Four Customer-Centric Reputation Recovery Strategies Every Restaurant Should Know



In this week’s blog, Chatmeter partnered with restaurant customer experience experts, Wisely, to share reputation recovery best practices for restaurants.


The hospitality industry is defined by its focus on customer relationships. For restaurants, good reputations have been won and lost over how well restaurant brands take care of their regulars and welcome first-timers.

With the advent of COVID-19, though, the entire restaurant industry has taken a reputation hit as health concerns remain top-of-mind for consumers. Existing trust in restaurant brands is being weighed against other more low-risk experiences. 

Whether building business post-COVID-19, or managing a brand specific boost in reputation, these five customer-centric reputation recovery strategies are crucial to regaining consumer trust for restaurants.


Be Vocal About Values

Consumers trust and reward brands that are transparent and affirm deeply held values. It’s even more impactful when a brand’s values reflect those of the customer. In 2020, 71% of consumers prefer buying from companies aligned with their values, and nearly 60% of Americans want the companies they buy from to take a stand on the major cultural issues facing consumers today. 

Whether addressing concrete issues like health crises, or big picture issues like social justice, restaurant brands that reflect customer values and lean into cultural leadership win loyalty. 


Put safety processes front-and-center (e.g. on Google My Business (GMB) listings, your website, social media, in-restaurant signs), and consider social initiatives like First Watch’s diversity and inclusion programs or Sonny’s BBQ’s new Chief Kindness Officer


Build Brand Visibility

A brand’s reputation is only as effective as it’s visibility. In an increasingly digital world, it’s essential to be present everywhere customers are—and they are increasingly relying on search and social media to make purchasing decisions. In addition, consumers are buying local more than ever as they act to support their local economies in the midst of a pandemic. 

This move towards digital gateways is especially impacting where customers decide to eat. Food related “near-me” searches account for 14.4+ million searches/month. 

By maintaining local listings with accurate, up to date, and compelling information, taking steps to improve SEO, and building social media presence, brands can take steps towards appearing top-of-page for near-me searches—a crucial building block to brand visibility and improving reputation. 


Bartaco encourages and engages with user-generated content on social media (e.g. their wildly popular #bartacosecret taco campaign), and embeds that content into their GMB listing to raise rankings and showcase their great relationships from first engagement.


Engage Feedback

It’s no surprise that reviews matter—research by Deloitte says that 81% of consumers read customer reviews before deciding where to buy. In addition, businesses that respond to reviews are seen as nearly two times more trustworthy than businesses who don’t

But to truly impact brand reputation, it’s important to see review management as one step in a conversation. If people perceive a brand to be more human-like and conversational they’re more than twice as likely to love the brand and more likely to recommend it

Treating reviews as part of a broader feedback strategy, and perceiving customers as critical parts of that conversation can improve brand reputation.

Example: Build a feedback loop that engages feedback, proactively requests feedback, and builds customer experiences around customer feedback, preferences, and behavior, like this example loop in response to COVID-19 guest sentiment trends.


Source: Wisely

Bonus: Tactically how does this come to life for restaurants? The best brands follow these practices:

  • All negative reviews should be engaged within 48 hours
  • All positive reviews should have a 100% response rate as well
  • Response times should be tracked and improved on


Reduce Friction

Defining the customer experience according to customer needs is a crucial strategy in building/repairing brand reputation. The trend towards reducing friction was accelerated by COVID-19, leading many customers to making purchasing decisions based on reduced risk. Wisely’s data shows that in-person crowds are a pain point, and 21% are likely to abandon the waitlist, even if the wait is 5 minutes. Reducing friction by moving the waitlist online solves for this problem.

Whether streamlining customer experience by embedding “order now”, “join the waitlist”, or “book now buttons in business listings, the brand website, and on social media accounts, or digging in to contactless payment and curbside pick up, directly reflecting customers’ voiced and implied needs in operations fosters trust and boosts brand reputation.

Example: Restaurant brands, like First Watch, added online ordering and remote waitlist technology to make it easy to experience their brand the way customers wanted to. 


Why Customer-Focused Reputation Strategies Matter

Building a positive reputation requires building trust by listening to, understanding, and aligning with customers needs and values. 

Research shows that to build valuable customer relationships, “companies need to be present everywhere their customers go and ensure they have a positive experience at every point” (Deloitte Future of Consumer series, 2020). 

Brands that focus on social impact, visibility, local connection, customer conversations, and reducing friction are taking a customer forward view of what it means to engage with their brand. These strategies encourage trust, foster loyalty, and cultivate the lasting relationships that a good reputation is built on.


About Wisely

Wisely’s Waitlist + Reservations, Marketing Automation and Sentiment solutions bridge the gap between customer data and customer experience, giving brands new ways to personalize and drive profits — at scale. Simply put, Wisely helps restaurants use data to curate a more personal experience for their guests (in-restaurant and online) and, in turn, boost profitability. From the best run operations to the most effective marketing campaigns—a partnership with Wisely is proven to drive results. For more, visit: