Does anyone want to feed me? I went to Radish & Rye's new location (505 Cerrillos Road, 930-5325) only to find it closed for a private event, with no notification on its website or social media. Hungry in Tesuque, Google said El Nido (1577 Bishops Lodge Road, 954-1272) was open on a Monday evening. It wasn't. Craving seafood, a group of us planned to meet at the Santa Fe location of Crackin' Crab. It's front and center on the Crackin' Crab website, yet apparently went out of business months ago (RIP).
In all my years of writing about dining out, this has never happened. Is it just me? Does this happen to other people? Is the universe telling me to go on a diet? Is it the altitude? Is Mercury in retrograde?
Please let it be a temporary astrological alignment because, according to the Tourism Santa Fe 2015 visitor report, the top attraction in our city is dining out. Imagine the disappointment of someone spending time planning a visit to Santa Fe around its beautiful eats, only to find the places they so carefully chose aren't open when, or where, they say they are. This goes double for locals who, left hanging once, may not choose to return.
I get that it's hard enough just running a restaurant, much less dealing with all the marketing channels that have popped up over the years: Facebook, Instagram, Google business, websites, menu apps, online reservation systems and the like. Restaurants are in the business of feeding people, after all. But, to feed people, a restaurant needs to attract them. A five-star Google business rating, pretty pictures, reviews, updated menus and media pages can do the trick, but if a restaurant is going to make use of such tools, it's important to do so properly. So I say either use them right, or lose them.
For customers, a website with all of the correct information and no social media presence at all is more useful than a website and a Facebook page which contradict each other. It shouldn't be up to diners to have to check an establishment's website, Facebook and Google listing to try and discern which information is correct. Diners shouldn't bear the brunt of an establishment's inability to manage its own vitals. Restaurants show they care about their customers by making sure the information they put out there is as good as the food they serve.
For any business, it's a good idea to regularly take stock of the communication tools at its disposal. In a former life as a lifestyle marketing consultant, my most repeated refrain was, "Why do you want to do it, who is your audience, is someone tasked with regular maintenance and do they have the skills for it?" For a business that does not have good answers to such questions, the best course of action might be not doing anything until it does.
"Just because it's there" doesn't work for customers.
Far better is to do it right in one place, then decide if the good work can be replicated and maintained elsewhere. Start with a website that is updated regularly and answers every question a potential customer may have. If that can be managed, then perhaps consider claiming a Google business listing. Google searches and map listings are likely among the top referrers to a business and take just minutes to set up and proactively manage. Once the basics are tackled, only then consider expanding to, and committing to, other avenues of communication. What good is a pretty picture of a dish on Facebook if someone shows up to eat it and finds the door is locked?
Santa Fe has that "mañana" thing, but there's no time like the present for restaurants (indeed, any service businesses) to take care of the business of their customers. Ponder getting rid of tools that aren't really being used, or commit to using them properly. Spend a few minutes each week to ensure the information being put out there is up to date. Show customers you care enough to make sure you aren't accidentally leaving them out in the cold. These efforts will go a long way toward keeping mouths wagging about, and at, your restaurant.