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Yelp for Restaurant Chains | Food & Drink

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Yelp for Restaurant Chains
Food & Drink

Here’s a four letter word that makes many businesses cower and cry: YELP.

In the past several months, the 3fold team has helped two national  restaurant chains with their local marketing efforts. While there have been all sorts of fun things we’ve done for these brands (including working with fabulous food bloggers), one social tool stands out. Setting up, promoting and managing Yelp accounts has been incredibly fun, fascinating and frustrating all at the same time.

Here are a few things we’ve learned about Yelp as it relates to national restaurant chains:

Appetizer: Identify goals

Yelp’s power will affect every business differently, of course, but chains in particular must navigate the waters with even more strategy than a business with one or two locations. Yelp can be used to market a new location, reach a new type of consumer, push a particular product and/or gage customer experience.

For our clients, we used Yelp primarily to market a new location opening; inviting Elite Yelpers to try the product before opening, or stop by for a special Yelp event. Using the Yelp Business Account, we also make sure to highlight the restaurant’s catering line which is a specific product the location is pushing. While identifying goals first is ideal, sometimes goals will change as restaurants begin to see customer reviews. If a new location has 1 or 2 stars, the restaurant must make it a priority to improve the star rating.

Main Course: Look for themes

Chains who monitor their brand daily begin to notice positive and negative themes emerging in their reviews. In fact, once a location has enough people mentioning the same words in their review, Yelp will actually begin to pull out “highlights” about the restaurant. For example, at Mulvaney’s in Sacramento, I can tell you that 37 reviewers mention the amazing ding dongs, 34 mentioned the pork chop, and 21 wrote about the fois gras. If I was Mulvaney’s owner, I’d have a sense of what should be on my menu every night. In contrast, if many people were complaining about the same menu item or service, those highlights would also be visible. Chains need to look for themes before Yelp does.

If everyone is commenting on the great service, but complaining about the dry burger buns, you’ll know what type of conversation to have with store managers or chefs.

Dessert: Sweet Tips for Success

In our experience, we’ve tried not to get too hung up on reviews that say things about competition. For example, last week our client received several reviews that said things like, “I will never come back here again. Burger King is much better!”  Other reviews said, “Your burgers put Burger King’s to shame.”  These reviews might make you feel good or angry- but they shouldn’t- because they don’t tell you anything. Everyone’s got different taste buds, right? Right.

Reviews are subjective, and everyone has bad days. Some people are always going to be negative, and Yelp is their forum to vent. Others have actually had a horrible experience and need it corrected.  Make it a priority to respond to any 1 or 2 star review with a simple, “We’re sorry you had a bad experience.” Some businesses might consider (depending on how bad the review is) responding with a coupon or free meal. By doing so, people have time to cool down. Maybe they will come back and give the restaurant a higher review, or they’ll offer valuable feedback so the same mistake isn’t made again.

We’d love to hear your experience with Yelp, as a reviewer or a business. Do tell!

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