Posted On: May 29th, 2015 By Alen Levis No Comments »
Ekim Burger – a Wellington owned burger café – posted on the Wellington business’ Facebook page after a customer’s polite private message accused the burger bar of giving her son food poisoning. Surprisingly the burger café owner chose to take his conversation public with an expletive rant on social media, not only accusing his patron of poor personal hygiene, but also having a dig at general patrons in the industry.
Ekim Burger owner Mike Duffy has sparked a social media uproar with a vitriolic rant that takes aim at various types of undesirable customers. From “middle class no idea house wives completely out of their league complaining that their wine glass should have more in it”, to “pissed up office jocks pulling the ‘I got food poisoning’ call after going home way to drunk from a staff Christmas party with someone who they shouldn’t have”.
Unapologetic, Duffy said the rant was inspired by what he calls a creeping culture of rudeness and entitlement among hospitality patrons, who he said had a responsibility to behave well in restaurants, cafes, and bars. “It’s common courtesy, and it’s not common anymore” he explained.
While Duffy seems to have garnered some support from some working in the hospitality industry, others have condemned his actions as hostile, aggressive, and rude. Ekim’s unrepentant actions certainly have not won him any favours, but Duffy felt it was “unlikely the publicity would affect his business”. Interestingly enough, he has had a good show out from a loyal base of customers ensuring they continue to support the Burger Bar.
What takes the cake is this is not the first time Ekim has over stepped the mark with a customer complaint. In one case a customer complained she was “never left feeling completely satisfied” and that Ekim “never offered quite the flavour hit I expected”. When Duffy responded, he asked the woman to send a photo of herself so he could identify her to his staff. “This will help us very much, making you easily spotted will make it way easier to tell you to f*** off in person” Duffy replied.
The story takes a turn for the bizarre, whereby following the fallout Ekim Burgers changed its contact details on its Facebook page, substituting the phone number with that of another burger outlet – McDonald’s.
As you see from McDonalds’ Facebook post the response was handled in a humorous way, but equally if Ekim was prepared to swap over their social media contact with that of another company then fair call to McDonalds.
Duffy said he was unaware the phone number had been changed and it was likely another staff member with access to the page had done it.
“I will find out what’s happened with it, who’s done it, and pat them on the back, but take it down”.
What’s interesting about the story is Duffy clearly wanted to encourage some open discussion about the way restaurants and hospitality workers are treated, and how the industry is very much open to criticism by the general public. In a sense he has a point; however, the approach to sparking some discussion ended up with a negative spotlight on the unnecessary rantings of a disgruntled restaurant owner on social media. He is right in one sense at least. Let’s face it, the restaurant game is a tough one. A restaurant business is like being in a fish bowl for all to see and criticise.
Out of all the industries there are a few that get their fair cop of negative customer feedback on social media, while others – as an example the trades industry, who have more than their fair share of cowboys – seem to get away mostly scot-free. That’s slowly changing with websites like no cowboys, and the TV attention recently from Campbell Live on a rogue landscape operator clearly ripping people off.
The big difference is that tradies don’t often have or use social media. You’re lucky if they have a website. Restaurants, on the other hand, are all over social media; the flip side to this being that the public are very aware of how negative attention can ruin a brand or business. Speaking with one large franchise restaurant chain, they have had instances of individuals threatening to give negative feedback unless they provide free meals; the claim being that their influence, either by followers on Twitter or friends on Facebook, can reach into the thousands. Irrespective of the validity of their claim, what does a restaurant do with people like that?
You might be surprised to know social media is fairly big in NZ and it’s growing. There are about 368,000 users on Twitter, 2,400,000 on Facebook, which is not bad for a country of only 4.47 million. Restaurants have recognised that to build a brand, social media is the vehicle. With social media it takes time to build a good brand, and any negative attention can reverse the business growth path fairly quickly. The social reach on the internet has made it easier for people to vent about bad service. In fact, unhappy customers online apparently can tell up to the staggering number of 6,000 people.
As far as service goes as an industry, restaurants, even though they are in a social fish bowl for all to see, are actually doing okay. So who is delivering the worst customer service in New Zealand? A study revealed telecommunications companies ranked as the worst businesses to deal with, followed by local and central government, and Internet service providers. Restaurants on the other hand did not feature; however, there the study did point out that customer service is getting worse in New Zealand.
Was Ekim a mastermind of social media attention or just the mad rantings of angry restaurant owner gone too far? Who knows, and only time will tell how Ekim’s business will look in the future. As far as media reach this story couldn’t get much bigger; the story hit Sydney Herald, the massive Daily Mail in the UK, and featured several times on Stuff.co.nz, which has a domestic unique audience of 1,433,000 every month. Plus, naturally the story was shared on Facebook where it all started.
Perhaps the saving grace for Ekim was that it was an established business. For a new business to act the same way would have been business suicide. The biggest long term impact on Ekim, however, will be Google. If you google Ekim Burgers, the story is there for all to read and it’s not going away any time soon.
One point of view is that your negative social media about service can be good for business. The proviso is turning the negative into a positive in the way the business chooses to respond. Clearly not the case in Ekim’s scenario.
There’s been plenty of commentary on how Ekim Burgers should have handled their social media, but it’s clear there was never any intention to get it right. A pointless exercise in Ekim’s case. Yes, the restaurant game is a real tough one, some customers simply may have had a bad day, and let’s face it – mistakes do happen. I know first-hand growing up, spending time out the back of a restaurant as I watched my mum work hard as a chef. The hours are long and to be honest, working in the restaurant industry it’s kind of like Salmonella’s Dub song – ‘for the love of it’. When the love has gone, maybe it’s time to do something else?
No credit card, No contract, No pressure