The Restaurant Blog at smartbrief.com has begun a three-part series on "Winning Over That Disgruntled Customer." The writer of the series, John Foley, says restaurant complaints are a lot more potent these days, thanks to social media such as Twitter and Facebook. In the old days, an unhappy patron had basically two options: Write a letter to the restaurant owner or manager, or make a phone call.
There was another option, too. The adage was that a happy restaurant customer tells five of his friends. An unhappy customer tells 50.
Today, because of social media, a customer can now easily tell 500 "friends" on Facebook. Bad news travels fast.
There's something to the more personal one-on-one communication of the
pre-tweeting era: A patient manager could calm down (and, sometimes, if
there was a logical explanation for the diner's negative
experience, make a fair defense). After all, it hurts business when a
pissed-off patron tells hundreds or even thousands of Facebook friends about his or her
Foley tells a pretty funny story of a grumpy customer getting revenge in the days before computers and cell phones. After Foley kicked the man out of his restaurant for being an asshole, the customer made signs "to voice his displeasure" and posted them all over town. Foley had to take down each one, using a ladder. But the signs caused enough interest in his restaurant that business, ironically, picked up, and he was able to increase business and increase customer loyalty.