Russell House Tavern and Brasserie JO on Social: “You’re Doing It Right!”

February 19, 2012 at 3:00 PM (Customer Service, Food) (, , , , , )

Newsflash: I love and live on food, and I love and live on social. I hope you were sitting down for that, because I know it’s shocking. So naturally when I find fantastic eateries who are using social media beyond just tweeting what the daily specials are on occasion, I try to make a point of going back… again, and again, and again.

You're doing it wrong failGiven my 160-character background, it’s a sad sight when I see one of my watering holes or favourite brands join Twitter or Facebook and not use it to interact with fans or followers, choosing instead to use social as another one-way push platform. Luckily, I know of two wonderful establishments who do no such thing. Ladies and gentlemen, give it up for Harvard Square’s Russell House Tavern and Back Bay’s Brasserie JO.

One of my first visits to Russell House Tavern (@RussellHouseTav) was a result of my having a little time to kill and having tweeted with their chef, Michael Scelfo, once or twice previously. As I’m wont to do, I checked in via Foursquare and probably tweeted something about the incredible breadth of the beer list to both RHT and Scelfo. After a brief back and forth on the Twitter Tubes, I had the privilege to meet the chef himself (and sample some delicious sea bass) in-person. I don’t know if it’s just me, but meeting the folks responsible for spoiling my palate has always been a thrill. I’ve only met a handful in Boston, and 1.) it makes me feel important and appreciated, and 2.) I just like knowing the personality that goes into a menu. I’m a people person. What do you expect?

Russell House Tavern downstairs bar Boston CambridgeScelfo is definitely the heart of RHT, but there’s much more that contributes to my love of the place: the layout, the atmosphere, the management, and the bar staff (I’m sure the waitstaff is also wonderful, but I’ve never dined away from the bar). On more recent visits, I’ve met the folks behind the Twitter handle (specifically Tyler Titherington – lovely meeting you!) and learned to trust the beer recommendations from bartenders Adam and Lou (you have to ask because the variety on the menu will, in fact, blow your mind).

I’ve also learned that you can’t lose with anything on the menu, having tried something new every visit and never being disappointed. Recent highlights: beef heart ravioli, burrata salad (the first time I ate my brussel sprouts!), bacon-wrapped paté, foie custard, and ox tongue meatballs. In short, Scelfo can do no wrong. This all said, I don’t think I ever would have visited unprompted if that online rapport wasn’t there, first. I’m not entirely a creature of habit, but I need a reason to try something new: a friend’s recommendation, an event, or even just an invitation to visit from a restaurant’s Twitter account – which leads me to my next social shout-out.

Brasserie JO (@brasseriejo) was actually the first restaurant I visited in Boston several years ago when I was still looking at colleges. Goodness, that was a while ago – so long ago that Twitter was still a lower-cased verb – but it was still a tasty experience (if you’re ever there for brunch, try the chocolate French toast). Fast-forward to when checking in on Foursquare is almost on par with breathing when it comes to my natural instincts. I had just done so at the Prudential Center (check in and, yes, continue breathing) when I received at at-reply from JO, suggesting that I stop in because it came @BostonTweet– and @eric_andersen-recommended – adding an #IWithThatWereTrue tag to signify the jest behind the latter end of the statement. I appreciated the chutzpah, and given that I didn’t have any concrete plans, I decided to oblige and swing in for a beer (and maybe some escargot).

After a few minutes at the bar and feeling a little cheeky, I tweeted back to them saying, “I’m here – where are you?” While whomever was responsible for the Twitter account wasn’t there, he or she did inform management that I was in the house, and I did get to meet some of the kitchen magic as well as one of the managers (sadly this was several months ago, so names have escaped me – this kudos is LONG overdue and I apologise). Oh, and I was also introduced to a divine charcuterie plate, but that relationship didn’t last long – relationships with fine cuisine rarely do.

Thanks to social, I’ve turned into one of those annoying consumers who gets cranky when brands on social don’t interact (see the beginning of this post). When a restaurant invites me in, and then rewards me for doing so, then yes, I’ll be more inclined to return. In fact, I’m pretty sure JO was the restaurant of choice during the following visit from the parentals – and again, one of the managers (I remember that time it was Annmarie Blythe) stopped by to say hello. “Getting a Twitter” just doesn’t cut it for B2C brands. Thankfully there are some great establishments in and around Boston who recognize that, and those of us who live online certainly aren’t going to ignore that when it comes time to make a purchasing decision.

Have you had an amazing experience with a local eatery, thanks to social? Let me know in the comments so I can check it out (let me know where the crappy experiences were so I can avoid those, too).

If You Go…

Russell House Tavern
14 JFK Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
(617) 500-3055
http://www.russellhousecambridge.com/

Brasserie JO
120 Huntington Avenue
Boston, MA 02116
(617) 425-3240
http://www.brasseriejo.com/

Today’s Tunes
“Delicate,” Damien Rice
“Amie,” Damien Rice
“9 Crimes,” Damien Rice
“Dressed to Kill,” Landon Pigg

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Reblog: Brands on Social Can’t Ignore Social Engagement

January 25, 2012 at 9:00 AM (Customer Service) (, , , , )

This post originally appeared on my agency’s blog, RaceTalk.

A recent compilation of research on eMarketer shared that – surprise! – people don’t like being ignored by brands on social media. I mean, people don’t like being ignored in general, but when it comes to business-to-consumer offenses online, it can have some noteworthy repercussions: research firm Conversocial found that more than a quarter of survey respondents would no longer do business with a brand if their questions went unanswered on Facebook or Twitter. And let’s not forget the ripple effect: only 11.7 percent of survey participants said they wouldn’t care if they saw other user questions ignored online. Almost half said they would be far less likely to buy anything from that brand in the future, and the remainder said they would think twice (but recognized that there are other factors to consider).

eMarketer research

That’s a big angry chunk of the pie. I know that I’ve had both positive and negative experiences with brands on social media that continue to influence my willingness to give them my money. And yes, some of those negative experiences have been when I had a problem and no one on the brand side ever acknowledged it (*cough*cough*Southwest Airlines*cough*cough*). While I’m a huge advocate for brands being on social media, they need to know that “getting a Twitter” just isn’t going to cut it. Once you go social, you need to be social; there’s no private office to hide from customers. While it’s not possible to respond to all feedback, questions and complaints merit timely acknowledgements – even if it’s a request to redirect the conversation to another, more manageable channel. Otherwise, it becomes worse than being on-hold for 20 minutes, because at least there, it’s initially a private frustration – until the angry customer blogs about it later, anyway, but that’s another story.

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A Belated, Albeit Still Current, Dismissal of Domino’s

November 22, 2011 at 7:00 AM (Customer Service, Food) (, , , )

Yesterday, I saw a tweet about Domino’s introducing their new gourmet cheesy bread to appeal to consumer palates that are “evolving to such tastes.” Won’t lie: if this were to have taken place a couple years ago, I probably would have been eager to try the spinach and feta, or even the supposed souped-up cheese-only upgrade. Instead, today I was only reminded of how long it’s been since I gave up on the chain forever and ever, following a fatal last straw. Curious? Read on.

I used to worship Domino’s cheesy bread. “Party in my mouth” was just one of many, many happy ways to describe how I felt about the carb-heavy, cheesy, garlicky calories. Oftentimes when I called for delivery, I’d only order the pizza so I’d meet the minimum charge required for delivery. Sometimes I didn’t even try to kid myself and just ordered two boxes of cheesy bread. Given that I was still dancing during most of my Domino’s era, I could afford to enjoy this diet and not grow to the size of a house. Yes, life at BU was good.

Then I moved deep into the heart of a Brookline neighborhood, no longer a stone’s throw from BU’s campus. And the Golden Age came to an end.

It was my first night in my current place, where I’ve resided for more than a year, now, and I had no internet, little furniture, and little to no interest in cooking my own dinner. I didn’t worry, however, knowing that approximately 35 minutes were all I’d need before I could enjoy some of my beloved cheesy bread. I called up my local Domino’s and placed my order. When they went to confirm my address, I corrected them with my latest place of residence.

“Oh, uh, we don’t deliver that far.”

“Okay, can you connect me to a store that does?”

“It doesn’t work like that. You have to look it up online.”

“Well, I don’t have internet access. Is there another number I can call to find out who does deliver to me?”

“You could call corporate…”

Fine. I was hungry and still determined to not cook. I called corporate, gave them my address, and took down the number they gave me. I hung up and dialed the number… to find myself back on the phone with the original location who claimed to not deliver to me.

“Hi, I’d like to place and order for delivery, please.”

(After taking my number and address) “I’m sorry, we don’t deliver to that address.”

“I just got off the phone with corporate, and they said you do.”

(A mildly uncomfortable pause) “Okay, well, it’s going to take us, like, 80 minutes.”

“That’s fine” (it wasn’t, but what was I going to do?).

I placed my order – cheesy bread (natch) and a small fancy-pants pizza that was being advertised at the time (tried to see if it still exists, but the Domino’s website wasn’t cooperating) – and sat back and waited. Sure enough, after an excruciatingly long hour and 20 minutes passed, I heard the buzzer. I paid the delivery person, took the boxes and skedaddled inside to feast. I shelved the pizza box, focusing my salivating attention on the smaller box, sure to contain my cheesy bread. I opened it, and –

Let’s take a moment. Do you remember that customer complaint letter to Sir Richard Branson of Virgin Airlines? Let me pull out a particular excerpt with which I identify all too easily, following the experience I’m recounting to you now:

Imagine being a twelve year old boy Richard. Now imagine it’s Christmas morning and you’re sat their with your final present to open. It’s a big one, and you know what it is. It’s that Goodmans stereo you picked out the catalogue and wrote to Santa about. Only you open the present and it’s not in there. It’s your hamster Richard. It’s your hamster in the box and it’s not breathing.

Buffalo chicken kickers. Buffalo [expletive]ing chicken kickers. After all that back-and-forth and waiting with bated breath, I had, in front of me, a box of food that I couldn’t even eat (buffalo wings are too spicy for my tender palate). To say I was livid would be polite. I called the store back immediately, as the delivery man had already gone, to demand a remedy to this outrage. After being asked what I wanted them to do about it (really?!), I said that I wanted a delivery of cheesy bread – and that I wanted the next cheesy bread purchase comped (this was not the first time my poor culinary delight had been forgotten). I was promised both, and once again I found myself sitting and waiting for my dinner.

Not 30 minutes later, I had company. Before letting the delivery guy go, I confirmed that he had indeed brought me cheesy bread. At last, somewhere between 10:00 and 11:00 p.m., after a long day of moving, I had my dinner. I opened the box, finally beginning to relax knowing that I could still get my fix.

Only the cheesy bread had been rushed through the oven: the top looked like it had barely been heated. Even my trophy for all my efforts was tarnished and I couldn’t enjoy that. I should have called to complain again, or at the very least written my own letter of complaint that would have made Sir Richard think that he had it easy, but I was too exhausted and hungry. Defeated, I sat in my apartment, alone, eating crappy cheesy bread – oh, and that pizza wasn’t great, either. I never ordered that comped cheesy bread. I was done. To this day I still refuse to order it.

So Domino’s, good luck with your new gourmet cheesy bread. Maybe I’ll hear how it turns out through one grapevine or another, because I sure won’t be ordering it – or anything else on the menu – for myself.

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