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It’s Not What You Say, It’s What They Say!

February 17, 2011

In the beginning of my marketing career, a great woman by the name of Maria Landon told me, “In branding, it’s not what you say, it’s what they [the customer] say.” Often times, small start-ups and huge restaurant conglomerates alike think that if they just try hard enough and keep their message consistent, the masses will understand their brand as it was intended. Not true! Don’t get me wrong, a consistent message is a very big deal, but just like in relationships, you also speak with actions. If you told your significant other that you loved them constantly, but you disrespected them and ignored them, what do you think they will say of you? I’m sure it won’t be, “He/she is very loving and kind.” So what makes restaurants think any different? Restaurant owners — especially the small guys — make sure you understand this. Your job depends on it!

A new restaurant opened not too far from where I live. It has a nice location near a large fitness center and better yet, a movie theater. They have a memorable name and a really cool atmosphere, but is that enough to last long-term? I think not. When you come across as cool and interesting then mistreat your guests, what do you think will happen? The guests won’t come back and with the many social media sites and the trusty word-of-mouth, they may take others with them. A woman on Yelp commented on her first time visiting this restaurant. Read the edited excerpt below and tell me if you would return. I removed the restaurant’s name for their protection.

My husband, our two year old son, and I decided to try this new restaurant. When we first arrived we were seated quickly; however waiting for our server to appear was a little different. After what seemed to be getting close to 5 minutes, he arrived at our table. We ordered our drinks, which took longer than usual to arrive and queso. After finishing an entire basket of chips and hot sauce [salsa], our waiter was at another table before he ran off (I seriously had to catch him before he disappeared), I asked for refills, more chips, silverware and did if he forget our queso. Once he returned he got us refills and queso… still no chips. Finally, a minute or two later we got more chips. We didn’t order anything that would take long to cook… an order of fajitas and kids cheese quesadilla. People were coming and going and we still had no food. I then, found the manager and let her know about our experience and that we had been waiting on our food for what I knew was too long considering what we ordered. The manager (who never shared her name) barley looked like she cared and said she would check on our whole order. You would think after that she would have followed up with us to let us know what was going on… nope, never returned. There we were just waiting again… me feeling badly for my son whose dinner was consisting of chips. Without knowing what was going on and growing more aggravated, we told our server we were leaving to cancel our order. Then, all of a sudden he said, “No, no, it’s ready. It’s ready.” “Fine,” I thought, “we will wait.”

Within a minute our food was out. Our dinner was good, but not at all worth the hassle. Not to mention the price is comparable with places I know the food is excellent and service is always fantastic. Anyhow, as we received our check the manager finally came out of the woodwork to let us know she took care of our queso… really… thanks, where is our “I’m sorry”? Just odd. I told her it wasn’t about the queso it was all together a bad experience. The manger then began to argue with me and to tell me how great their staff and kitchen are (again, I don’t care — I am telling you about our experience). As we were packing up to go the manager had the audacity to come out with our ticket form the kitchen to show me the ticket time compared to the time we were leaving. I was shocked to say the least. My response was, “how do you know our server put our order in on time. We didn’t even receive our queso until 10 min or so after we ordered it and that was only because I requested it again?”

I have worked in the restaurant industry and so has my husband, so we know bad service when it is received. Needless to say, we will not be returning anytime soon, if ever.

Eat at your own risk.

I would believe a review like this 100%. She didn’t seem unfair at all. She said she was seated quickly and the food was good. This one review could keep me from visiting this restaurant until I felt they had grown through the ugly beginnings of a new concept. The manager had the opportunity to make up for it all right there on the spot — free food at the next visit and an apology. Well, now that that’s over, what can the restaurant do? What they should’ve been doing from the start — frequent hospitality social media sites, like Yelp and Urbanspoon, and monitor what people are saying about them. Thank people for their kind remarks and do whatever they can (within reasonable limits) to fix the bad stuff.

Luther Lowe, who heads local business outreach at, actually disagrees. He says, “responding to the positive reviews is not going to really move the needle.” On the other hand, Dean Schmit, Product Manager for ReviewAnalyst, a hospitality reputation monitoring service, says, “You have to think like a consumer. If there’s only a management response attached to the bad reviews, your attention will be drawn directly to that only.” A brief and relevant response to good reviews evens the playing field and may cause that person to become loyal. In the end, a response may be simple, but it makes a huge difference.


You can read Luther Lowe’s interview at

One Comment leave one →
  1. joana permalink
    February 23, 2011 12:03 AM

    It is very helpful article.

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