Theoretically this should be a good thing; they say knowledge is power after all. Yet as a nation our health is collectively worse than ever, obesity, heart disease & diabetes are all on the rise. One positive we have been able to make from our national food obsession is that we are all more empowered as consumers. We ask questions, make choices & demands of our providores in a way we have never before. Low G, Organics, GM free, Gluten Free, No MSG, lactose intolerant, free range are just a few of the terms now prevalent in the industry.
Helped along this path by the development of the internet, the industry has to face the prospect that every customer is a potential critic in a way they never had before. My grandmother drilled into me the notion that if a customer leaves your shop with a bad experience they will tell an average of 20 people about it- a scary thought for any business. Today the prospect is a lot more concerning with emails, text messaging, Facebook, twitter & blogs, now telling ‘anyone who will listen’ can mean hundreds, thousands, even millions of people depending on their internet presence. Everyone is a critic indeed!
Critisim is not always easy to take abd we do not always react in a positive way- regardless of how sucessful we are. A few well known examples from 2009 are
- restaurant actually sued a critic for a bad review that they believed put them out of business.
So when, after all that you put in, someone comes along and rubbishes your work publically it wounds and demoralises you. It doesn’t matter that you sold out of the item the day before, that you are booked solid for the next 3 months or that your regular customers love things just the way they are. Recently we received bad reviews of our pies in the Herald Sun and our mince pies in The Age, the urge to use twitter, my blog or facebook to answer back was intense. Luckily I knew no good would come of it! If Calombaris couldn’t win, I had no chance!
What response it appropriate? When a customer calls with a complaint we listen to their comments, thank them for the feedback and consider the merits of what they had to say, often taking it on board. So why when someone does it in the public arena do we take offence? It is after all just someone’s opinion! Opinions on food are afterall just like those on art, music and literature...personal, subjective and unique.