How did you decide what you were going to eat for lunch today?

Maybe you’re feeling health conscious, and you made your decision on what would best nourish your body. Maybe you were in a rush, and you grabbed whatever was convenient and easy. Perhaps you felt like treating yourself, and splurged on your favourite food. Or, how about you chose a place based on the fantastic service you received last time you went there?

Service. For many restaurants (from fast food joints to Michelin star) customer service is a key component to the whole experience (and some would argue the most important). Of course, the food is crucial too. But think about it – how much of a difference does it make when your waitress/host/bartender/whomever is serving you goes that extra mile to make your visit special. You have a great conversation with them, they give you the best seat in the house, they bring you a dessert ‘just because.’ It’s these great service moments that make these visits really memorable.

On the contrary – think about the last time you had horrible service at a restaurant. I bet you can imagine it like it was yesterday (maybe it was). You were angry and upset. You told ALL your friends. If anyone mentions this place to this day, you recount the story and encourage them to never set foot there.

Now trust me – I am a LOVER of good food. In fact, a lot of what I spend free time doing revolves around trying new foods and restaurants. However, in a city like New York, with restaurants opening every single day all claiming to have “the best farm to table or juice cleanse or authentic northern Italian cooking”… what is the one differentiating factor? Customer Service. How do I make up my mind? The service I will (or won’t) receive.

This makes me think. If restaurants strive to offer a certain level or standard of customer service in the “real world” (i.e. physical location), shouldn’t the same standards apply to all of their touch points? Therefore, shouldn’t this same concept apply to social media as well? If I have a great service experience.. or a terrible one… you can pretty much guarantee that I’m talking about it on one of my social networks (and definitely posting a photo on Instagram) and I’m not alone. So why do some restaurants ignore this?

Ask yourself this question: how are you differentiating your offering? It must be the way you’re engaging with your customers to resolve their issues, not just in restaurant, but in the public channels as well. Social Media. Whether your customer is asking a simple question, trying to get a refund on a meal that didn’t go as planned, or praise their experience… restaurants need to be ready and willing to engage and resolve. And social customers are no longer just asking for it – they’re demanding for it. The way you’re treating your customers on social is sending a public message about how you will treat them when they come to visit your location.

How? Consider a #SocialFirst strategy, scaling social across the entire business and meeting customers in the channel that they come to you on. When this channel is social, the customer truly owns the channel for the first time. Here, there is an opportunity for restaurants to jump in and become part of the conversation, helping reduce the chaos of social and create meaningful conversations. You could even go beyond this and proactively reach out to customer. Find what potential customers are saying and jump in (when appropriate). Suggest one of your offerings, perhaps get specific by geographic location. Imagine the surprise of the customer. With the right team and approach, social will help drive internal efficiencies and ROI and improved customer experience.

So, you really may have Pinxtos that taste just like those I’ve had in the cobblestone streets of old town San Sebastian… but if you don’t have the service to go along with it, I’m sorry – I probably won’t be trying your food. And yes, this means when I come visit you – but this means before and afterwards as well. When I ask you a question on social (When do you open? Do you have a happy hour? Why did my paella have a hair in it?). I want to be heard and I have my questions or complaints not only answered, but resolved, in channel (and not redirected to call your 1-800 number).

At the end of the day, every restaurant (business, really) relies on its customers. If you want to make a real difference – engage with your customers and show them you care. Surprise and delight on social, and resolve when they reach out to you. This will be the difference maker. This is what will make you last.