All Articles Food Restaurant and Foodservice How digital channels are changing the dining conversation

How digital channels are changing the dining conversation

3 min read

Restaurant and Foodservice

In years past, restaurateurs might mumble under their breath when patrons blew off their reservations or showed up and hogged the table for too long or spoke rudely to the waitstaff. They might send sidelong glances or even, in extreme cases, deal with the rude guest face to face.

But now it’s a digital age and patrons and restaurant owners alike have Twitter and other digital channels to rely on when they feel the need to vent, although the jury’s still out on the advisability of restaurateurs calling out guests for behaving badly. A few weeks ago, the media was abuzz with the story of frustrated restaurant owner of Red Medicine in Los Angeles, who called out patrons by name on Twitter after several failed to show for their Saturday night reservations.

The reactions were mixed, with most in the industry empathizing with the frustration that led to the outburst while opinions varied in terms of whether the public shaming was appropriate. It also led to helpful advice and tips like Eater’s article this week on how to minimize the impact of no shows.

It’s less clear whether the latest story of a restaurateur taking to Twitter to vent will lead to any such productive fallout. At the popular and bustling Black Hoof in Toronto, owner Jen Agg drew attention and plenty of criticism when on a recent Saturday night she tweeted: “Dear (almost) everyone in here right now. Please, please stop being such a douche” to her 7,300 followers, The Globe and Mail reported. The tweet came after a few patrons were treating servers rudely, she told the paper.

It wasn’t Agg’s first time calling out patrons for their behavior on the social site, and her actions have drawn harsh comments from consumers and those in the restaurant world who see them as unprofessional and potentially bad for business. The Globe and Mail story drew more than 130 online comments from readers, most of whom disagreed with Agg’s actions.

Chris Nuttall-Smith, who wrote the story for the paper, later gave an interview with CBC News delving further into the reasons why some restaurants seem to be more willing these days to publicly shame, starting with the changing economics of the industry. Years ago, eateries were in it for the long haul, looking to curry favor with consumers to create a dependable stable of repeat customers. Now, he said, eateries are experimenting with innovative concepts that change quickly and make their money turning tables so fast that they might not have time for the niceties.

“Restaurants are not the same today as they were five years ago or 10 years ago,” he told CBC host Matt Galloway on Friday’s edition of “The Current.” “Everybody’s trying to figure things out. It can be frustrating; it can be confusing.”

Are your customers always right? Would you tweet about the rude ones? Tell us about it in the comments.