I’ll be the first to admit: I have a borderline unhealthy relationship with reality TV. Don’t worry though, I balance that out by reading educational books from Suze Orman, Hill Harper and the like, so I’m not too much of a lost cause. But had it not been for my affinity for reality TV, I would not be able to bring to you this gem of a reputation management case study from Chef Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares episode featuring Chappy’s on Church.
As I watched the hour-long episode highlighting the restaurant’s problems, and saw the owner’s reactions to the advice he was given, I thought, “This reputation repair is going to be a doozy.” Lo and behold, I went to Facebook to see the aftermath and there I saw what can best be described as a slow-burning fire. If only someone from the restaurant had taken a look at our Parthenon Guide on dealing with the comments before appearing on the show, the outcome might have a little less combustible.
“I think my food is best the New Orleans cuisine in Nashville; I can’t figure out why people haven’t come to enjoy it.”
Chef Ramsay comes into the restaurant for the first time to meet the owners and taste the food. The hostess greeted Ramsay, who requested to see Chappy and let’s just say it took him a long time to come out of the kitchen from doing nothing to meet Chef Ramsay. Not a good start. After the meet and greet, on to the tasting. With more than 100 dishes, the question, “What do you do well?,” was hard to answer. But throughout, there was a lot of blaming the people of Nashville for their ill-fed palates. That leads us to:
RULE #1: Never blame your customers for not being satisfied with your services. A surefire way to decrease your own revenue is to offend current and potential supporters.
Dinnertime arrived and we saw kitchen practices that rankled Chef Ramsey, along with a head chef who did not care to hear customer complaints. Consumers notice if you’re doing a job out of love or purely out of necessity – trust me when I tell you, we’ll take passion every time.
RULE #2: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.” Thank you, Albert Einstein. If you keep sending the same plate out and it keeps coming back because you haven’t changed it – it’s no longer them; it’s you. See if there’s something that you can do to improve your services, and if you can’t do that, ask your customers because they will always tell you what you could do better.
Now, what is a good show without the social media component!? The restaurant’s Facebook page erupted with comments – 170 comments to be exact when I counted. Among them: “To blame your tasteless food and slow business on Nashvillians is a huge insult. If you don’t like us, go back to MS,” one poster wrote. Not all the comments were bad; in fact, actually quite a few customers came to bat for Chappy’s. But then the wall went dark, with no comments for a few days, and then this:
Rule #3: One of my favorite Gossip Girl characters, Blair Waldorf, once said, “The best defense is a good offense.” When your service is always the best, you don’t need to be defensive about it. True, everyone won’t like how you do it; however, their complaints should be about personal preference as opposed to your service not being up to par.
After a troubled dinner service, Chef Ramsay revamped the restaurant from the décor all the way down to the simplifying the menu to 25 options and bringing in a sous chef, which all of the staff at Chappy’s were excited about, including Chappy’s wife, Starr. Chappy, though, was less than pleased with the changes.
Even so, service that night was the best than it had been in a long time. But since, he has gone back to the same menu and everything else pre-Ramsay, which begets the question: “Why did you even do the show?” Only Chappy knows, but as his wife said, “It’s not about your pride or your experience. It’s about doing what you need to do to help your business evolve and go to the next level.”
The lesson here? Taking an honest look at your service, acknowledging where it falls short and letting your customers express their opinions could save your reputation, and ultimately, your business.