Guide to Promoting Your Cafe Online in Canada

Everyone hears about how important it is to be online these days – connecting with your customers running Groupons and specials via Twitter, it’s easy to get lost. You don’t have to be a social media expert to get feedback or run your own campaigns that encourage customers to come back. There will be a couple parts to this guide, and we’ll focus first on what’s probably the most useful for cafe owners: review sites.

Review sites will not only put you in front of people searching for cafes, they’ll put you in front of entire communities devoted to discovering neat, unknown businesses in your local city/community – just like your business. They also give you extremely honest feedback, people aren’t afraid of letting you know how they actually felt about your products and services because they can hide behind the anonymity of the internet. It is (in my opinion) the best way of connecting with your customers – finding out what they honestly liked, or what you need to improve on.

Don’t have time to constantly monitor all these sites? Don’t worry – after setting up your account, you’ll receive notifications when people interact with your listing or write a review, giving you the opportunity to respond whenever you can.

To get started, you’ll need a physical location (your cafe), an email address and preferably a website. Let’s create a hypothetical cafe named “The Blonde Bean”. I would take two dozen pictures that you can use in the profiles online, and watermark them with your cafe’s logo (or just the name)if you have the ability to so that others can’t steal them. Take pictures of anything and everything – the menu, the counter, the view from your cafe, your specialty drink or food – anything that might entice someone to come visit.

Google Local
Google Local (Google Maps) is the big daddy of review sites – getting listed here will give you the most bang-for-your-buck because of how well it’s integrated with searches. It will also aggregate reviews from the other top players and display them right on the page. They verify every listing with either a phone call or postcard, which can take a few weeks to arrive after you sign up.It’s not necessary to use your exact business name as shown on your Master Business License or papers of incorporation. I would recommend adding the word “Cafe” to the end to make it clear exactly what your shop is. In this case, we’ll register “The Blonde Bean Cafe” – people who know your business will identify it, and those who don’t will understand what it is you serve. It also helps when people search for the word “Cafe”. Fill out as much information as possible. Add store hours, a coupon and lots of pictures, filling out every field you can. The more complete your profile is, the more likely it is to be shown to a searcher.
Example: http://maps.google.ca/maps/place?hl=en&cid=5193387586656989408
Yelp
Yelp is another big player in the online reviews community, with lots of users and people who might be looking for a new cafe. Photos appear in the top-right of your cafe’s profile.
Example: http://www.yelp.ca/biz/art-square-cafe-toronto
UrbanSpoon
UrbanSpoon is a food-specific review site, making it perfect for Cafes. They have a very active user-base who love visiting a new restaurant or cafe and writing about their experience – some even write professionally. Find their “top reviewers” list for people who are well connected, and whose positive experience might draw dozens more customers. Photos also appear in the top-right of your Cafe’s profile.
Example: http://www.urbanspoon.com/r/10/130309/restaurant/Downtown-University-of-Toronto/Avenue-Cafe-Bistro-Toronto
ourfaves
ourfaves is a little older, but still well respected by Google for reviews. It displays information about price, whether you have wifi access, whether there is parking, what kind of payment methods are accepted, etc. ourfaves is focused on what is the reviewers’ favourite parts of the business – summarized in a few words at the bottom of their review. The users’ “fave” things about your cafe is summarized on the right-hand side.
Example: http://ourfaves.com/place/404854/epicure-cafe-toronto
FourSquare
FourSquare has been around for years, allowing people to “Check In” at local places. They offer badges and rewards to the most frequent visitors (like the “Mayor of The Blonde Bean Cafe”). You can run promotions like offering people a free upgrade to a larger size coffee when they show you that they checked in at the counter. Photos of appetizing foods and decor appear prominently above reviews, which can urge viewers to come check you out.
Example: https://foursquare.com/v/hot-house-cafe/4ada5d5bf964a520e92121e3
blogTO
blogTO is a Greater Toronto Area site, and the reviews are frequently pulled into Google Local. Set up your page and write a quick article when you can, with lots of pictures (or have someone else do it). This is one of the best sites to showcase the interior design of your cafe and your main menu items.
Example: http://www.blogto.com/cafes/orangealert
dine.TO
Another one specific to Toronto, you’ll find people in search of businesses that are smaller, high quality and that others recommend – just like yours. dine.TO makes suggestions about other things you might like – which means that if your business is positively reviewed, you’ll show up on the profile of other businesses.
Example: http://dine.to/jetfuel

 

Don’t be afraid of bad reviews. People have bad experiences, it just happens. A company profile full of positive reviews just looks fake. Take the time to write the person back apologizing that it didn’t live up to their standards, then make the adjustments in your business and offer them a free trial to come back to evaluate it. It shows that you care about your customers and are always improving.

Those cover the big ones, you can also sign up to the sites below to make sure you’re found everywhere your customers might be looking for you. It’s a smart idea to to take a look at what the top 2-3 listings are doing as far as descriptions, images and reviews and make your listing identical.