Restaurants are great examples of public relations in action.
How you feel about a restaurant is often determined by what I call their PR IQ. When it's a high score, it is inseparable from a good experience. A low PR IQ is usually found intertwined with a bad experience.
Judi Gallagher wrote about a bad restaurant experience (see her post on Dec 4, 2006 A Dining Disaster at Sarasota Magazine - scroll down to "Foodie's Notebook") but poor public relations is a part of what happened during the evening. When a waiter greets you without looking you in the eye, it's low PR IQ. Since Judi had frequented this establishment for six years, you wonder why a more senior staff member didn't alert the waiter to the fact one of their best customers was coming in.
Here are a couple of my own experiences:
This happened in Savannah. My husband and I arrived by train early in the morning and headed straight for the local diner made famous in "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil." It was around 7am and we were two of the four people in the small eatery. The cook was late and the waitress started breakfast.
Smoke began billowing from the kitchen door. My husband raced over to find the kitchen in flames, grabbed an extinguisher and put out what turned out to be a grease fire. Diners waiting for bacon (the cause of the fire) were out of luck although eggs and biscuits could still be prepared. No thanks for my husband's help. Not even a complimentary cup of coffee.
This comes in so low on the PR-IQ scale, any effort will raise the score. Buy breakfast for the diner who put out your fire before it consumed your kitchen. Say thank-you. Offer the other two diners a complimentary cup of coffee in lieu of the bacon they will not get this morning. Or - how about a certificate for an order of bacon on the house at another date?
Not all examples are quite as dramatic as the Savannah experience.
I was at a local pizzeria and my slice arrived burnt. I was told that if I ate this, it would be no charge, but if I wanted a fresh one, they would have to charge me - and again, no apologies!
How they could have raised their IQ quotient: Don't offer the burned one for free, don't offer it at all. Apologize for the delay and prepare another one.
Successful restaurants always have public relations on the menu.