You opened your restaurant and are excited and eager to greet your guests. Your publicist has done everything right (hopefully) and you have been mentioned in your local newspapers and on-line.
Then it happens; you spy your first guest photographing their food and typing away on their smartphone.
What do you do?
As a savvy operator and smooth talker do you calmly go over to the table and rip their phone out of their hands and smash it to bits on the floor? Maybe that’s your fantasy as you gracefully make your way to the table, but it’s not reality. With your best charm school smile, you are entitled to ask…
‘Hello I’m Steven and I’m the owner here, I couldn’t help noticing that you photographed your food and sent a message with the picture. I certainly hope it’s because you’re telling your friends how wonderful our restaurant is.’
The guest sheepishly smiles and says everything is delicious. Then moments later, after the guest has gone, you go on Yelp, Open Table, Menu Pages, Zagat and feverishly look for their posting.
The anxiety of customer comments is the latest in a string of issues that plague restaurateurs in the age of social media. We all do it. We all hate it, but we know we can beat it, so as a hospitality publicist, there are tools that I give to my clients to avert the ultimate from happening.
- Hospitality is the key word. Too often we forget that people come to restaurants to have fun just as much as to dine and engaging guests can make up for a multitude of sins.
- Don’t leave matters in your server’s hands. As good as your servers are, they are not you; the restaurateur. If there’s an issue fix it while they’re in your seat.
- Don’t ask your servers, friends, family members to write reviews for you. This can backfire in so many ways. Earn your stars legitimately.
- Designate a person to monitor those social media pages and insist that the guest who wrote a negative review engage you in conversation. Too often restaurateurs wait until negativity has reached a feverish pitch before resolving issues.
- Don’t feel that you need to give away the house in order to keep people happy. You are the professional here, speak to your guests via social media in the same voice as you use in your restaurant.
- Don’t be afraid to challenge the website itself. If a guest was belligerent or intoxicated and you asked them to leave, communicate with the webmaster and tell them so. It may take time but it will get the post removed. In the case that someone is blatantly slandering your restaurant, you may have options as well. Take a look at the review guidelines for the specific site. If the review violates the rules, it can be taken down. Examples from Yelp include reviews that are not first-hand experiences (ie. someone saying “I heard this place is dirty” or “I read it’s bad” but never actually dined), and reviews that mention a staff member’s first and last name.
This is just the tip of this iceberg, but don’t buy into the hype, you can be in control of what people say about your restaurant. Good communication is the key.
Steven Hall, Founder | The Hall Company www.hallpr.com
Steven Hall, having held every front of the house position in the restaurant & nightclub business since 1985, is a valuable asset to any people driven business. His experience goes beyond the service industry through strong connections & friendships with influential people in the press, hospitality industry & the taste makers of this day & age. Full time public relations at an agency that specialized in food and celebrity chefs propelled Steven Hall to go out on his own, & within a few months the chefs & restaurateurs he’d practically grown up with were full fledged, hot, young & talented clients. Hall Company was born. Steven has taken his passion for food, music, theater, people & nightlife & turned it into a creative and exciting business. Hall Company represents a diverse collection of restaurants from celebrity chefs to National top grossing brands; products, personalities, hotels, events, travel destinations wine & spirits.
Professionally speaking Steven Hall knows no boundaries.