Foodservice leaders describe best practices for managing social media challenges

| by Elliot Maras
Foodservice leaders describe best practices for managing social media challenges

Image courtesy of iStock

By now, most foodservice operators have learned that social media is a great way to engage customers. They've also realized that it's a great way for customers to lodge their complaints. Which is why a session on managing social media drew a big turnout at October's Fast Casual Executive Summit at the Nashville Omni.

Moderator Brad Christian, managing director at Market Force Information, underscored the importance of managing social media in noting that that when it comes to customer care issues, 54 percent of customers prefer social messaging channels to phone or email, according to a report by

Moderator Brad Christian notes most customers prefer social media messaging when it comes to customer care issues.

More than a quarter (27.5 percent) of social media posts are being ignored, he said, citing the Conversocial report, while 30 percent of the guests wait more than 30 minutes for a response to their post.

Christian also noted that five review sites get 96 percent of online reviews, according to Yelp gets 29 percent, Facebook, 28 percent, TripAdvisor, 26 percent, Google, 9 percent, and Foursquare, 4 percent.

Leaders respond to the challenge

The three panelists described how their companies manage social media input. All agreed it is important for franchisors to take an active role helping franchisees respond to customer comments.

Natalie Anderson Liu noted Mooyah Burger Fries & Shakes must approve all social media responses.

Mooyah Burgers Fries & Shakes keeps track of all social media comments and responds to all comments, said Natalie Anderson Liu, vice president of marketing. The company actively coaches its franchisees in how to respond to comments, and must approve all franchisee comments. 

Customers do more extensive reviews on Facebook and Yelp, Liu said. Most of the negative feedback gets posted on Yelp.

Mooyah Burgers Fries & Shakes responds to all customers who post a rating of three stars or less on a one-to-five star scale within 24 hours, Liu said. They acknowledge positive reviews within 72 hours.

While the company doesn't notice a lot of negative feedback on Twitter, it is nonetheless an important platform to manage, Liu said, since customers often want to see their tweets retweeted.

Freshii, a fast casual chain that serves healthy wraps and salads, engages customers in real-time on social media, said Melissa Gallagher, vice president of marketing. She said the more a company engages with customers on social media, the more negative comments the company will receive.

Melissa Gallagher said Freshii recognizes it must be proactive with social media.

Gallagher said people usually use Instagram to make positive comments about an experience, whereas on Twitter, they are more likely to take bad days out on a brand. Hence, the company is most proactive on Twitter. 

"We need to be reactive on that platform," Gallagher said.

Hu Hot Mongolian Grill also responds to all guests' social media comments, said Laura Sporrer, director of franchise development. 

Franchisees need direction

Christian posed a question to the panelists that many in the audience wanted to ask: how good are the company's franchisees at following their company's best practices for social media?

Liu said franchisees need a lot of coaching on social media because they get very emotional. Mooyah Burgers Fries & Shakes teaches franchisees to believe the customer, listen to them, apologize for any problem and fix the problem. The company instructs franchisees to separate themselves from the heat of the moment.

Sporrer said Hu Hot Mongolian Grill recognizes that not all franchisees are going to be good addressing social media comments, so the company offers to manage social media for them. The company, which encourages customers to be upfront about their experiences, handles complaints offline when the situation warrants it. The company has been successful getting customers to upgrade their customer experience rating on social media.

Laura Sporrer notes that Hu Hot Mongolian Grill highlights franchisee success stories on its social media pages.

Social media is handled by the company's marketing department, Sporrer said. However, she expects that operations will be more involved in managing social media since it's part of customer service.

Sporrer said her company highlights franchisee success stories on its social media pages as a way to entice new franchisees.

Freshii takes a similar approach to Hu Hot Mongolian Grill by instructing franchisees to acknowledge the customer's complaint and make sure not to make light of it, Gallagher said. She said the company has been able to "recover" guests with complaints 100 percent of the time.

Gallaher said Freshii asks franchisees to work to improve their social media ratings. The company has correlated improved ratings to better sales, she said, noting that it is not a perfect science.

Gallagher and Liu both noted that franchisees are given a certain amount of freedom in managing their social media content.

Gallagher said franchisees are able to post their own content. In some cases, franchisees have found success hiring their own social media content providers.

Liu said Mooyah Burgers Fries & Shakes encourages franchisees to have their own social media pages.

The session demonstrated the task of managing social media input is evolving for foodservice organizations, and companies are working to determine how to best direct franchisees in responding to customer comments.

Registration is now open for the 2018 Fast Casual Executive Summit in Seattle. 

Topics: Business Strategy and Profitability, Customer Service / Experience, Food & Beverage, Franchising & Growth, Online / Mobile / Social, Systems / Technology

Elliot Maras

Elliot Maras is the editor of and

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