A story that’s caught my attention this week has been about a former pub in Maidstone that’s now a restaurant.
And my word are they in the midst of a PR disaster!
They’ve been taken over and rebranded from a pub to a restaurant with new rules. No drinkers. Just diners.
But after that went down like a lead balloon, they did a U-turn.
Here’s their statement, gained by the Kent Messenger who broke the story:
“The decision of the area manager was to, at first, not allow ‘just drinkers’ – everyone still assumed we were just a pub and they just wanted to come and drink. Drinkers are now very welcome to sit outside, but within that area. We’re a brand new restaurant, completely different to what we were before, and have only been open a month – we need to be given time.”
But their time to shine has been wasted by annoying a huge number of people, previously loyal customers and now new ones.
The comments under the Facebook post on this story on the KM’s timeline say it all – people saying it’s overpriced, not good food, they won’t return, or even now try it.
It all could have been very different if they had realised more quickly what their customers were telling them – that they came to the place for a drink and wanted to sit outside!
They’ve now got a job on their hands to turn their reputation around ahead of the summer when traditionally this place was one of the busiest in town!
The lesson to learn from this one is wise up – and fast if customers are telling you something. They now take to social media and it can get picked up as a news story like this one has if you don’t act fast enough or well enough.
The statement is also very poor – attributing the decision to the area manager rather than to the company as a whole. To me, that screams office politics! It’s also telling us that they have an idea of their idea clients and their previous ones don’t fit the bill.
I would have suggested something a bit more light-hearted – perhaps:
“When we first opened we wanted to position ourselves as a restaurant by not allowing just drinking. But we got it wrong – people have been used to coming here to meet friends and family for a drink, not always wanting something to eat and so we will continue – valuing the early feedback we have received from previously loyal and regular customers.
“Everyone is welcome whether they want to eat or drink and to celebrate our opening, we will have a special offer throughout May for all customers – 10% off their bill if they share us on social media plus 20% off if they leave us a review on social media.”
This statement acknowledges the situation, their mistake, the fact that they listened, tuned in and walked in step with their customers. It then adds a little softener at the end to encourage people back. (Obviously this is just an example offer at the end, but it needs to be one people will take up.
Be ready when a crisis hits your business and have my number on-hand to deal with your Crisis Communications.