Viral Customer Service Stories from the Restaurant Industry

I’m so thrilled that my past work at Morton’s is still being shared as a lesson in great customer service and word of mouth marketing. Check out these heart-warming stories!

Below is the full story from

5 Examples of Restaurant Word of Mouth That Became Big News

March 26th, 2013 at 7:00 am by

restaurant word of mouth storiesIn today’s digital world, a good deed can go a long way for your restaurant.  Social media, blogs and news feeds have made it easy to share just about anything – but the restaurant word of mouth stories that really go viral seem to have some common threads:

  • Outstanding customer service – doing something above and beyond the norm for customers who deserve it
  • A well-connected, digital-savvy customer who recognizes that outstanding customer service and shares it

Five Fantastic Examples of Customer Service Experiences That Went Viral

1.       Fixing a “broken” burger

This story actually just posted to Facebook about 24 hours ago, and as of writing this article, it had over 200,000 “likes,” over 10,000 comments and over 40,000 “shares.”  A family dining with their autistic sister at a Chili’s in Utah had a great experience due to the understanding and quick thinking of a server and her manager. It was as simple as replacing  the child’s “broken” cheeseburger with one that was not cut in half, but more importantly, talking to her in a way that she understood and acknowledging her needs.  The simple gestures made a world of difference in the dining experience for this family that would set the stage for the rest of their day.  A lovely note explaining the story and thanking the staff was posted to Chili’s Facebook page, and it exploded online from there with support from all over the country.  I wouldn’t be surprised if we hear about this touching story on the morning news, giving even more legs to this already popular story.

2.  The Well-Behaved Kids Discount

There has been a lot of recent negative word of mouth around servers or guests using their check or receipt to write newsworthy – though not always flattering – notes.  But an Italian restaurant in Washington made social waves when a customer posted a photo of their receipt, showing a $4 discount for their well-behaved kids, to Reddit.  There were a lot of shares, blog posts, articles and comments that resulted – some were negative, claiming families shouldn’t get discounts for acting the way they are supposed to, but most were positive, and the story gained a lot of attention for the restaurant either way.

3.  Mom 2 Bee Discount

Along those same lines, a Red Robin manager quietly comped a meal for an expectant mom visiting the restaurant, listing it as “Mom 2 Bee Good Luc” on the bill.  Her husband was so touched by the generosity, he sent an email to The Consumerist, a blog about customer experiences with businesses.  Not only did that blog post the story, but by the next day the story was on several news websites including ABC News and “Good Morning America,” which resulted in about 8,000 comments on that site alone.  The $11.50 discount resulted in media attention that could never be bought.

4.  Starbucks Cup Comments

A PR pro ordered the same coffee drink from Starbucks every day when her husband went in to get coffee for both of them.  One day when she ordered a larger size than usual, and her husband returned with her large coffee, which included a hand written note on the cup saying “Hope your day gets better.” She was so impressed that the server knew she was in for a long day because she ordered a larger drink than usual, so she posted it to her social media pages.  Over the next few months, more conversations took place via her coffee cup, and her social network got in on the game, voting on ways to respond to questions and comments.  It’s as sweet story if you want to read the whole thing – but the social outcome was sweeter.  In a world where most people feel like another face in the crowd, this coffee experience created an individual experience that was shared across networks, setting them a part.

5.  Morton’s Steakhouse:  “The Greatest Customer Service Story Ever Told”

Just in case you didn’t hear this story in 2011, Morton’s pulled off one of the greatest customer service moments – and social media wins – when they met a devoted customer at the airport with dinner.  They chose their subject wisely – Peter Shankman is an author, entrepreneur, speaker and worldwide connector, and a frequent diner of Morton’s Steakhouse.  They know him as a good regular customer and I would guess they know his clout in social media.  When Shankman had one particularly long day traveling for business with little time to eat, he was sitting at the airport on his way home tired and hungry, and jokingly tweeted that Morton’s should meet him at the airport with a porterhouse…. And they did.   This was a huge social media win for Morton’s, it’s been tweeted, retweeted and shared in every form  imaginable online, toted as the best customer service examples, and Morton’s is also renowned for their quick thinking, responsive social media team who pulled it off.

Remember, restaurant word of mouth needs not only a great story, but the right people to share it in the right way in order for it to go viral.  This can’t always be planned, and you never know who your customers are, so be sure you are providing the best experience possible with a personal touch for everyone.  Your restaurant word of mouth story could go viral.

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