Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Keep Your Empty Tables off Twitter, Please!

Restaurants. Those poor businesses, struggling to make ends meet. Existing to please us, the evil customer, the fickle, complaining pain in the arse who comes in and harrasses the waitresses, doesn't like paying service and threatens to write nasty Tripadvisor reviews.

We should pat these institutions on the back! They need all the help they can get, right?

Well of course, a business is a business. It needs to survive. How does it survive? Customers. Being full every night is surely the dream of restaurants everywhere. Booked, months in advance, kitchens ordering supplies happily, chefs and FoH working together like a well oiled machine. A performance, even. 

Yet somehow, through the wobbly vision of a dream fading away, I've come to realise that going out to dinner is precisely not this. A restaurant is not a performance. It's not an event. We are not there to witness art. 

Cooking and service is an art maybe, but not 'art'. It's not an expression of feeling. It's not there to entertain. It's not there to challenge your head intellectually and make you see the world in a different way. Well, apart from in some ridiculously pretentious Parisian three-starred Michelin kitchens I believe. So let's climb down from this extremely high horse and see restaurants for what they are, places to simply go and eat food in. Restore ourselves to a feeling of wellbeing, re-energise and raise our spirits.

Now, I love a restaurant as much as the next annoying blogger. In fact, going out to eat is my favourite thing to do in the world. I am a dream customer for a restaurant. I spend a huge proportion of my income on eating out. I like nothing more than being waited on efficiently, served lovely food and being treated like the king of Greece for the evening. That's what I'm paying for. 

How restaurants have attracted customers has changed over the years, from the small ad in the local newspaper, word of mouth, PR, email newsletters, even touts on the street with flyers and other collateral, asking, sometimes even hassling you to come in.

So when I look at twitter (as I do, occasionally) and see restaurants, who I've taken the time to follow, tweeting about their 'spare table tonight' again and again, I can't help thinking it's one step towards 'digital touting', an abuse of my time, a sales pitch I didn't sign up for.

What makes you think that your sudden table availability is of such importance it warrants tweeting, like a piece of news? 

Do you really consider yourselves so popular, so in demand, that a free table at your place is some kind of hot ticket? Like front row at a Justin Bieber show? Like a major sporting final? Are you expecting people to jump up and down and race to take you up on your generous offer to squeeze us in, and be the lucky part witness to the great sensational act known to us mere mortals as 'having dinner'?

This kind of short-sighted use of twitter is typical of DIY marketing and reeks of amateurishness, self importance, and is precisely what fuels the ridiculous hype, PR puff, fast turnover, backlash, dark void, waning of popularity then inevitable closure of restaurants. By playing this game you are fuelling the very devil you are fighting.

It's no coincidence that this practice is popular with a certain type of restaurant, recently opened and hype-hungry, generally. I can only predict that continually waving 'please come', many will shoot themselves in the foot and begin to irritate even the most loyal of fans. Because bottom line, it's boring.

It's a tiny, weeny, silly thing, but maybe that's because it's relatively new. But imagine the future, if it became commonplace for every business to tweet every time it wanted to sell something.

Let's not forget a few things. Twitter is not a marketing tool. It was not put here as a government funded free service to help small businesses sell their wares. Most people are not on it to watch advertising, or try and be sold things every two minutes. Businesses using twitter should be grateful they are even there, communicating with customers for free. They are guests at a party, and the party is not a trade show. Be here, yes, have fun, contribute to the atmosphere, but please don't talk shop constantly.

My gentle advice to restaurants would be to keep quiet, stop drawing attention to your thinly veiled desperation, concentrate on pleasing the customers that have taken the time to book and have kept their bookings, and work on making them regulars. 

I believe it will pay off, even if you occasionally have to have the odd empty table.


  1. More generally, any Twitter account, corporate or otherwise, which is just a stream of the same *type* of message -- check-ins, 'on the specials board today', links to Facebook -- is annoying. The screenshot you used in the post wouldn't look so bad if those Tweets were interspersed with really interesting behind-the-scenes details, photos or interactions with followers.

  2. Why do you follow restaurants if you don't want information from them?

    Twitter is a marketing tool, being able to communicate directly with customers is very powerful and useful from both sides.

    This is slightly naive, you don't seem to fully comprehend how a business functions.

  3. It's a symptom of social media, I think. Like the people whose hands tremble when they can't access their iPhone and Twitter feeds and feel "cut off", I think these restaurants hear of other places that are constantly full, and feel that if they have a suddenly free table, they absolutely MUST FILL IT NOW. Because who doesn't want to be the next Dabbous or Sushi Tetsu with their tables booked solid for 3 months? They see Twitter as an easy and acceptable way of getting the word out. They can't go out on the street and yell it like at Brick Lane. But maybe if enough people get miffed by this type of thing, it will become seen as something gauche like trying to pull people off the street as they walk by.

  4. Anonymous: Brutal, but quite accurate.

  5. You don't understand Twitter or restaurants or the connection we can make with each other for the benefit of each used some harsh words to describe places that tweeted availability,which I take personally.I share the highs and lows of my day to day bistro life,and to be called boastful when your just trying to fill tables and get.the info to the people who have taken the time to follow me on Twitter hurts.i have many many faults,but arrogance is not in the top ten,maybe being thin skinned is

  6. To be clear.. I'm Adrian from Margots in padstow

  7. Oh dear.

    I have read this post twice, to fairly try to see the points you are making with regards to how twitter is used and where exactly food establishments belong in today's society.

    Something has hurt you, hasn't it? Recently? And now you are shouting it out from the roof tops.

    I can understand that seeing aggressive advertising is annoying and that in your opinion it has no right to be there, but that is why Twitter is so good. It enables individuals and businesses to share photos, memories, links, opportunities and anything else that is manageable in 140 characters.

    Don't like it? Then filter, or unfollow. That is your right.

    But it is also the right of others to voice themselves, however they feel. Freedom of speech.

    You have now had yours, via Twitter... I have now had mine.

    And you can now either publish this or delete.

    If you don't like it on your screen.


    JP De Ronne




Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Foodies100 Index of UK Food Blogs
Morphy Richards