How to build a big reputation for your small hospitality business

Whether it’s our metro capital cities or regional high streets, Australia is awash with restaurants, bars and cafes. Tens of thousands of them are small businesses. In fact, according to data from Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (ASBFEO), small businesses in the accommodation and food services sector employ the third biggest workforce of any industry.

Quite simply, it’s an industry built upon a foundation of small businesses. As consumers, we’re spoilt for choice. For venue operators, however, standing out in such a competitive, high-quality industry is incredibly hard. To do so, venues must think about more than simply the quality of their menu. To truly stand out, they must create an online reputation that works just as hard for their business as they do.

Elevate guest experiences

Venues cannot expect to build an influential online reputation unless they earn it through the experiences they provide. Today’s diners want more than a meal, they want a comprehensive, memorable guest experience. In fact, according to SevenRooms research, Australians are increasingly prioritising quality over quantity when it comes to dining out, while the pandemic has increased their expectations from venues, too.

According to our research, the biggest factors that encourage Australians to visit a venue are personalised offers based on past visits, perks and offers to reward and incentivise loyalty, and a business that uses technology to make it easier, more convenient and customer-centric. These experiences drive retention and reputation.

So, before you start thinking about your online reputation, ask yourself: Are we providing more than a meal? Do our guests receive a personalised, not one-size-fits-all, experience? And how are we using technology to enrich and improve the experience?

Reputation into revenue

For a small hospitality business, it can be daunting to know where to start when creating and cultivating an online reputation, especially in today’s ‘omnichannel’ era. Ultimately, if you provide an exceptional experience, it’s easy to build customer reviews. When businesses can improve the quantity and quality of their reviews, they’re easier to find online. Reviews are incredibly influential in today’s digital-first world. According to ReviewTrackers, one in three diners wouldn’t consider a venue with an average three-star rating, so focus on providing a five-star experience that encourages your guests to brag about your venue online.

Reputation management tools can help small venues automatically monitor and respond to reviews, promptly, across multiple platforms. Responding to reviews is just as important as generating them. By responding to reviews – good and bad – venues can improve guest relationships, encourage guest retention, and enhance their overall perception. When guests feel heard and valued, their loyalty grows.

Crucially, reviews can drive acquisition and retention, because of the data and insights they contain. Through guest experience and reputation management software, venues can pull their reviews into a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. This data provides insights into guest sentiment, allowing venues to address concerns and capitalise on feedback.

For instance, if multiple reviews talk about your oysters, your venue can segment those customers and send an automated email offering a discount on oysters during their next visit. For those who comment on the quality of your wine cellar, you can promote a special event with a sommelier. And if disgruntled reviews contain common threads, you can identify and overcome that too. This level of attention and personalisation increases the experience, and therefore loyalty, revenue and reputation.

A venue could have the greatest menu in the city, but it counts for little if it can’t be found online and if its guest experience doesn’t incentivise retention. By focusing on the guest experience holistically, from reservation to review and retention, hospitality venues, irrespective of their size, can build an online reputation that works just as hard for their business as they do.