Talk to the Manager, a new text message service, gives diners the opportunity to send complaints and praises directly to a restaurant's manager and owner.
The creators of Talk to the Manager launched the business to help restaurants help themselves before unhappy customers slam them on public forum sites like Yelp.
The service offers a pretty straightforward plan: Sign up for $15 a month, receive free signage to notify customers that they can text their complaints and praises via the service. A customer can send a text that goes to the manager and owner, who can then respond to do damage control. All numbers are kept anonymous, with the exception of the restaurant's. Of course, the goal at the end of everything is to avoid scathing Yelp reviews.
It's already getting scrutiny particularly in the comments of other websites who have featured it. The number one complaint about the text message complaint service is that restaurants should implement a rule that cell phone use is not allowed in the dining room.
One such commenter who read a story on MSNBC's digital blog wrote, "it would be great if a restaurant banned the use of cell phones during dinner. No talking on the phone, no texting, no blogging, no videos. Take the time to actually TALK to the person you're dining with."
The issue of cell phone etiquette has long been looming around metropolitan dining rooms, but the problem with this type of service seems to go beyond simple etiquette. Wouldn't the text service give customers the opportunity to get a meal comped?
We consulted with local chef and owners to see if they'd use the service.
Josh Marcus from Josh's Deli said that it's not the best for a small restaurant. "It's interesting for a larger business but I don't have enough time in a day to give that much access."
The Federal's Aniece Meinhold said, "I like the idea that guests can address complaints directly rather than publicly in a forum such as Yelp, but on the same token, it opens up a door for people to want to take advantage of possibly getting something for free via the complaint."
"A service like this implies that business managers and owners are not doing their jobs by providing value for their services," she went on to say. "If you do a good job, the negative comments are few and far between and usually managed appropriately."
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Listed on the service's website, a list of benefits includes "retaining customers a restaurant might have lost, intercepting bad reviews so they don't end up on Yelp, texting is as easy as a tweet, improve a restaurant's online review ratings by fixing issues while the customer is still there."
Founders of the service are also offering restaurants a trophy if they keep the service for 12 consecutive months, as a reward for being one of the first customers of the business.
Text messaging, bad mouthing online forums, and a trophy? Sounds like high school.