Under the Grill; Social Media and the business of running a restaurant…

Before I go any further bear with me a mo while I get this off my chest...ahem  *clears throat* 'Please please stop it with the uninformed, witless, birdbrained,

rantin and ravin two bit wannabe Winners streams of dribble that we are subjected to on a daily basis on public forums of all shapes, sizes, influential or otherwise...but keep the good ones coming...I know I know that we cannot have all our cake and get to eat it with lashings of whipped crème chantilly at the same time because if we accept the plaudits then we must take the odd rotten tomato.

Back in the day the social interaction that now creates user-generated content on restaurant  review sites might have been idle banter between friends  in the pub, at work  or on the phone , it might have been good or bad advice in describing an experience but it would have been kept within a small community and have had a relatively small effect on the business, unlike today  where posting opinions on public forums can have a much wider reaching effect - good and bad, and in the case of tripadvisor for example the effect can be exceptional. So as a business it's a contract that we enter in the knowledge that by encouraging our satisfied customers to engage positively with SM channels to give the house a good name and keep us top of the mind that we are also only one stinker in any social blogging/rating/forums such as foursquare, flickr, Yelp or tripadvisor, from a potential damaging effect.

Perhaps the most frustrating thing as a restaurateur is the social phenomenon 'The Cult of the Amateur' sic Andrew Keen, when we are judged by people who are basically the loudest and most opinionated, people who will rant and rave at the drop of a hat - born pessimists, and who are not always in the best position to judge, then there is also the disgruntled employee or local rival in business to contend with, all of which is exhausting and time consuming to review and respond to. Which leads me to what is the ROI? - at a recent presentation I was subjected to Gary Vaynerchuk where he puts it quite bluntly 'what's the ROI of your mother'? The investment is time, the return is omnipresent and far reaching, you cannot evaluate it on a balance sheet every quarter as I believe your investment will be felt way down the line and in a broader market. Example - I recently highjacked a # that was indexing a SM wine tasting event locally - hungry work wine tasting - a Dutch blogger Sabine Dewitte picked up  my tweets, booked a table and had a great meal, turns out @sabinedewitte is a very influential travel blogger who recently posted a review of her trip to Social Media Week Glasgow on  CitizenMag, which is the online magazine for citizen M hotels of which there is one local to Red Onion, which by chance does not have any catering facilities and as a result we have received a fair amount of business from Citizen M and will probably do so going forward. However when I tweet and fb the daily specials do the bookings go into overdrive - no, well sometimes.

Since engaging with SM we have not spent a penny on traditional advertising for 2 years, printed or digital - fact. Our customers have increased 20% in that period - fact. Do the math as they say in California...but before you indulge in SM be sure the person behind the tweet or fb post or managers response is human with your company's ethos at heart and its always better to engage with a handful of influential people rather  than hundreds of randoms.

The bottom line however remains the same...we are only as good as our last meal.