Last week Chops & Hops restaurant found themselves in the national news by posting a somewhat un-PC post on their Facebook page. 134 news articles later (as of March 29th) and it's still making the rounds in newspapers and news articles online and off.
Takeaways from this for any restaurant:
1. This can happen to anyone. A post that may seem funny or sarcastic to you or your employees (as this post was meant to be) can be taken the wrong way by anyone. THINK before you post.
2. Waiting a full day (or more) to respond to negative comments is not recommended. Chops & Hops took almost a full day to respond to this, which let the comments escalate out of hand before trying to make amends. In the case of this restaurant, it appears that all of their posts for more then a full month were being posted from a mobile device. Bravo to them for trying to keep the page fresh and up to date. Shame on them for not monitoring it.
3. Take the post down if something like this happens to your restaurant. In this case, the post is still up and live. Keeping the post up just continues to attract more comments on it and keeps it live in the face of other people viewing the page.
In this day and age of social media, many screen shots of the post have already been taken and have spread online (and will stay online). See http://eater.com/archives/2012/03/26/ga-restaurant-apologizes-for-c... and http://www.foodanddrinkdigital.com/production/businesses-in-hot-wat... for examples.
Keeping it up online just reinforces the image that you are not taking it that seriously, even if you have apologized (which they did) and tried to make amends (also done). The chef/owner goes on to say though: “I’m not going to take it off Facebook, because I’m not afraid of what I did,” Miley said. “I’m just trying to have fun with food. Some people like it and some people don’t.” From ABC News.
Sadly to the customers and potential customers that may or may not continue to patronize the restaurant, the chef/owner is telling us that his apology was empty one.
4. Any publicity is good publicity. It appears that they have gained quite a few Facebook fans since the issue hit the news last week. Caveat, how many of those "fans" are going to become customers? Or are they zero revenue fans?
5. Any publicity can be bad publicity. From the number of comments posted on their Facebook page and in response to their twitter account it appears they have lost some customers as a result of this. While 40+ customers/potential customer may not seem to be a lot in total (I think it is), if they are locals and did/or may eat there 4-6 times a year with their families @ approximately $25.00 per meal = around $15,000.00+ loss of revenue. Will customers and potential customers forget and come back? That remains to be seen.
6. Social Media news has a short shelf life. If you look at Chops & Hops' Facebook page, comments are down to a minimum and most of them are supportive.
7. Social Media and Search has a long shelf life. Long after this has blown over and been forgotten in the mass hive mind of the social media mavens, it will appear in Google search. If you Google "Damian Cardone" for example, scores of articles referencing him, the gluten free Facebook fiasco post and the restaurants he worked at still pop up over a year later. Keeping the post online and having assorted articles linking directly to it, just lets future reader "revisit" it and keeps it the topic active.
8. Monitor, Monitor, Monitor. If you are going to use Facebook, you need to monitor it. If you are going to have a twitter account, even an autofeed from Facebook like Chops and Hops does, you need to monitor it and RESPOND! Set up Google alerts (free), Socialoomph Alerts (the free version) to monitor twitter and Hyperalerts (free) to monitor Facebook. Both twitter and Facebook, if you have the settings enabled, are supposed to send you email notifications every time you get a mention or comment, neither service is 100% reliable. As the backend administrator for about 4 dozen accounts I know this for a fact.
9. Have an action plan in place. What steps are you as a restaurant going to do to minimize the damage if something like this happens to you? A post made in jest, a response to a fan's comment gone wrong, a mistaken tweet from the wrong twitter account about a political issue. What are you going to do to respond to online social media and how are you going to do it, what are you going to do to respond to traditional media and how are you going to do it? Who is going to be the point person to take care of the issue. Step one is ALWAYS apologize. An oldie but goodie from Mashable: 5 Steps for Successful Social Media Damage Control, has some good advice on dealing with a social media crisis.
10. Be prepared to deal with Trolls. Moon Spell on the Chops & Hops page is a good example of a troll.
She (or he) has posted on quite a few of the postings and if you mozy on over to her profile page it appears She trolls other sites as well. . Trolls are generally identified by not having a profile picture (twitter and Facebook) or having a stock photo or photo of a animal, as well as posting similar content on any other pages or profiles with similar issues and topics. Whether these people are just people with an axe to grind with someone, Anyone, or they are off their medications, they are not good people to let stay on your Facebook page.
Trolls are bad for business. While it's a really bad idea to delete real people's comments, even if they are complaints and you don't want to see them on your page, I highly recommend you block and report trolls and delete their comments.
Responding to them only gets them going even more. Ignoring them and leaving them on your page only engenders more posting by people either agreeing or responding to them.
Trolls happen on twitter as well. Out of the blue, someone will tweet or make multiple tweets about your restaurant, your food or your staff. The same rules apply as on Facebook, generally the profile will be unfilled out, the photo non-existent or stock, and all tweets will have a similar theme. Ignore, block and report.
Don't take it personally and do not respond on either platform. Feeding the trolls does nothing for your business except encourage them to try to pull your business (and your temper) under the troll bridge.