Social Media – Rant or Results?

We’ve all been there, haven’t we?

Dinner out is a less-than-ideal experience for one reason or another. We decide that we must give this establishment a piece of our mind.  But instead of calling over a manager we head home eager to share our experience with anyone who will listen on our social channels.

Truth be told we have all probably done something like this, or at least given serious thought to wreaking havoc on a restaurant’s social media site after a problem. The ease, immediacy and distance of social media enables us to unleash a viral tornado of shame onto the offending party without getting out hands dirty. We think, “What’s the harm?” or “They deserve it,” and do so without really giving thought to the end result of our actions.

Christian Hunter, a public relations account director at Fahlgren Mortine, has advised several restaurant clients and noticed that some restaurants were not prepared to deal with negative feedback, reviews or other crisis scenarios via social media channels.  They also needed practical training and advice on how to empower their employees in ways that would greatly reduce the risk of online retaliation.

FullSizeRenderHunter recently published Restaurant Outbursts, a workbook designed to help restaurants respond and deal with issues being aired on social channels. It is a how-to guide that includes everything from basic social media terminology to a crisis communications primer.

Hunter makes the point that restaurants need to teach their employees to respond and act appropriately to problems before customers take their concerns online. “The employee is the brand. How they present themselves and what they say is an important part of professional development and training that is often overlooked,” he explains.

As customers are posting comments, reactions, photos and even real-time video online, it becomes paramount that the restaurant staff be unified in purpose and have a plan in place to respond appropriately to the situation.

Hunter adds, “restaurants must consider that media are often scanning social channels for story leads too.” This can mean that one single customer sharing an issue can turn into unwanted national news coverage if the story is particularly relevant, newsworthy or sensational.

Complaints are a sensitive subject for both the diner and the restaurant staff. It’s almost always an awkward situation. But things happen, and when they do both parties have a responsibility to be adults and take action in a way that preserves dignity and respect.

Matt Mytro, co-owner and chef at Flour in Moreland Hills, weighed in on this delicate subject offering, “I read reviews with an open mind, even though I am naturally defensive. I can tell when someone just doesn’t like the restaurant, or when they are savvy enough to appreciate the restaurant and want to help.”

Mytro suggests speaking to the manager during your meal or to write a note and send to the restaurant, adding “customers should offer valuable information to the restaurant management, and to limit complaints to relevant details. Complaints about bad service, improperly cooked food and rude staff provide us with good information.”

We’re all in agreement that before expressing our concerns all over our social channels, it makes sense to try things the old fashioned way – talking it out. It’s important to be honest with yourself. Think about whether it is a resolution you desire, or if you just want to stir the pot.

Have a legitimate beef? Start with your server or the person who might be empowered to fix the situation right then, or ask to see the restaurant manager. If you leave with an unsatisfactory result and your end goal is a result (not just a rant) Hunter offers a few suggestions to stay “PC” while making your point heard.

RO book

Make sure your complaint is accurate and for good reason.

Know the social media handles of the restaurant and appropriately tag the restaurant so they are aware of the problem.

Post a message that expresses the problem without placing blame or being overtly negative.

Include a specific action such as “please contact me directly” or “I just wanted you to know…”

Bottom line: if you need a problem solved, give the restaurant a chance to fix it before you rant. But if you must take it online, maybe a quick reminder of the Golden Rule is in order before you hit the keyboard.

More information on Restaurant Outbursts can be found at www.outburstsbook.com.

–Lisa Sands