There’s an old adage in the marketing world – all publicity is good publicity. If you get your name in the news, regardless of whether it's good, bad or just plain ugly, people are talking about you and as such, awareness of who are you are and what the business is, is being created…for free! Sounds almost too good to be true.
In the hospitality world, is all publicity actually good for business? Think about it - you’ve had customers stream in, an amazing menu has wowed them, the service was exceptional, a food critic writes a magnificent review, and you were surprised by a celebrity visitor who shouted from the roof-tops about how wonderful your restaurant was – good times! You really couldn’t ask for better publicity!
On the flip side, there was that one day where staff called in sick, everything went wrong in the kitchen, the food critic wasn’t impressed, and you had that one customer who complained loudly about his meal not being right and who then followed it up with a negative Facebook review that went viral. These are not so good days, and unfortunately, the damage that can be done by such negative publicity can be significant.
So in my mind, not all publicity is good publicity when it comes to operating in the hospitality space. Negative reviews can hurt personally, especially if you’re the head chef or the one in control of the kitchen, and certainly in the hip pocket if it means customers turn away. So what can we do about it?
How to deal with bad reviews
You can not control what people say about you, but you can give them a reason to only say positive things by presenting a great dining experience. Present a unified corporate image and make sure your staff are singing from the same song-sheet. Greet customers in a friendly manner, make them comfortable, ensure orders taken quickly and advise them if any issues might mean a longer wait than usual. And if there is a problem, deal with it then and there, do what you can to make sure that customer leaves happy, so they don’t have a reason to give a negative Twitter or Facebook review.
In the age of social media, while you can’t control what is said, you can control how you respond to negative reviews or publicity. Be mature, don’t engage in a slanging match, offer ways to rectify the negative situation – how you respond will determine whether people are left with a positive or negative view of you and your business. Social media has many positives, but as we have seen in many instances, it can do irreparable damage - so you need to come up with a policy or a procedure for all staff so any negative press can be managed in an integrated and appropriate manner.
How to gain good publicity
On the upside, good publicity is fantastic! It is basically free advertising for your business, so look for positive publicity opportunities that will get your name out there. Consider sponsorship of “good social causes”, offer complimentary meals to people who wouldn’t normally be able to dine in your restaurant, give back to the community during times of stress or natural disasters, get involved in “pay it forward” schemes. There are many ways to obtain free positive publicity, get creative and get people talking about your business.
So perhaps all publicity can be good publicity after all?