Originally posted by Jimmy Buff
I know that you and I have had this conversation before regarding posts on this and other forums. Although you say it is only your opinion, many people take your word as gospel. As owners we take pride in our restaurants and are proud to read about your posts, but on the same token we feel we are somewhat under the microscope. For instance if I have a problem with a plumber or mechanic or if my newspaper is delivered in a puddle or my mail is lost, there aren't forums for that and no one but myself knows about these problems. But in the restaurant business where I have stated many times the best advertisement is word of mouth, you screw up one time and it is posted all over the internet. The fiasco with Amazing Hotdogs where the women went directly to the internet to complain instead of the owner was ridiculous. Matt had to come on the forum and explain himself to everyone. There is an old saying "If you like us tell others and if you don't tell us." The pen is a powerful weapon and could easily help or hurt any business. In these trying hard times every customer counts and I would hate to lose even one because of a bad post.
Well Happy 4th all and keep eating hotdogs.
Happy 4th to you and everyone. Hot dogs are definitely on the menu today. I have some left over dogs from Best (the Syd's 5 to a lb) that I served at my daughter's graduation party as well as a pound of Hummel's that I bought last night at the Eden Gourmet store that was discovered by Ken.
Let me say that the internet is a 2 edged sword. Without it and forums like these, I would never have found out a lot of information or have access to opinions and news about hot dog restaurants. I wouldn't have known about Hummel's being available 6 miles from my home. I agree with you about the best advertisement being word of mouth. These forums help spread the word. While positive posts and opinions can help business, negative opinions may hurt. That's just the way it is. You can't have one without the other.
As Foodbme stated, it's hard to influence people's personal tastes. Someone who favors a spicy beef dog might call a milder (though high quality) pork/beef dog bland and tasteless. There's nothing that an owner of a restaurant that serves this type of dog can do except to explain that he serves a different type of dog. The particular customer will post his opinion that the dogs are bland. What can you do? The answer is not to discourage someone from stating their opinions. I have my own opinions. I like thinner as opposed to thicker dogs. On an Italian Hot Dog I prefer the potatoes sliced thin the way you do it rather than in chunks like Dickie Dees does it. Again, it's opinion and it's personal and subjective.
It gets a little more objective when you post for example about how long you had to wait to be served. That post on another forum about the Friday the 13th fiasco comes to mind. The customer was 5th in line and it took 15 minutes for his order to be taken, 50 minutes to receive part of it, and an additional 15 minutes to receive the rest of it. Plus he and other customers were cursed at. I think everyone would agree that this is unnacceptable. He did ask for Matt who wasn't there. If that happenned to me, I would be angry and at some point would try to call the owner. Before Matt responded, I did post that it was out of the ordinary for Amazing Hot Dog and that he should wait for Matt to respond. As you say, "if you like us, tell others, if you don't, tell me". Fortunately Matt explained what happenned, apologized, and the customer promised to return.
A lot of the success and poularity of Amazing Hot Dog (especially in the beginning) was because of forums like Roadfood and Egullet. People were informed of the place and treated to good reviews. They went and liked it themselves and returned. Or didn't like it and stayed away. All well and good. The same can be true for anywhere else. I know if I go to a place and don't like the hot dog because of the flavor, spicing, method of preparation, size, I don't feel the need to seek out the owner. I'll just post my opinion. If, however, I don't like the hot dog because it was stale or not prepared properly, I'll try to let someone there know. But I don't feel it's wrong to post about it. I once went to a place where the owner (who took great pride in preparing dogs accurately and with lightening speed) was present and serving dogs. He got my order wrong. I told him and he seemed to make a point of replacing my dog as fast as he could, almost sarcastically. When he got it wrong the second time, he showed displeasure when I pointed it out. You bet I mentioned it on Roadfood.
As I've gotten to know a lot of fine people who own hot dog restaurants, I've gained a greater appreciation for what they do and how criticism and opinions that are posted online affect them and their business. A lot of us post for fun, but for people in the industry, it is their livliehood. It's unfortunate that some may post for less than honorable reasons (knocking a competitor's business for example), I agree with Foodbme that the burden of making good impressions lies mostly on the shoulders of those who own and operate these places. In the end, though, I think that things balance out. If you have a restaurant that offers a good product and provides good service, this will be mostly reflected in comments and opinions on forums like this. And the opposite holds true. Too bad that sometimes a good product and good service regardless of what's posted anywhere doesn't always translate into success. And sometimes places that offer mediocre food and service thrive.
Let me suggest that if you have a problem with a plumber, mechanic, etc. that you check out the town forums on nj.com. I've gone there and learned about mechanics and gas stations to avoid as well as recommendations and opinions about vets, auto body shops, dog groomers and a whole slew of products and services.
I'm looking forward to stopping in soon. Benzee, C I Lou, and myself will be making a dry run once the itinerary is finalized for the New Jersey Hot Dog Tour. The places will be posted hopefully early next week.