Monday, July 30, 2018

Rant: Can Chefs/Restaurant Owners Afford To Speak Out?

Within the last few years, social media has become seemingly dominated by the discussion of political and social issues. There are some chefs/restaurant owners who have been vociferously vocal about such matters while others have remained mostly silent. And other chefs/restaurant owners fall somewhere with this range. Chefs/restaurant owners who speak out risk losing potential customers who are offended by what is said. With the razor-thin margins that most restaurants operate under, can chefs/restaurant owners afford to lose a percentage of their customer base?

If you offend 10%, 20% or even more of your potential customer base, how will that affect your bottomline? The simple math would seem to indicate it could be a serious problem. Can you count on your supporters making up for your lost business by dining at your restaurant more frequently? Restaurant costs have been increasing so is now really the proper time to offend potential customers and turn away their business?

Every time a chef/restaurant owner speaks out on a political or social issue, they risk losing some customers. It is a complicated matter though, and much depends on exactly what is said, what isn't said, and how it is said. Some positions are relatively noncontroversial. The more inflammatory the language you use, the greater the risk. If you denigrate and insult those who possess an opposing viewpoint, your risk increases even more. You could even end up offending those who might agree with your basic position, but dislike how you present your views.

Even if a chef/restaurant owner remains largely silent about their political and social views, some people will be upset, thinking they should speak out on certain issues. It can be a no-win situation, where you risk losing potential customers whether you speak or remain silent. It is no longer sufficient to simply provide good food, drink and service. Now, a number of customers want to judge you based on your political and social positions.

Chefs/restaurant owners need to very carefully consider what they say, and don't say, on social media.   Before you post, or choose not to post, take time to consider how that might reflect on your business. Are you willing to risk losing customers over what you say or don't say? Is there a better way to say what you want to say, which won't be as offensive but will still depict your position? Remember that your words, or silence, could ultimately affect everyone who works for you.

2 comments:

Jim said...

There's a little cafe around the corner from my apartment. When I moved here eight years go, I sort of decided it would be a good place to call my "Local" and I was a regular there, at least one day a week. Then the put up a campaign sign for a local candidate whom I (and many others) despise. I kept going there, but the sign upset me. Election ended, sign came down, I continued spending money. Then that candidate ran for election again, and another sign went up... I realized I was upset going in there and seeing my money supporting a place that was pimping a real jerk... that was more than two years ago. I haven't spent one cent in the place since. There are always more restaurants for customers to choose from, but there isn't an unlimited supply of regular customers...

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