Restaurateurs should try to recognise and resolve problems with diners immediately or risk their patron's bad experiences spreading through social media even before they've left the restaurant.
That's the message from Restaurant and Catering Australia following new research that reveals almost a quarter of bad dining experiences are communicated on social media by the diner within a minute or two of leaving the restaurant, if not while they are still seated at the table.
A national survey of Australian diners conducted by Galaxy Research on behalf of American Express, has found one-third of Australians use social media to rate their dining experience, with a quarter of Generation Y diners favoring Facebook to share their views.
Of all diners it's the Generation Y ones who are most likely to jump online to share their experience (40 per cent), compared to Generation X (26 per cent) and Baby Boomers (19 per cent).
But it's not only bad experiences that get talked about - the majority (60 per cent) of diners are as likely to rate a good dining experience as they are a bad one.
Restaurant and Catering Australia chief executive officer John Hart said social media has turned everyone into a potential critic and is something that can't be ignored by restaurants.
“Social media continues to grow in popularity among the community and restaurateurs, and a growing number of restaurateurs are embracing the ability to communicate with customers on a new level.
“The prevalence of smart phones and increasing ease with which diners can congratulate or condemn their dining experience means the power of social media is the sleeping giant that cannot be ignored.”
According to the research, almost all good dining experiences (85 per cent) are put online within the week, and more than half (62 per cent) are made within 24 hours. Likewise, almost all (87 per cent) bad dining experiences are shared online within a week, with three-quarters made within a day.
“The implication for restaurateurs is that they need to resolve problems immediately," Hart said. "Waiting to rectify a problem with patrons at the end of the meal may be too late,” Hart said.
“Social media can spread good word of mouth about a restaurant faster than ever before. There's another side to that coin though; bad news gets around just as quickly. People pay attention to what other diners have to say and the pressure is on restaurateurs to make sure it is positive.
The survey found that Australians dine out on average 2-3 times a month, with as many as half claiming online dining reviews influence their decision on where to dine.
The survey was conducted online by Galaxy Research between 18 April and 20 April 2012. The study was conducted among 607 Australians aged 18-64 years.