Prompted by the government’s ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme that’s running throughout August, I scanned the list of participating restaurants and eateries in my area and planned where my family and I would eat. Imagine: the bliss of coming home and not having to make tea for everyone (an arduous task when no one likes the same thing). No washing up afterwards, either.
Eating out, in my household, is a definite treat rather than an everyday occurrence. Due to the scheme’s discounts, it’s something I can enjoy more often – during this month, at least.
We decided to try two local places we’d never been to before. I found the Facebook business page of the first restaurant and asked to book a table for the following week. My request for availability was sent via Facebook Messenger. I waited for a reply but heard nothing. I sent a follow-up message which was also ignored.
Move on, I thought. I did the same for the second restaurant and sent them a Facebook message, asking for a table on Wednesday (this was now Monday; I’d wasted a few days waiting to hear back from restaurant one). It wasn’t a complete surprise when restaurant two eventually came back to me (Wednesday lunchtime) to say that they were fully booked that evening. Perhaps if you’d come back to me when I first sent a message this wouldn’t have been the case…
It takes minutes to check/respond to a message.
I tried the website of a third option, a restaurant I’d been to before; on their website I could make my own booking. Finally! A table sorted within seconds.
If you get a sense that I was frustrated by those first two interactions, you’d be right. I get that I could have phoned and booked a table, but I’m not a fan of the phone – I’d even go as far to say I’m actively phobic about it. Hey, life would be boring if we were all the same.
If there are other ways on offer to contact a business, I don’t think I’m being an awkward sod by choosing one of them. Companies should capitalise on all methods of customer contact – otherwise, they face missing out on business (as is what happened here). If there’s only Mr Nobody to man your social media, what’s the point of it?
Businesses are still sending a message when they don’t respond to enquiries made via their social media channels. Unfortunately, this message is, ‘We’re too busy to see to you’, or ‘You’re not important’.
It’s great that restaurants are enjoying decent trade now that the government scheme has begun, but in September, when they won’t have quite as many customers banging the door down to be seated, things may be different.
I’m one of those people in life who bear a grudge (yeah…at least I’m honest). I will never get back in touch with either of the two restaurants that weren’t interested in my business – there are many, many other places in which I can spend my money instead.
To say that restaurants have taken a hit over the last few months is an understatement, can they really afford to ignore new customers who could potentially come back again and again?
Apps exist to allow customers to self-book tables in restaurants, and they’re not expensive to run. Yet, in this digital age, it’s surprising how few eateries actually use them. But why wouldn’t you? It genuinely baffles me.
The hard work starts when someone dines in your restaurant…is the food hot? Tasty? Timely? Is the atmosphere friendly? Take a look at TripAdvisor and you’ll find plenty of honest reviews relating to every food business in existence. If you fail at the first hurdle – making the actual booking – it’s not a good indication to me that the rest of the experience will be up to scratch.
Eat Out to Help Out aims to stimulate trade. It won’t exactly have the impact intended if Mr Nobody is running things when people try and book.
Want your article to appear on our site? Contact us here