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?


Say "enough's enough" to half-empty dining rooms, humdrum shifts, and wondering which half of your marketing budget was wasted.

73% of teenagers and adults are walking around with a smartphone (iPhone, Android, or Blackberry) in their back pocket. They use is for everything: Playing games, checking emails, texting their friends and ... googling your restaurant's website. If your website is not mobile ready, you're missing out on a lot of walk-ins. Download our Restaurant Commando's Mobile Readiness Checklist.

Watch this quick video about how to set up a Birthday Club that practically runs on an auto-pilot. This is going to be the easiest, fastest money you will ever create in you restaurant business.

About Restaurant Commando is the #1 online information resource on guerrilla marketing methods for independent and multi-unit foodservice operators. Restaurant business is not easy, but doggonit, it can be simple if you follow the right business recipe.

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6 Responses to The Not-So-Silent Killer of Restaurant Business

  1. Chris Miller August 4, 2011 at 11:56 PM #

    Great post Alex –
    Operators need to take a long hard look at what “advertising” has become these days. Traditional advertising can be a complete waste of time and money for many independent operators. Ironically, today it is the CUSTOMERS that are doing the advertising FOR the restaurants and it is via user-review websites that many diners make their dining decisions.

    Moral of the story: Treat EVERY customer as a food critic…because they now have the power to sit at a computer and tell the world about their experience.

    The customer has NEVER before been SO IN CONTROL of your restaurant’s reputation as they are today.

    Shape up….or ship out.

    Cheers –


  2. Dave August 5, 2011 at 5:13 AM #

    Oh yes! The CUSTOMER is the reason for every business. Anybody who thinks otherwise should have no business being in business. In most African countries, great deal of customers do not have access to the internet and they can do little using this online system to make business owners situp. However, this will catchup with arrongant business owners before long.

  3. Alex Makarski August 9, 2011 at 11:09 AM #

    Well, this is certainly not the time to be complacent about any aspect of your business.

    “Treat EVERY customer as a food critic” — Chris, I like that. Good stuff!

    Dave, word of mouth happens both online and offline. The only difference is that online it happens faster and influences a lot more people, and the result (positive or negative) is amplified.


  4. Jing Jun Ma November 8, 2011 at 7:15 PM #

    Your site’s contact form is down/broken.

    Also, if you are interested in a possible JV, send me an email at the provided email address. I am the founder of AvidTexting, a new text marketing solution that works extremely well with restaurant businesses.

    I am willing to offer you a 33% lifetime revenue on any customers you send my way. If you are interested, let me know.


  5. article July 13, 2012 at 2:49 PM #

    people gotta eat! If you have a good product it sells itself.


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