Saturday, October 13, 2012

Restaurants, cafes and social media

Another Facebook debacle about an eatery in Hobart today has got me thinking about the whole social media thing, and the reasons as to why an eatery might want to create a Facebook presence.

It seems to me that if you’re:
*positive you have a product worth promoting (ie your food and service)
*have the time to devote to constantly keep an eye on your Facebook page
*continually keep your eatery in the forefront of peoples minds with daily Facebook specials, highlights of good things happening at your business etc
*and can respectfully and promptly respond to any negativity online (ie hose it down instantly)
you should be fine.

I am Facebook friends with, for instance, Aproneers and Chado. Both places regularly update their Facebook page with great daily specials, good news, informative notes about products, and generally keep in touch with their ‘fans’, as do Dr Syntax Hotel, also a favourite of mine.

Todays shitfight was at the Facebook page of the New Sydney Hotel. It started with a comment by a female member of a group of eight who arrived at NS for a meal in the upstairs function room last night, and who went to the bar downstairs to order their drinks/meals. Only one of the females in the roughly same aged group was told she had to produce some ID before the barmaid would serve her. She explained that her ID was upstairs in her bag, and (presumably) that she was 18 (because she was!). This was apparently unacceptable to the barmaid. The manager was called and he too was equally unhelpful and rude to the customers. It seemed to end with the barmaid telling the group to “piss off”.

Apparently a photo was posted as well, but I didn’t see that. I was too busy reading the 65 comments – most of which were extremely negative about both the service and food at NS, and in some cases, quite derogatory about NS staff – including one which read that the comment-poster had been raped by a staff member there, and another comment which told us that Al (owner) was a twat, and asking for Gary to be bought back!

By mid afternoon, the site had been removed, and replaced with a squeaky clean, new page, with no bad words or opinions on it at all.

But guys, the damage, once again, as in the case of Gilby’s a few weeks ago, is done.

If you, as a restaurant owner or manager, feel the need to keep up with the trend of creating a Facebook page for your business, you can’t just start it up and occasionally look at it out of curiosity every now and then. It’s a marketing tool, if used well, and can serve your business extremely well, if you manage it properly.

Nominate someone (either your partner, or a reliable staff member, or friend you trust) who is good with words and will keep a close eye on the site, and keep you informed as to what is being said in a public forum about your business, so that the minute someone adds a complaint about your product, you can address it instantly and politely.

Even if you might think that a critic of your business should “get a life”, that is most definitely not the wording to respond to a criticism on Facebook (as Gilby’s did).

Wise up  restaurant and café owners of Hobart! Get your collective acts together and use this wonderful tool correctly. It’ll assist keeping your business afloat if you do.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Gilby's controversy

It was with great interest that I accessed Facebook on Thursday night, having been alerted by a friend that there was a furore going on at the Facebook site of Gilby’s Restaurant on the East Derwent Highway at Lindisfarne.

What I read there astonished me.

OK, so it’s normal for people to either criticize or compliment a restaurant or café, depending on what sort of time the recipients had at the establishment. That’s acceptable, and to be expected. It has gone on since time immemorial, and will continue long after we are all long gone. (I am imagining a cave-family in olden times, with mum standing over the fire in their cave, bbq-ing dads recently dispatched feral pig for the family meal, then clonking dad over the head with a large bone from said pig after he whinged that she hadn’t cooked it long enough and had broken one of his teeth on it!)

But it was the initial reaction to a comment added to Gilby’s Facebook page which astounded me. Never, in all my years of socializing, fraternizing, working and networking here in Hobart, have I ever seen a response like Gilby’s, from a restaurant owner to a reasonable criticism from a customer.

The first few comments (which eventually totalled 88, at last viewing) read thusly:

Susan Storr said:
“Apparently you can't get water (and I am talking tap water) at Gilby's unless you are drinking alcohol. Yesterday a friend of mine and two other ladies were there for afternoon tea (coffee and cake) and one of the ladies (who incidently has a serious medical condition) required some water. She was grudgingly given a half a small glass of tap water and the other two ladies were NOT offered water. I have never heard of this anywhere else in Australia or New Zealand. Buck up your ideas Gilby's; bad news travels fast!”

Gilby’s replied:
“Hi Susan if you want water stay at home and drink your fill!”

Susan replied with:
“WOW, what a pathetic response to a genuine grievance. Prior to this water incident which was experienced by a friend and not me personally, I had eaten at Gilbys at least 8 times and had recommended the restaurant to many people. Your PR skills are sadly lacking and whoever you are have the intestinal fortitude to put your name to this negative and seemingly unintelligent comment instead of "hiding" under the "umbrella" of the restaurant name.”

……and so it continued on…….
I made a comment on my personal Facebook page, and many of my friends who happened to read Facebook on Thursday evening, took my advice, went to the Gilby’s page, read it, and returned to agree with me in expressing their disgust at Gilby’s response to the criticisms levelled at them. Everyone, on both the Gilby’s page, and my Facebook page, quite definitively stated that, given the response by Gilby’s which they had read with their own eyes (ie, it wasn’t something they read about in The Mercury, secondhand), they would never eat there or recommend it to anyone.

My question: given that Hobart is indeed so small, how could Gilby’s possibly think they can trade their way out of this? How could a business owner in this current economic climate respond to a customer in the way they did, above?

Absolutely, gobsmackingly amazing!

Anyway, it’s all philosophical now, as by yesterday (Friday) morning, Gilby’s Facebook page had been removed, and all evidence of controversy removed for posterity! It's almost like it never happened - except we know it DID!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Are you Australia's best home chef?

·      Upload your recipe to win over $100,000 worth of prizes including $50,000 worth of kitchen appliances
·      Launch of national food competition and community -
2nd October 2012: John Winning, CEO of Winning Appliances, has today launched Best Home Chef, a national cooking competition and community for food lovers to share recipes.
Best Home Chef is an online community where people can upload original recipes, hear from Australian chefs and learn more about cooking. Entrants also have the chance to win over $100,000 of prizes, including $50,000 worth of kitchen appliances.
Entering the competition and joining the community is as simple as registering and uploading an original recipe at  - whether it is a family recipe that’s been passed down, a new take on a classic or a truly innovative creation.
 How the Best Home Chef community and competition works:
 1.     Register at and upload an original recipe that costs no more than $80 to make.
2.     Rate, cook and review recipes - cook and rate recipes that have been uploaded by others within the community.
3.     Monthly prizes – prizes will be awarded to the top rating recipes for the month.
4.     Semi finalists – the top 25 recipes as voted by the community (based on ratings and reviews) by April 15, 2013, will become semi finalists.
5.     Grand finalists – six cooking mentors will then select the five best recipes to be involved in a live cook-off in May 2013. The cook-off will take place at the new Winning Appliances Redfern Showroom.
6.     Winner chosen at live cook-off – a judging panel of food critics will select the best dish at the live cook-off. The Best Home Chef winner receives $50,000 worth of state-of the-art cooking appliances while the runner-up will receive $25,000 worth of new cooking appliances.
Celebrity chef brand mentors include:
·      Peter Evans, My Kitchen Rules star (Wolf)
·      Mark Best, Chef at Marque Restaurant (AEG)
·      Adam D’Sylva, Chef at Coda Bar & Restaurant (Siemens)
·      Anthony Fischbeck, Australian Chef (Scholtès)
·      Luca Ciano, Chef Consultant (Smeg)
·      Massimo Mele, Ready Steady Cook star (Winning Appliances)
John Winning, CEO of Winning Appliances, said Best Home Chef is a competition designed for any Australian who has an original recipe and believes that food is best shared.  
 “Australians love good food and sharing it with family and friends. Whether it’s the humble Sunday family roast or grandma’s sought-after Pavlova recipe, cooking is deeply embedded in our culture. Best Home Chef is aimed at the heart of the Australian family home – the kitchen - and giving profile to the unsung food heroes.
 “Whether you are looking to update your kitchen with state-of-the-art appliances, share your recipes or realise your cooking dreams, Best Home Chef is the competition and community for you.
“Our research[1] indicates that over half of Australians (52%) eat their main meal at home seven days a week and a further 21% eat their main meal at home about six days a week. With more Australians opting to cook at home we want to provide a profile to the delicious and innovative meals that are being created. Today’s appliances are smarter and sleeker than ever before allowing home chefs to produce restaurant quality meals inside their very own kitchen,” said Mr Winning.
Best Home Chef is open to everyone – from occasional home chefs, to stay-at-home mums and dads, to food bloggers. The winner and runner-up prizes include a selection of products from Best Home Chef sponsors AEG, Smeg, Siemens, Scholtès and Wolf.
 Professional chefs can also enter Best Home Chef to win a $10,000 Winning Appliances voucher and the runner-up a $5,000 Winning Appliances voucher. To be eligible for the professional chef prizes, check the box “I am a professional chef,” when registering.