in influencing search-engine rankings. If you’ve been having a hard time trying to keep up with Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube and other social media tools, now you need to add another one to the mix.
  • Getting customers to leave reviews on your old Places page was hard enough but it gets harder yet. First, they have to be on Google Places, then they need to log in and search for your restaurant on there, and when and if they found you, they can leave a review. It’s likely that more people who want to vent and leave a nasty comment will have the tenacity to jump through all the hoops. The tone of the reviews is likely to suffer a bit.
  • More major and dramatic changes are coming down the pike so it’s important to keep an eye on all this so that you don’t lose what you’ve already accomplished online.

You may be wondering if there is any good news in all this. And in fact, there is.

The good news (as far as marketing a restaurant goes) is that the whole online traffic landscape is shifting. It is in the times of major shifts like this that fortunes are created by those would know and do something about it.

Here’s more on this from the “horse’s mouth”:

https://support.google.com/local/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=2623007

Google is definitely not finished with the changes. One does not need to be a psychic to know that more major changes are just around the corner. Get up to speed on how to use these new tools in restaurant marketing and beat your competition into a punch.

The Not-So-Silent Killer of Restaurant Business

Bad publicity can be good for a celebrity, but not for a restaurant business.

Read these comments:

“Why do people come here?”
“The food wasn’t anything to write home about”
“The food sucks,
and the employees are treated like crap”

Pray tell me, would you come here on your date night or would you go somewhere else? I think we both know the answer. As of this writing, you can see these comments online for a restaurant that pops up as #2 in Google for Buffalo, NY.

Or how about this restaurant in Manhattan Beach, CA (came up as #3 in Google for me):

Experience, not so good. The wine was excellent. The food, not so much. The sauce on the pasta was bland, & watered down. Canned sauce from the grocery would have had more flavor. Maybe because we came early evening and their sauce was not done yet? Don’t know. The scallops were over-cooked but still good as they were fresh. Service was NOT first class at all, not even 2nd class. This is the first restaurant that was Zaggat rated that I found was not deserving. It was a waste of time & money. Very disappointed as this is a very pretty setting.”

If a friend from out of town was visiting, would you pick this restaurant?

This comment shows up on top of all other reviews and it has been there for over six months! Over all this time, this restaurant’s management could be looking at their sales reports, wondering about their slow sales this summer compared to last year and blaming the economy. The problem, as is usually the case, is right under their noses: It’s their restaurant’s online reputation.

Notice here that I am not scraping the bottom of the barrel. These are some of the most popular restaurants in their cities that have been in business for a long time.

Restaurant Business Then and Now

Marketing a restaurant business used to be a relatively simple thing: Create an ad, run it in the paper or give a chunk of cash to the Yellow Pages people, and you’re set. Even your biggest and worst mess ups didn’t usually get known outside of a small circle of people.

And boy what a different world we live in now! Restaurant marketing success today depends not as much on what you say about yourself but what other people say about you.

It doesn’t matter if these comments are based on facts or fiction, or if one of your staff happened to have a bad night, or if you had to fire an employee and now they are retaliating by smearing your restaurant business online.  It’s of no consequence if the customer was irate and unreasonable. These comments are now there for the entire world to see and judge and as a result, your restaurant business suffers.

With social media and review sites everywhere, the reputation of your restaurant business is under constant scrutiny of literally thousands would-be-guests. Some of them could be strolling down the local street and reading your restaurant reviews on their cell phone while others would be miles and miles away, on their computer, planning their trip to your city.

How is your restaurant business and your restaurant’s online reputation?