original post seems to have touched off some feelings and perhaps some misunderstanding about what makes me uncomfortable about on-line review sites. So, up front let me say, I have no problem with people expressing their opinions. My only problem is when people express their opinions in a dishonest or disingenuous way. What set off my original rant was a post written about someone else's restaurant. Yes, the person also posted annoying things about mine, but that didn't get to me in the way his other post did, because in his other post he "hoped" the owners would read the post and then do something about the problems. That's where I get mad.My
In the comments Marie makes excellent points. However, all the things she suggests, I do, and more. I'm on the floor 5 nights a week. It was better when the GM was here, so that at least one of us was here 6 nights a week, but The Sardine is keeping her busy. But, when I'm on the floor I try to make it a point to visit with each and every table. I don't always make it, especially on the insanely busy nights, but I get pretty close. And I'm really trying to solicit opinions. Someone tells me the food is fine, I know I've failed and I ask, "How could it be great?" I buy food for people, I give them desserts, glasses of wine and do what I can to help them have a good time.
All our employees have the authority to do what they think needs to be done to make someone happy. We are going to make mistakes, I tell them. It's how we recover from those mistakes that make the difference. Also, when they're dealing with a situation they've had to finesse in some way, they know to tell me about it. Not so I can second guess their judgment, but so I can be aware, and if needed, add to the resolution.
When the check is presented, there's a comment card along with it that asks for some contact information, let's them know we'll be sending them special offers and asks the question, "What one thing could we improve?" We figured everyone could come up with at least one improvement, and if we got and implemented great ideas, we'd be constantly improving. Unfortunately the space is sometimes left blank, or often, we're told we don't need improvement, which is a nice ego boost, but really isn't helping me. I personally answer all cards with relevant comments, both positive and negative
On the check itself, at the bottom, by the total, where people should notice it, it says, "Thank you. If you had a great time, tell your friends. If you didn't, tell us." with our names so people know who to contact. I try to thank everyone on their way out, offer suggestions on where they might dine tomorrow if they're from out of the area, and once again try to solicit feedback.
What I can't do is make people be honest. Even with all the opportunities for feedback, there are people who would rather post some craven crap on-line, than to just be honest about their experience. I don't say things behind people's back that I don't say to their face. That doesn't mean I'm always nice.
Here's an example of how I think things should work. Last night we had a couple in who have visited us a time or two before. The gentleman ordered a hanger steak and was unhappy with it because he found it tough. He asked me if that was representative of a hanger steak or if there was something wrong with his. I told him the hanger is a chewier, flavorful cut, and so, what he had was representative of a hanger. He said he'd be happy to pay for it, he just wouldn't order one in the future. I took it off the bill. He also told me he had asked the waiter which was the tenderest steak, was told the filet mignon, but he ordered the hanger anyway.
When he left I said goodbye and he told me I didn't have to take the steak off the bill. I replied, "It's true, I didn't have to. But when you inquired about a tender steak the waiter should have known better than to sell you a hanger steak, so we didn't do our job." He left happy, I was happy. It could have gone a very different way.
I'll disagree with Marie that the internet is just a larger water cooler. I used to think that myself. The difference is obviously one of scale, but also one of interest. The water cooler isn't necessarily focused on one area, or topic, or hobby, but sites on the internet are. And yes, people who are very interested in a particular subject might hang around a forum long enough to distinguish the nut jobs from people with valid opinions but a lot of people don't fit that description. Particularly when discussing restaurants, hotels, travel destinations, etc. Many people are just checking a site to find out about an area, what to do, where to go, where to eat. They're not there long enough to sort the good opinions from the bad.
The other thing is bad is far more injurious than good is good. Years ago, the GM and I instituted a personal policy because the few bad interactions we had with customers overshadowed the overwhelmingly great responses we get. We can still tell you details about the negative experiences, years after the customer has come and gone. Those linger, long after the raves fade. The policy was this. The GM would go over every table with me, every night, listing every detail she could about the people, where they were from, what they had to say, all the relevant points of their conversation. It got tedious for her I know, and we eventually stopped the practice, but it turned around the negative tables in our minds. They no longer assumed such importance. Yes, if there were problems to be fixed, that was important. But we realized how many more people we made happy than not.
So please, don't think I want to stifle negative opinions. Yes, I'm a business owner and would prefer positive remarks to negative, but I am emphatically not interested in abridging anyone's First Amendment rights. I still say it's bullshit to post a problem on the internet that you haven't told to anyone who could fix it, but that's merely my opinion. It's also my opinion that this leads to greater societal problems. It's OK to have disagreements, it's OK to have opinions, and it's OK to express them. I just ask that we express our opinions personally when we can, rather than broadcasting them. If we are reduced to calling each other names anonymously on the internet, we have taken a step backward as a species.