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.

How to Read a Wine Label: Part One

After passing the first level examination with the Court of Master Sommeliers, I put together a series of tips on how to read wine labels. The classification systems are regulated by the government and do change slightly through the years but the tips that I’m providing should still be helpful!Rubicon Label

Part One: USA Wine Labels.

USA (classified as New World)

  • A general rule is: the more specific the label, the better the quality of wine.
  • Proprietary names = highest quality of wines (examples: Dominus, Opus One and Rubicon).

Wine Regulation (systems of defining & regulating wine growing regions and practices)

Percentage of Grapes Required for Labeling by Appellation

Vintage (year printed on the label)

  • For wines labeled with an AVA, a minimum 95% must come from the stated vintage;Sequoia Grove Wine Label
  • For wines labeled with a state or county, the minimum is relaxed to 85%.

Meritage: term used in US wine industry that indicates a premium blend in which no grape accounts for more than 90% of the wine. Meritage wines can be red or white, but must be produced from Bordaux varietals (Bordeaux varietals = Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc).

What’s your favorite wines from the United States? Did you learn anything new about it after reading this post?

Next week, I’ll share tips on how to read a French wine label.

3 Lessons on Developing a Loyalty Program

Since I’ve started working as director of marketing for a small restaurant group in based Chicago, I’ve been enveloped in finding a cost effective way to gain access to our customer data so that I can better market to our guests.

Customer LoyaltyWhy? Loyal customers are brand ambassadors who do your promoting for you. With the technology available, there is no reason not to know your loyal guests (and communicate with them in their preferred channel). Not to mention, it costs six times more to attract a new customer than it does to keep an existing one.

The solution: A Loyalty Program. Here’s 3 simple lessons learned from developing our program:

1. Understand the tools already in place. I knew that we had challenges going into this project since our restaurants ran on two different point of sales systems. We also worked with vendors who had capabilities to run a loyalty program for us (at a larger cost than I was prepared to commit to). Our email service providers have the capabilities to tie transactions to offers sent via email. Our point of sale providers have the capabilities to capture data based off of credit transactions. Plus, we have a small independent tech company who placed iPads in restaurants, bars and salons throughout Chicagoland where subscribers could scan their smart phone to collect and redeem points based on visits.

2. Know what you need and don’t veer from it. Direct access to our customer data and the flexibility to work within our point of sales systems was key. And since our marketing department is small, I needed our data to be manageable (based off of my work experience at Morton’s Restaurant Group, guest data is only good if you’re able to act on it).

At about that same time, I was shopping around for companies providing loyalty program services (there were no loss of salespeople on this topic). I also spent a lot of time dining out to see what others were doing. I noticed a lot of online praise from Jersey Mike’s loyalty program. But when I tried to join their loyalty program through their mobile app, I kept getting an “Unknown Registration Code.” Other programs like Red Robin seem to be getting a lot of attention, so I asked a team member to bring in information after he dined there. This was a helpful assignment to discover the possibilities.

From there, I made my wish list:

  • Ability to push messaging based on location, frequency, points earned
  • Social sharing including giving points to others
  • Ability to upload data to our email service providers (who have opted-in)
  • Direct access to data by location to customize offers and promotions
  • Reporting tools to analyze programs and offers
  • A user-friendly program with rewards that our guests will want to sign up to receive

3. Your employees are your greatest asset! When talking with our operations team, I learned that one of our shift leaders at our Champaign location was developing mobile applications for various small businesses. We spent the next several weeks brainstorming on how to bring my wish list to life. We ended up with a mobile app system where points are awarded based on transactions without connecting to our point of sales system. Much like the dining experience at our restaurants, our loyalty app will be an interactive experience guided by our service team. The process of understanding the technical aspects and troubleshooting through problems may have taken more of my time than if I would have if I passed the project to an agency or provider, but I feel that it is well worth it.

In addition to recruiting an employee for the development of our app, I gathered support from our employees to come up with a name for the new loyalty program! I received many entries and we ultimately decided to use one of the entries for our program name! Now, we are just days away from beta testing our new loyalty program at our Champaign location.

This marks the beginning of our loyalty program launch and I am sure that there will be more issues that come up while we grow. What’s important to you when joining or developing a loyalty program?

Superbowl Sunday: Social Media is the MVP

How about that game? Well, I didn’t really pay attention to that. I was more interested what was happening online.

Especially during the blackout!

A new twitter handle was created @SuperbowlLights and within minutes, had over 13k followers (although it seems that it has since been taken down).

Oreo stole the show with their tweet during the black out.


Tide had some fun with it too… and they went on to make a splash with their television ad in the fourth quarter.


What was your favorite part of the game?

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