Although everyone is pressed for time, it’s important to keep on top of what customers are saying about you online. “I strongly believe in monitoring what people are saying about your brand,” says Lori Randall Stradtman, author of Online Reputation Management for Dummies. “You want to be in a position to take control of your reputation so that a few people with sour grapes can’t sully your name.” Delegate the responsibility to someone who will make the time to follow the information flow. It could be a general manager, marketing manager or a social media specialist. Otherwise, with all the daily responsibilities within the walls of your restaurant, it’s easy to overlook what’s going on online.

Monitoring strategies, listed below, range from free alternatives to sophisticated paid services.

Sign up for instant notifications. Some review sites, including Yelp and TripAdvisor, offer businesses the free option of receiving e-mail notification every time a review is posted. Be sure to sign up for this service and to appoint someone on your existing staff to actively monitor these notifications.

Set up Google Alerts. This is another free way to keep tabs on what’s being said about your business online, including on review sites. Go to to create a search query. Google will email you when it finds new matches. Be aware, though, that Google Alerts might not catch every review of your restaurant. “It currently just scratches the surface,” says Stradtman.

Manually check the sites. Log on to the review sites periodically to read the reviews. Start by figuring out which sites you need to monitor. We’ve described some of the major sites like TripAdvisor and Yelp in our online review guide, but depending on the city where you’re located, you might want to track some of the other review sites, including Citysearch, CityEats and Savored. For tips on how to track your restaurant on Twitter, Facebook, Foodspotting, Instagram and other social media sites, check out this resource.

Monitor the metrics. Take advantage of any free data provided about your restaurant’s online presence. For example, Yelp tabulates user views, clicks to your website, mobile check-ins, mobile calls to your business and requests for directions to your business. The Google Places dashboard lets you know how many people are searching for you on Google, what they searched for to find you and which zip codes they’re coming from when they request driving directions to your restaurant. Use this data to track trends and gather insights that can guide business decisions.

Consider enrolling with a monitoring or reputation management service. “Nobody has the time to chase down every single review, but every single review is important,” says Charlee Williamson, executive vice president for the New Orleans-based Ralph Brennan Restaurant Group. When monitoring online reviews became too time-consuming, the company, which owns six restaurants, decided to outsource the job to the Revinate software service. With Google Alerts not catching every review, “we tried to go online periodically and read customer responses,” says Williamson, “but it’s hard because restaurant managers are usually out on the floor, not in front of their computers.” The software service pulls customer feedback from several review sites, placing them together in one portal. Other monitoring services include Heartbeat, Main Street Hub, Bazaarify and Sprout Social, to name just a few. If you find that you want to use a service, do your homework to find one that meets your needs. With 90 units, Zoës Kitchen finds it essential to use monitoring tools to track the trends, says Lauren Hopkins, senior marketing manager. The Birmingham, Alabama-based company uses newBrandAnalytics to analyze the reams of feedback and translate it into operational insights at local, regional and brand levels. For example, the company tested salmon kabobs on the menu at select locations. When the testing period ended and Zoës removed the item, customers made it known through review sites and social media that they missed the dish. As a result, Zoës rolled out salmon kabobs at all of its locations.

For more information on how to manage your restaurant’s reputation on online review sites, download our free guide “Online Reviews: the New Word of Mouth.”