How This Historic Restaurant Uses Tripadvisor to Stand Out
Welcome to Fenicci’s, the Oldest Independent Restaurant in Hershey, PA
Hershey might be known more for its sweet side than its savory as the home of Hershey’s Chocolate World. But cross the street and step back in time to 1935 when Milton Hershey himself started building the town. Diners at Fenicci’s get a taste of Italian-American history with classic favorites like lasagna, chicken parmesan, and spaghetti and meatballs.
“We have a big local following because people have been coming to the restaurant for generations,” says owner Phil Guarno, who acquired the restaurant in 2005. “We’re an experiential, historic restaurant right on Chocolate Avenue.”
The Challenge: Keeping Up With the Competition
It’s no surprise that a sweet tooth brings plenty of tourists to Hershey. But as more and more people visit, Guarno needs to make sure Fenicci’s can stand out from the crowd. “When I bought the restaurant, I had no competition and I had 5 million tourists that were coming into town — it was a really good scenario,” says Guarno. “Flash forward thirteen years, and I’ve had over 1,500 seats open up within two blocks. In the last six months, I’ve had 600 seats open up directly across the street.”
With so many new restaurants, it’s more important than ever to create the best dining experience, not just serve great food. Says Guarno, “My biggest challenge is making sure we never get complacent, and that we’re always maintaining our advertising and marketing, our friendliness, and our quality of food.”
Showcasing the Dining Experience with Tripadvisor Premium
Guarno uses Tripadvisor Premium to showcase the full dining experience at a glance. “I want to get the message out that we’re kid-friendly, that we’re good for large groups, and that our kitchen is open until midnight — we only have ten seconds, maybe, to get the attention of the customer,” he says. “With Storyboard, Favorite Review, and Top 3 Reasons, it’s money well spent.”
Why Responding to Reviews Helps Them Stand Out
“Tripadvisor is by far my most powerful tool,” says Guarno. “[That’s] why you’ll see that I respond to all reviews. It takes time, but I want the customer and I want the future customer to know that the owner cares.”
How do they do it? Says Guarno, “We thank the people who give us four or five [bubbles] because they’re the ones who make my restaurant #5 in Hershey.” As for the negative reviews, Guarno acknowledges that he can’t please everyone. “I hope they tell me personally and I’ll try to fix it,” he says. “But when I make a mistake, I take ownership for it.”
Reading Tripadvisor traveler reviews helps Guarno spot negative trends and fix them right away. Like many Italian-American restaurants in the U.S., Fenicci’s serves bread at the table before every meal. But his recent supplier wasn’t up to par. Says Guarno, “[Once we saw] three or four reviews mentioning the rolls, [we knew] there was probably an issue, because there are a hundred people behind those three or four that did not even bother to go on Tripadvisor.”
Responding to reviews isn’t just for his online reputation — it’s Guarno’s secret marketing weapon. “If I didn’t respond to reviews, we would not be in the top five restaurants,” he says. He makes a point to engage with all of his customers and ask them to share their experience on Tripadvisor, using free tools like stickers and review cards. Taking the time to ask for more reviews — and respond to them — helps Guarno stand out against his competitors.
“When a person comes to Hershey, they’re only four clicks away [from a search engine] to [booking] my restaurant,” says Guarno. “[They’re] going to pick the restaurant that stands out.”