This Woman Tried Out TGIFriday’s Endless Appetizer Promotion. What Happened Next Isn’t Pretty…

Remember when we told you about T.G.I. Friday’s new promotion “endless appetizers“?

@caityweaver of Gawker took on the dangerous assignment of trying it out. What happened next isn’t pretty.

While Friday’s got some free coverage with this (“earned media” as it’s called in PR speak) it also got some very public feedback. It’s amazing what one notices sitting at a business with nothing to do but observe and stuff their face for 14 hours.

Some choice comments:
“They taste like goddamn garbage.”
“I would prefer to stop eating after the first one.”
“I blame the TGI Friday’s test kitchen executive chef (a prepaid cellphone that Guy Fieri texts recipes to while high on whippets) for making the prototype of these sticks accidentally one full moon—for by accident is the only way such an item could ever have been deemed suitable for human consumption—and then never copping to the mistake”
“I goddamn hate these fucking mozzarella sticks. The more of them I eat, the more I feel like I can taste every ingredient. Ingredients include: cardboard left in a hamster cage in the sun; acid.”
“Even if I ate 1000 sticks, TGI Friday’s Endless Apps would be a bad deal, because they taste worse than eating nothing at all. TGI Friday’s should pay me $10 to clear out as many of these mozzarella sticks for them as I can. TGI Friday’s End This App(s).”

All these just 2.5 hours and two plates in.

That doesn’t sound like great PR anymore does it? If you were in charge of marketing for Friday’s, would you post this on your social media profiles? Probably not.

Well, at least the food, menu, store operations and branch management team can learn from this…not to mention the marketing team.

Here’s a lesson for the menu team:
“I seriously regret not getting the potato skins, which appear on the menu alongside the word “FAV” printed inside a white circle with scalloped edges. A key at the bottom of the appetizer page explains that the presence of this symbol indicates the potato skins are a “House Favorite.” The spot next to the mozzarella sticks listing that could conceivably be occupied by a “FAV” badge is vacant.

This is an old menu trick. Point out specific items that are ‘recommended by the house’. Of course, when you do this patrons wonder: does this mean the other items are not that good? Some patrons are even more cynical than that and assume those items are just the highest profitability items available. Who is the “house” anyways in a chain of almost 1000 locations?

We can only assume this works and has been tested since many chain restaurants do it, but authentic it is not.

This one is a lesson for the branch ambiance folks at TGI Fridays:
“So far today, the music volume inside TGI Friday’s has fallen just short of deafening. My booth is situated almost directly underneath a Bose speaker, and I consider asking for a trade until I realize the room was designed by M. C. Escher, and there are no tables not under speakers.”

Noise is one of the most common complaints we hear on OwnerListens and not just for restaurants. Hair salons, hotels, apparel retail and supermarkets are especially guilty of this. We can understand loud music if you’re catering to teenagers and young adults. Everywhere else, it annoys customers and makes their visit unpleasant.

And a lesson for the branch manager:
“The servers cluster in front of a computer and converse frantically about who is available to cover which areas of the floor. Gabby seems stressed, but not as stressed as the young woman in a TGI Friday’s uniform who yells her name from across the room.”

Staff should not be confused or debate responsibilities in front of customers. These are discussion that should take place behind closed doors and away from customers. It’s also completely unacceptable to be yelling across the room.

This one speaks for itself:
“Chaos. ‘Excuse me! Excuse me!’ yells one of a pair of old women eating at a booth in front of me. ‘How about some service?’ She repeats this call to service, and then again, and then again, a total of four times. Sometimes she calls out out to employees who happen to be walking by, other times she shouts it to no one in particular. Finally, a man in a black shirt, black trousers, and red tie stops at her table, apologizing profusely. He takes her drink order, and she is calm.”

It’s worse when you read a few lines before that the restaurant is only half full at the time (admittedly, the most full it’s been that day).

And this one is a potentially good idea to investigate for the food team:
“she will request tartar sauce, and be informed that this is not a condiment that is available in TGI Friday’s vast kitchen stores.”

Are you listening Friday’s? This is a customer telling you what would have made her experience better. Perhaps she’s not alone. It’s not that difficult to find out.

All this treasure trove of feedback in just 5 hours into the “Endless” adventure. It goes on for another 9 hours but we think you get the picture (If TGI Friday’s wants the full list of lessons, they’re welcome to contact us).

Luckily, it’s not all bad. There were some nice comments and observations in there. Caity did not blame the wait staff or the kitchen for her experience. She thought they did a good job bringing her hot food that was prepared consistently. The waitress was friendly and quick with the water refills. A chef from the kitchen expressed interest in the speed of her order and a waitress found a way to get around an administrative problem with the order. Overall, the staff she had personal contact with got good marks from Caity. Hopefully Friday’s HR is taking notice.

Thirty two (32!!!) mozzarella sticks later, this has not been a marketing coup for TGI Fridays. However, the lessons they can learn from Caity’s observations are priceless. Imagine what they might learn if they asked all customers for feedback (no, your guest experience survey is not doing that).  We think TGI Fridays should send Caity a thank you gift. Probably best if it’s not mozzarella sticks.

In between mozzarella sticks, the writer also had some great feedback for Heinz and their ridiculous on bottle promotion which uses QR codes and lures customers into playing a game to get coupon for ketchup. Really Heinz? We expected better from you.


Photo Credit: Phil Dragash via Compfight cc

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