Say Not Slay: Real People Want Kind and Constructive Feedback

Emma Crameri
on May 18, 2021

The hospitality and events industries have had a tough year, with many countries still experiencing lockdowns and restrictions. America’s restaurants haven’t recovered yet, with many venues at around 60% capacity.

If we had a bad experience while dining out, we used to just tell our friends and workmates, but these days it’s easy to leave a nasty comment online or a bad remark on social media.

Hospitality businesses across Australia have had enough of the trolling and nastiness online. As a result, they have created a Say Don’t Slay campaign to encourage kind and constructive feedback.

Venue owners, like Brisbane hospitality veteran and founder of industry network Mise En Place Bonne Femme, Naomi ‘Nims’ Zavackas, want to encourage their patrons to bring any issues to the attention of staff while in venue. This allows staff the opportunity to rectify the problem on the spot and create a win-win situation for both parties.

“Most people have their work performance reviewed annually, behind closed doors, with the chance to prepare and respond,” Zavackas said. 

“But food business owners are under review every day and can get blindsided at any time, by customers who didn’t give any indication that anything was wrong at the time. We’re doing this because we love feeding people and communities, and we want to have a relationship with you – negative reviews about fixable issues only serve to divide us.” 

Dominique Rizzo, campaign ambassador, chef and presenter agrees, “We’re all humans and mistakes happen – please don’t feel like you can’t be honest with us. If your eggs are too hard or the coffee’s not right, pull us aside,” Rizzo said. 

“Or send us an email! Often if I haven’t enjoyed something I’ll send an email explaining when I dined and what could have made it a better experience. I used to get personal emails for my cafe. As an owner I so appreciated being able to process the information, address that person directly and resolve the issue.” 

“I’ve noticed that between venue owners, conversation often turns to trolling and negative reviews that go beyond the food, personally attacking the owners and their staff with comments about their age, body shape or lack of a smile,” Naomi ‘Nims’ Zavackas said. 

“But I recently visited one of my members in hospital, undergoing spinal surgery from pushing herself way too hard in the lead up to opening, and the trolls were out like never before. Someone had even purposefully begun several Instagram accounts just to post negative reviews. I decided on that day, enough was enough.”

The Say Don’t Slay Campaign

#NoComment day

On 15 May businesses will turn commenting off to encourage face-to-face communication. This #nocomment day is about asking patrons to consider the impacts of their faceless, harsh comments on the business owners’ mental health.

Businesses will be turning off the comment features on their social media accounts, including Facebook and Instagram.

Review and Resilience Workshop

The campaign also includes a ‘Reviews and Resilience’ workshop for venue owners, with speakers covering topics such as training staff to effectively handle both in-venue and online complaints, and how to press on in tough times. Psychologist and workplace wellbeing facilitator, Lisa Johnson of Asami Engagement Psychology, understands the severe impact that negative reviews can have on business owners and says that support and solidarity is the way forward. 

“Ongoing, unchecked criticism can take a physical and psychological toll on a person, leading them to feel defeated, and disengaged with their business, family and their own health,” she said.

“But gaining support from people in similar situations, especially peers who have developed good strategies and approaches to deal with such experiences can be invaluable, along with accessing independent support from qualified professionals who can help debrief and assist with exploring, improving and resolving business practices to reduce risk factors.”

The Say Don’t Slay campaign hopes to encourage people to think and reflect about their comments before they write them. #saydontslay Say Don’t Slay May kicks off 1st May across social media. Venues interested in taking part can visit www.bonnefemme.com.au/saydontslay

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