Voice of the Restaurant Industry
Some background: I am a manager at a small restaurant, with a somewhat egotistical chef (surprise!) and a strong "culture." We do things differently (let our guests borrow bikes to ride home, use an electric car to pick up neighborhood people, please don't play on our lawn: it's for viewing purposes only) but we feel good about them, and don't feel the need to make excuses... so my chef says.
Anyhow, my chef hates food blogs. He won't read them, won't discuss them, and rarely interviews or allows people to do write ups of our restaurant. Part of me thinks he may not be able to handle any rejection. The other part of me believes what he says, (not a direct quote...) "Now, anyone who can eat and type a blog has an opinion. They know all about food and how to prepare it. They know everything about service." Basically, who are these people placing a judgement on my place when they have no credentials.
Though I would probably say he wouldn't want to read something from someone who had credentials too. So, how do we feel about food blogs?
Are they fun ways for friends to share experiences? A good way to learn whether you want to check out the new place?
Are they entitled people who want to rant about a single bad experience and feel good about being able to bash a restaurant (those that are negative).
This leads me to my second question, how should restaurants approach food blogs, rating websites and other critical media outlets? As I use my restaurant as an example... I hope some of yall have other stories to add. What do you think about this growing social media and it's impact on restaurants?
Awesome question Samantha!
The people writing those blogs are, by and large, your customers. Expecting a customer to not comment about their experience is akin to handing out muzzles to each guest as they leave - not practical nor, if they had a great experience, desirable. 'Allowing' someone to write you up is a bit passe I think - they're GOing to, regardless of what the chef believes.
If they write up a bad experience, it may be another chance to connect and make right by them - and turn them into an advocate. Keep in mind that 'them' is, again, your customer. A chef, restaurant owner or manager who thinks even for a second that they can quiet the voice of a (trained or untrained) critic is only setting themselves up for a very, very frustrating and non-productive interaction with, again, their customer.
Review sites and foodie blogs are an excellent real world test of the work being done. The person who searches on any of the review sites will find bad reviews along with the good. Most (and you have to trust your audience here) will recognize that out of 100 reviews, some will not be positive - you just cannot please everyone. If however 70 or 80 of the hundred are poor reviews, the chef / owner has to recognize that the issue may not be the customer.
IMHO, review sites are woefully under utilized by many restauranteurs - I've heard many rants and railings against them. To me review sites are the 'canary in a coal mine', sometimes providing an early warning of perhaps deeper issues that a proprietor may need to address. Connecting to them, claiming your listing (many permit this) and staying abreast of what's being said is a proper and relevant activity for many.
1.) Are they fun ways for friends to share experiences? A good way to learn whether you want to check out the new place?
2.) Are they entitled people who want to rant about a single bad experience and feel good about being able to bash a restaurant (those that are negative).
3.) how should restaurants approach food blogs, rating websites and other critical media outlets?
4.) What do you think about this growing social media and it's impact on restaurants?
Food blogs are great resources when utilized correctly, and I am extremely sorry to see that no-one responded to this earlier. For the first question, there are different types of forums tailored to seeing recommendations and were the quality of food is at, and there are other forums that discuss customer service restaurants (roadfood.com) I would recommend just scoping the media platform and seeing which area you would like to explore and has the most traffic. here are some forum websites (foodservice.com, roadfood.com, restaurant-community.com).
For your second question, YES n no. I feel like the large portion of the pie is divided in two and on one end there are the old heads that own businesses that feel this ascribed status of superiority and decide to "enlighten us all of their super awesomeness" and that they are super old and have all this extra time to burn on others to make themselves look better (have you ever seen ratatoulle??). Then there are those that want to conduct research and ask questions to get a logical/constructive answer. then there are a few stragglers like me that just love to talk:)
For question 3, there are tons of media platforms out there (facebook, twitter, forums, blog posting) you name it! Pick one of them and dedicate an hour a week to it and discuss your adventures through-out the week and if anything was worth other peoples time. Restaurants should always stay current with social media is all I am trying to convey. Without any media attention your equation=death. prospects need to know about who you are and what you stand for, so go out there and start building a foundation on your marketing channel of choice!
for 4 i hope i integrated it into 3.. if not feel free to comment back. Hope all this was some sort of help!
As the other's pointed out, food blogs are not going away and you can't simply ignore them.
What I'd suggest is creating your own "official" blog for your restaurant, on your website. Use this as a place to voice your own (respectful) response to reviews. Gather support from your loyal customers and build your own community through your blog, social media presence, etc.
It can go both ways :)