Inviting bloggers and traditional media to review your restaurant, food, atmosphere and service is a necessary part of being a restaurateur in the modern age. The world’s obsession with food is growing and there are countless ways to share our foodie loves thanks to Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, not to mention a growing number of food-focused blogs too.
But for restaurateurs offering free dinner and drinks, perhaps to the tune of £120 per couple, how can you be sure you’re getting sufficient value from your foody-freebies? Here’s eight tips to to make sure you get the best bang for your buck:
Set the rules
If you just can’t afford to offer everything for free set the rules out in advance. Perhaps food is free to a set value but drink is extra or you want the reviewer to eat from a particular menu. By setting your terms out at the beginning you avoid any misunderstandings later on. Also agree a timescale for publication if you can – if you’re gifting food and drink worth more than £100 it’s only right that you know when the review will appear.
Ask the reviewer to talk about their experience on social media – this should include tweets/facebook updates before they dine with you (eg, “excited to be dining with”) as well as during the meal (sharing photos etc) and once the blog has gone live. Most reviewers will do this as a matter of course but it’s worth asking for as much social media support as possible. Make sure they have the right twitter handle for your business too.
Such is the food zeitgeist that lots of self-titled bloggers are cropping up. Be sure that you’re offering freebies to the right bloggers – those with influence, impressive numbers of followers and the right followers. It's no good gifting an expensive meal to a blogger with few followers. Reviews need to have reach in order to be effective. Do some research before you commit.
Journalists, reviewers and bloggers may have to travel to reach you and if it’s a long way they might expect accommodation as part of the deal. If your business doesn’t have rooms or a nominated hotel partner, consider talking to other hotels and b&b’s in your area and forging a link. Choose ones that match the calibre of your establishment and ask if they’d be prepared to offer a free night’s stay in return for inclusion in the review. This gives the blogger what they need to make the trip, spreads the media opportunity in your local area and makes the review happen for your business. Bingo!
Unless the reviewer is Jay Rayner it’s unlikely that any one review is going to make the phone ring off the hook. Consider inviting restaurant reviewers and bloggers into your establishment as an investment – you are building profile, spreading the word and contributing to your digital footprint. Yes you should expect reviews to deliver customers (that’s the point) but don’t expect it to happen instantaneously.
Links to positive reviews and write-ups should be used as valuable social media content in just the same way that you use menus, food photos and special offers. Share your reviews multiple times over a period of a few days, choosing different times and wording to try and reach new audiences. Always tag the reviewer as they may well retweet or share their review again.
Make it trackable
Some reviewers may agree to including a discount or booking incentive at the end of their review. This might be that readers need to quote the blog’s name when booking to secure a discount, free course, complimentary drink etc. In these cases you can see which reviews have turned into the most customers.
Cover the basics
Make sure all published reviews include your booking phone number and a website link. The reviewer should make it easy for readers to get in touch, plus it helps to increase the inbound links to your website too.