Would your best friend tell you if your breath stank?

pressing Social Network iconWhen you’re in a good relationship it’s an unwritten rule (a ‘given’) that honesty and openness are part of that relationship. So this premise can be attached to the relationship that you should have with your accountant, or tax consultant, or solicitor. Or your stocktaker. But it is a two way street – you’d be expected to be open and honest with them in the same way they can be with you. So when they give advice and tips on how best to run your business, if you had a good relationship, you’d take it on board.

Some would say that getting involved in social media, like Facebook and Twitter would be outside the average stocktaker’s brief, it would also be true to suggest that if they mentioned something that would help, or hinder your business, it would be wise to consider it.

Take David Ford for instance, his business was doing so badly he was about to close his doors but decided on making an appeal through Facebook and in one day his business increased 40-fold! What we’re not clear about is where David got the idea to use social media to turn things around. It’s unlikely he had someone like stocktaker, Jon Rutter to help him. But someone gave him sound advice in the same way any good stocktaker would have done.

The adverse effect, however was visited on ex pub-manager Alistair Dempster who, probably acted against good advice. He started a campaign of defamation against his former boss. You’d have thought that over the course of the hate-campaign someone would have told Dempster that his “breath smelled” or something similar. Maybe he didn’t have any good friends. In any event, he ended up paying his ex boss damages and costs!

However, for an anonymous chef, something that really did smell so bad that he decided to blow the whistle about it, was the way one NHS Trust outsourced the preparation of meals to a caterer who delivers the “ready meals” to the hospital. The qualified chef is reduced to operating a microwave instead of preparing and cooking the food. He tells of many patients sending food back as inedible and then it all then gets chucked out anyway.

The whistleblower-chef has decided to remain anonymous for now in case it impacts his career prospects.

He goes to great pains to point out that most other Trusts don’t do this and that their food is fine. It would only be a matter of time and elimination before the responsible NHS bosses figure out who the culinary-mole really is. The query does spring to mind, though – why wasn’t the state of the culinary offerings widely Tweeted and Facebooked by the patients or their families before now? Perhaps they were concerned that their fare would be reduced to bread and water if they complained (the whistleblower hinted that bread and water would actually be more palatable than what is presently served). Perhaps a good friend advised them not to, and they listened.

One thing’s for sure, there was no reluctance of Tweeters to broadcast the news of Gordon Ramsay’s de-starring of his New York restaurant. He went on to say,“I started crying when I lost my stars. It’s a very emotional thing for any chef.” Maybe the Tweets from some of his patrons were also the cause of bringing tears to his eyes!

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Like it or not, use it or not … social media is here to stay!

Social media is regarded by some as a waste of time. They take the view that, “I don’t do Facebook or Twitter. They’re rubbish!” While others view them as a means to spreading the word about the business or a message that they’re trying to portray to the public and their potential customers.

The bad news for the detractors is that whatever their sentiments, social media is here to stay and they might as well accept and even embrace it. For those who are already “sold” on it, they’d better learn to use and exploit the possibilities or be left behind.

Image by Diego Eis: eyesmiles.tableless.com.br

Image by Diego Eis: eyesmiles.tableless.com.br

Social media and its spread was highlighted this last fortnight during the build up to the Wimbledon finals and also will be in the run-up to the the arrival of new Duke or Duchess of Cambridge. Within seconds of an event’s occurrence, the news hits the streets and there’s no retraction that come quickly enough if the details are not completely accurate or if they’re not presented in the way that isn’t totally compliant with what the PR machines dictate. For instance, the moment John Inverdale made the disparaging remark about Marion Bartoli’s looks, Twitter erupted with comments and outrage and he had to issue a “grovelling apology” which might even not have prevented his early retirement from the commentary box.

And even as the grin was rising on Ewan McKenzie’s face in Brisbane, the rest of the world knew that Robbie Deans had been axed as the Wallabies Coach – before even the news wires had updated their websites.

Social media DOES work and it is a force to be reckoned with, embraced and utilised, rather than pooh poohed. So much so that an Enterprise Lessee has even launched their own pub version of a social media, called “Pub Network” that is aimed to help pubs engage more with their customers. The site enables pubs to create their own profiles and is seen as a way of letting their customers know about their latest events, offers and promotions. However, one wonders whether those who have successful social media sites will forego them in favour of the new Pub Network – personally, I would use both, as I’m sure the new network could also work and achieve the aim for which it was set up.

With all this marketing and promotional effort going on, I’m convinced that stocktakers like Jon Rutter and the lads take things like planning for social media into account when they give advice and deal with planning strategies of their clients. There was an excellent article in the Morning Advertiser this week that dealt with the need to use a qualified stocktaker and the services they provide in order to be successful in the trade (not, incidentally, commissioned by Rutters nor anyone else) but highlighting the need for business people to use those expert and proficient in the trade in order to make things work out well.

As the article pointed out – you wouldn’t get your car serviced by an unqualified mechanic, would you?

In the same way, those who advise that social media can work and if they have already it made it work for them, should be listened to … or will businesses listen to the mantras of a few years ago when they said, “this Facebook thing will never take off.” They were wrong.

Over 1 billion Facebook users must be viewed as a potential market. As could 500 million Twitter users sending 340 million tweets per day. So, potentially, Pub Network could be the next biggest thing in Britain. However you view it, people like Rutters and their customers will need to take various social media into account in getting the word out to their prospective clientele as to what’s on the menu, what the specials are and what other news there is … because if they don’t someone else will. And right or wrong, the public seem to be paying attention to what’s out there in cyberspace!

You’re not bringing that thing in here, Sir – take a number!

He sat across the table from me in the busy restaurant and reminisced. I could swear I saw a tear starting to form in the corner of his eye. “Those days, you could come in here and it would be an occasion. No music, just the gentle buzz of conversation from the tables and the waiters moving back and forth, the sound of cutlery on crockery and glasses being clinked together.”

“Now look at them all! Heads down, thumbs working at the phones and hardly a word spoken. I bet you find most of those people at that table are emailing each other while they sit there.”

Fred had a point. “Those days” that Fred was talking about was only 20 years ago. Since then the telephones have morphed from ‘bricks’ carried in briefcases to slim gadgets you can slip into a shirt pocket with technology that could virtually land a jumbo jet. But it’s not only the instrument that has changed. The whole way that people have been effected by this technological progress has changed the way we do things on a social level, too.

Internet shops became cafés as they dished out coffee in order to keep people there. More and more internet hubs sprang up as more people had the need to access the internet for business. And with the emergence of the smartphones, social media and trending favourites like Pinterest, the need for people to connect has become more pressing.

Mobile phone

Thank goodness for WiFi! Without it some pubs and restaurants would be empty. Michelle Perrett, writing in the Morning Advertiser, cites some interesting statistics on how pubs have become the ‘second office’ for many, thanks to the availability of WiFi. Internet connectivity was not what any landlord would have expected to have to consider a while back. But this aspect of running a business is the type of thing that customers who use stocktaking firms like Rutters now have to factor in to the equation of how to be efficient and stay ahead. Jon Rutter and his team of professionals continue, with careful and sustained planning, structure and foresight, doing what they can to ensure their clients stay ahead in the very competitive and demanding hospitality industry.

Many places now advertise “Free WiFi” – but obviously someone has to pay for it. And when the scale of the worldwide traffic on the internet in just one minute is considered, the result is staggering. 204 million emails, 6 million Facebook pages, 1.3 million YouTube videos viewed to mention a few. In one minute! The cost must be staggering too.

So it would seem logical that pubs, restaurants and other places where people gather to eat and drink should be up to date with technology so that at least patrons will feel they can stay in touch with their ever increasingly busy technological world from the comfort of their dinner table or seat at the bar.

Blokes like Fred who lament the passing of the ‘good old days’ are dying out. The sheer numbers of people using the new technology of smartphones, mini laptops, tablets and pads are fast outnumbering the old-school traditionalists. Despite the protestations of Fred and his ilk, it’s not going to change back, so those places without modern technology on offer might need to consider joining the trend.

Or not. Maybe the new trend will be a pub with no micro-chips allowed! How about arriving at the restaurant and being asked to check your devices in to the lady at the counter? She will put your smartphone in a box and give you a ticket (make sure you don’t lose it), and at the end of the evening will return your phone to you with the screen proudly displaying the 16 emails, 4 friend requests and 11 notifications that have arrived in the interim. Together with the reminder that you have a dinner reservation at 7:00 – 2 hours ago.

This might be something that could take off!