We’re used to thinking about word-of-mouth advertising as something that happens when two people meet on the street or talk in the workplace. Today, there’s a third place that people meet and talk and that’s in cyberspace! Social media sites, as well as the directory sites, provide an easy opportunity for people to relate their experiences and say what’s on their mind. And do they ever talk!!
Fortunately, you have many opportunities to influence how guests view your restaurant, what they’re likely to say to friends, neighbors, and how they describe their experience on the internet. It’s amazing how little things color a diner’s overall impression of their experience. I have seen a reviewer rant about the haughtiness of a hostess and never say a word about the food—which probably was excellent!
I’ve also seen reviews that described a bad situation, like a late reservation or improperly cooked food, that described the restaurant in glowing terms because of the way the situation was handled. It’s time well-spent to gather your staff regularly and talk about ways that they can make your customer’s visit something special.
If yours is a family restaurant, is your staff trained to pay attention to families with small children and perhaps bring some crackers or rolls and butter to the table immediately? That doesn’t take much effort but it’s the kind of gesture that stays with guests and causes them to mention it to friends or in online reviews.
A restaurant in our community treats every guest to a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie when their plates are cleared. Even regular guests who are familiar with this policy, react with delight when the steaming hot cookies arrive. It’s a small gesture but it’s one that will get mentioned over and over in conversation and reviews.
It’s an unfortunate quirk of human nature that bad news spreads faster and farther than good news. You will have unflattering—and sometimes unfair—reviews written about your staff and/or your restaurant. But how you react to them can turn a negative into a positive. I’ve seen reviews that, on their own, would make it unlikely that someone browsing the site would choose that restaurant. But when you see a response from the owner, politely written, and expressing regret for a bad experience, most readers are reasonable and realize that things do go wrong…it’s how you react to them that determines their effect.
So give some thought to how you can get some positive “buzz” going about your restaurant and talk to your staff about really paying attention to guest’s behavior. Reward them for taking initiative and doing something that will cause some positive word-of-mouth advertising for you.