Hospitality is all about making people feel comfortable, so smoke and mirrors will get you nowhere. It’s time to drop the act and be real with your customers – you’ll reap the rewards.
The customer’s BS radar is on high alert – they’re swamped with hype, and can learn a lot about your business before they even visit. Have you Googled your name and business lately?
Make those buzzwords 'transparency' and 'integrity' your marketing advantage – share real, honest information about the management team, staff and daily activities. Consumers find ‘behind the scenes' of hospitality endlessly fascinating, so give them facts to feast on.
1. Keep the menu honest
Is 'home made' really made in someone's home? How fresh is 'fresh' and can we trust the terms 'organic', 'local' and 'made daily'? There are plenty of ways to write an enticing menu without overloading the adjectives. And reassure people that allergy-friendly items are the real deal.
2. Upgrade the About Us page
With real names of owners and managers, plus information about how the business has developed – timelines can be interesting. So many of these pages are full of fluff, and when no names are mentioned, we wonder if the place is run by robots.
3. Show real faces on the website
We all relate to 'people like me', not glamour models or people with perfect CVs. Take care if you're promoting a celebrity chef – other staff are also doing great work. And be careful with stock photos – the photo libraries are handy but the images are everywhere. Taking decent digital photos is now a basic restaurant skill – a project for one of your team members, if you’re too busy.
4. Share videos of daily life
Not big-budget productions, but a quick look at daily activities, for example introduce a new staff member, show the chef making pasta or the barista at work, the installation of the pizza oven. You can do videos of up to 60 seconds on Instagram and also share them on Facebook. A local media student can make these look sharp in no time.
5. Be authentic on social media
An interesting Facebook page is essential, and it needs to be updated at least once a day with content that is informative, inspirational and sometimes entertaining. Include plenty of people shots, behind the scenes and produce stories – they’re always of interest. Twitter is popular with chefs and restaurateurs, and Snapchat should also be on your list.
6. Share a few mistakes
We all make them – the wine you chose that no-one would buy, a recent kitchen drama, the new stove that wouldn't fit through the door. Now diners can relate to you! Facebook, Twitter or a blog can be a great way to share the daily bustle of hospitality life.
7. Actively encourage feedback
Whether it's on Facebook, feedback cards or a special website page, most comments are positive and you'll be glad the negatives come directly to you. Most businesses make giving feedback too much of an effort – how is it at your place?
8. Respond to all online feedback
If it’s good, say 'thanks for the very nice comments...' If it's critical, it still needs a response – 'thanks for letting us know – please call or email so we can follow up.’ Unanswered online criticism looks bad, and makes it appear that you do not care.
9. Talk with pride about your area
Places to visit, a popular park, places for children to play, recent events – share them on a web page with a map, and make sure staff know where customers can find an ATM, transport and parking. This can also be the basis for a good local-knowledge training quiz for staff – they all need to get 100 percent.