Brand Control Part II: The Linking Game


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Third-Party sites love to claim responsibility for generating business. But how many new customers are they actually bringing in?

This is Part II in our Brand Control series. Throughout this series, we will explain how you can grab control of your brand and create better results with your online marketing. This series has included Part I: The Numbers Game.

Technological Paradigm Shift and Decision Making


Part II of Brand Control is about making sure the power of your brand’s “voice” is always strong and clear, without the clutter of third-party sites. The sudden exponential growth of technology over the last two decades has altered nearly every aspect of out lives. It has changed how we meet, how we shop, how we learn, how we give, how we watch television, and even how we eat.

Twenty years ago, a restaurant may have relied on a few publications, the newspaper’s food critic, promotional activities, some local advertising, and most importantly, word of mouth. All of these localized factors were used to build the restaurant’s brand.

This brand may have revolved around a style of cuisine, a beverage program, a price point, unique decor, or a specific personality. Tablecloths, for example, could be used to organize restaurants into one category, while beer selections could put different restaurants into another category.

But new technologies have changed the way restaurants are grouped. Many restaurateurs who are striving to utilize technology often underestimate the factors that truly make a restaurant successful. They have high hopes that the magic of technology will make success easy and permanent.

Myths of “Marketing Power”

What we see all too often, and the purpose behind this series, is that the promise of “marketing power” from these companies is misleading- often deliberately. They prey on the need to survive in a highly volatile business, offering great promises while providing a false sense of security. It leads many to believe they have their “marketing” taken care of, while in reality, there no such vested interest in the restaurant’s individual success exists. Because where one restaurant fails, another new hopeful one will soon take it’s place to try the same recipe.


Restaurateurs frequently trust the power of these companies to drive the business they need to survive. Unfortunately we see this happen all too often.

But there’s good news! While so much has changed, the fundamentals that make great restaurants are timeless. We need to remember that technology will not, and can not, replace these fundamentals. Think of it this way: a dating site can only connect people; it can’t create the emotional chemistry of two people in love. Unfortunately, many restaurant technology companies would have us believe that they will in fact, deliver emotional chemistry between your restaurant and your customers. As we all know, that’s nonsense.

Your Customers are Worth Billions


If we weren’t consistently seeing the struggles, myths, deceptions, and forced numbers regarding what restaurants can do to succeed, we probably wouldn’t be so concerned. Unfortunately it’s reached a point where we feel we have a responsibility to speak up.

Brand control to the third-party sites in our industry is all about the business of data. To them, it’s not about your restaurant, your success, or the memorable experiences of your customers. It’s about email addresses, phone numbers, click-counting, and website traffic. It’s about data that you probably don’t care about or never heard about, such as “bounce rate,” “impressions,” and “unique visitor.” These are important for online marketing, but they don’t create success for your restaurant.

To these companies, your website is a tool for their business. They use restaurants as a vehicle to power their brand, their apps, their websites, and their strategic partnerships; all while getting the restaurants to pay the check.

The Imbalance is the Issue


In our society, we need companies of all sizes and power. Our series on brand control does not wish to diminish the value of services that can help your restaurant succeed. The companies referred to in this series can have an important place in the ecosystem of your customer’s experience. Our concern is that marketing should be a supporting role but has taken over for it’s own gain.

Very clever tactics are being used to create and sustain the wealth of a few billion-dollar companies. When there’s an imbalance, when tactics are employed to deliberately manipulate outcomes, and when these outcomes affect a restaurant’s ability to remain competitive, then a line has been crossed.

Due to the limitations of a young internet, dedicated restaurant booking or review portals may have been relevant ten years ago. But today, with the ubiquitous access to restaurant information through free sites like Google, Facebook and others, that’s no longer the case. With their size, power, and influence, they’ve become something else.

So, let’s clear all the smoke and mirrors and peel away some things.

To each and every restaurateur out there: remember, it is you that the customer seeks; not a third-party site.

Make the customers feel good, make them feel special, give them something unexpected, and let them know that you care about every moment and every dollar they spend in your restaurant. That is the chemistry only you and your team can create.

Your Customers are Yours

Let’s begin with a simple premise: the customer is seeking you. As a quality restaurant in your area, your business is what draws the customer’s attention. You provide the service, the atmosphere, and the world-class cuisine. Customers want you, they could not care less about third-party sites. Everyone has a favorite restaurant. How many people have a favorite third-party restaurant site?

Now let’s explore how virtually every modern-day restaurant search begins: through a general search portal like Google. This is where the trouble begins, and what happens next is not due to chance…

What happens next is the result of years of research, design, search engine manipulation, and subtle strategic adjustments to your brand that, when assembled together, cost restaurants thousands and thousands in unnecessary fees each year.

If you’re using a third-party reservation service, and if you haven’t performed some of the Action Steps outlined in Part I, you will most likely get a very distinct set of results that look like the following:

(We have removed the restaurant’s name)





Look carefully at the above search results. The search was for a specific restaurant’s name. In other words, the user told Google “I want Restaurant X.” There’s no ambiguity here; there’s certainly no need for a specialized service. The user simply wants information on Restaurant X. However, the companies showing up in the search results have no intention of sending the customer to the actual restaurant’s website. They are in business to collect clicks and gather information, and they will grab what’s freely available to stay in business and continue generating profits.

This search result scenario is from a restaurant that uses the services of a popular third-party site. If you were to browse the web and visit the other major restaurant listing sites, you’d find that they each point to the restaurant’s section in the third party sit, not to the restaurant’s own website! This is not an accident.

So the company is taking business that will inevitably come to the restaurant, filtering it through their own site, then taking credit (and your money!) for generating the business.

From the graphical image above, keep in mind the following:

The big claim, of course, is that the third-party sites send restaurants new business. But in the above example, these third-party sites did not send the restaurant any new business. The customer was already searching for the restaurant and would have found it with or without the support of a third party.

Third-party sites will take credit for creating third-party sites and sending the business, all while providing clever reports to demonstrate their benefits. Higher fees will be paid because of the “source,” but just because the reservation came through the third-party site does not mean they created the business.

In the end, it’s not the third-party site that brought in the customer. They came in because of the dining experience and wonderful atmosphere of your restaurant!

Part II Continued – The Art of the Customer Hijack

For a free local market analysis report of your restaurant, call 512-354-1100.

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