Does Your Pub Need Social Media?

On April 16th the pub chain, JD Wetherspoon, announced that it would be quitting social media with immediate effect.  The company, which has 900 pubs, will no longer use Twitter, Facebook or Instagram to communicate with followers. Instead it will provide information through its website and a free company magazine. A Tweet from the chain stated that:

‘In a world of Social Media J D Wetherspoon has decided to close down all Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other Social Media accounts for individual pubs and head office’

The reasons given by the company included bad publicity surrounding social media, and concerns about the misuse of personal data. The Chairman, Tim Martin, also believes that ‘pub managers were being side-tracked from the real job of serving customers’.  These managers were consulted prior to the decision and ’90-95% felt using social media was not helping the business’.

Mr Martin doesn’t believe that closing the social media accounts will have any effect on the business, and he may be right. Prior to deleting these accounts, J D Wetherspoon had 44,000 Twitter followers, 100,000 Facebook followers and 6,000 Instagram followers. Certainly more than I’ll ever have, but not a huge number for a company of that size.  Some observers noted that much of the activity on social media was actually devoted to dealing with customer complaints.  There has also been a suggestion that this is just a publicity stunt, something that Mr Martin has vigorously denied.

So, has J D Wetherspoon made the right decision? Is it better for pub managers to come offline and focus on other aspects of their job?  I believe that, for most hospitality businesses, social media is an important part of your marketing strategy. Here are six reasons why:

1.  You can see what people are saying about your venue

What are you doing well? What needs to be improved? It’s also important to monitor your pages for inappropriate posts.  If Johnny has tagged himself at your venue downing sixteen shots for his 16th birthday, this is something you need to be aware of.

2.      You can showcase your venue

Let your customers know that you have a brand new menu, that your amazing staff have been doing some cocktail training, or that your function room has been refurbished. Social media is a quick and easy way to get your venue in front of people.

3.      You can see what your competition are doing

What sort of promotions are they running? What events do they have coming up? What do they do well, and what can you do better? It’s not all about competing though, you may find opportunities for collaboration, such as putting on a local beer festival.

4.      You have an opportunity to quickly rectify complaints

Receiving complaints on social media means that they can be seen by potential customers, and of course they may be put-off as a result. However, you also have the opportunity to publicly respond. If your response is timely, appropriate, and shows that you actually care, it can actually help to increase customer loyalty.

5.      You can promote upcoming events and promotions

Social media is one of the easiest and quickest ways to make details of events and promotions available to a wide audience.  And your followers can also share this information, greatly expanding your reach.

6.      You can chat to your customers

Pubs are social. When you use social media to engage with your customers, it’s an extension of the conversations you have with them when you’re behind the bar. It’s a great way to get to know your customers and build loyalty.

Although I would generally recommend that hospitality businesses don’t follow the lead of J D Wetherspoon and quit social media, there are two instances when I believe it’s better to come off the platforms:

1.      Your target audience isn’t there

Although it often feels like it, not everyone uses social media.  If your ideal customer just happens to be my parents, who love a good pub lunch and a bottle of wine, you’re never going to reach them via social media. However, they are likely to try somewhere after spotting a good advert in the local paper.

If your target audience does use social media, which platforms do they go on? You’re much better off using one or two really well, than trying and failing to keep up with all the channels.

2.      You’re not there

Have you ever checked the social media page for a pub and seen than it hasn’t been updated for weeks, or even months?

When prospective customers or employees hear about you, one of the first things they often do is check out your social media presence.  If you’re posting infrequently, or not responding to messages it can give a poor impression of your business.   It’s also frustrating when information on things like opening times and menus is outdated. If your accounts are not being used, or you’re being inconsistent about posting, it’s better not to have them.

If you’re struggling to keep on top of the social media for your pub, I’d love to meet you for a coffee and a chat about how I can help you. There is no charge, and no obligation to use any of my services. I can be contacted at

12 Tips For Visiting A Wedding Show

We’re approaching the time of the year when wedding shows are popping up everywhere, and if you’re engaged then you probably have a few already marked down in your diary.

Visiting a wedding show is a great way to find inspiration, chat to suppliers and check out potential venues. Here are 12 tips to help you make the most out of your visit.

1)     Be selective.

You’ll have lots of Wedding shows to choose from, both locally and nationally. So unless you want to spend every weekend at one, you’ll need to be selective about which ones you attend.

If a potential venue(s) is hosting a show then this one should be on your list. It’s the perfect opportunity to see what the venue looks like when it is dressed up. Take the time to explore the place to check whether it really is ‘the one’ and visualise how you will make the space work for your reception. Have a close look at the décor to see how you will work with it, and check on facilities such as toilets. It’s also a great opportunity to meet the venue’s event coordinator and have an informal chat. You’ll also find that many of the other exhibitors already have a great relationship with the venue and with each other, potentially making for a smoother event if you use them.

If you have a certain supplier in mind, such as a particular photographer, it’s worth going to a wedding show where you know they will be exhibiting. Often exhibitors will run competitions or have special offers if you book at the show – so you could save some money.

It is worth visiting one of big national shows, such as the National Wedding Show Although you’re unlikely to find many suppliers who are local to you, the sheer volume of exhibitors and seminars means that it’s a great place to get inspiration and learn about the latest trends.

2)     Plan your day

If there is a timetable available for the day, then check it out beforehand and make a note of the timings for fashion shows, seminars and demonstrations. If there is a musician or live entertainer that you’re interested in, check what time they will be demonstrating at; it’s great opportunity to see how they engage with an audience. Once you know what you’d like to do and see, you can plan the rest of your day around this.

In addition to browsing the stands, you may also want to try on dresses, have a makeover, or just sit down for a coffee. Arrive to the show early and allow plenty of time to get everything done.

3)     Know who you want to see

Make a list of any exhibitors that you would like to visit, and think about what information you want to get from them. If you’re not sure who you’d like to see, have a think about what you’d like to tick off your to-do list next. The photographer? The caterer? This will help you to focus your plan.

4)     Eat!

Have a good breakfast or lunch before you arrive. Although most shows will have a café, these often get very busy.  Pack some snacks, so that you’re not distracted by an empty stomach.

5)     Ask lots of questions and gather information

The exhibitors will all have lots of wedding experience and will want to help you. Don’t be afraid to ask them for ideas and suggestions. It’s good to have an idea of your budget and style, so that you can search out suppliers who are a good match. At the same time, be open to new ideas, you never know what you’ll discover!

There’ll be a lot to take in, so pick up information and samples from the stands and browse these when you get home

6)     Dress for the occasion.

Comfortable shoes are a must as you’ll be doing a lot of walking.

If you’re planning to try on some wedding dresses, then wear something that’s easy to change in and out of.  Remember to bring some appropriate shoes and good underwear for trying on the dresses, so that you get a better idea of how they will look.

7)     Travel light

You’ll need to bring a bag to carry all the leaflets, brochures and samples that you collect. A cross-body bag is ideal and will leave your hands free.  You should also bring:

  • A bottle of water and some snacks to keep you going
  • A fully charged phone for taking photos, referring to your Pinterest board and finding lost companions!
  • A pen and paper for jotting down notes
  • Stickers that have been pre-printed with your name and contact details. These will save you time when giving your details to potential suppliers and entering competitions.
  • If you’re trying on clothes, then don’t forget the shoes and underwear.
8)     Have a makeover

A wedding show is the perfect opportunity to experiment with make-up. You may already have a look in mind, but why not ask the make-up artist to try out their own ideas? You might fall in love with a completely different look. Worst case scenario, you just wash it off!

9)     Register your details and enter the competitions

Registering your details with the show host and the exhibitors is a great way to keep up with special offers and updates after the show. A reputable company will never pass your details on to a third party without your express permission and will allow you to unsubscribe at any point.

Many exhibitors run prize draws and competitions on the day and it’s always worth entering these. If you pre-print stickers with your details you can enter everything quickly and easily – and someone has to win!

10)  Make The Most Of Special Offers

If there is a supplier that you are keen to use, then you make be able to get a discount if you book them at the show. However, don’t feel pressurised into signing up for anything just to take advantage of a special offer. If you’re not completely sure, then go home and think about it. You can always call them later and see if you can still take advantage of the offer, or visit them at another show in the future.

11)  Pick the right person to go with you

It could be your Fiancé, your mum, your best friend, your brother, or all of the above. Take someone who is enthusiastic, whose opinion you trust, and whose company you enjoy. This is supposed to be fun!

12)  Enjoy yourself

Get some inspiration, but try not to get too overwhelmed. At the end of the day, the marriage is the important part, and the rest of it is just party planning.   Have fun looking at the different ideas and get lots of information to browse afterwards – maybe over lunch and a nice glass of wine!

If you’re planning your wedding and are feeling a bit overwhelmed, I’d love to meet you for a coffee and a chat about how to make it less stressful. There is no charge, and no obligation to use any of my services. I can be contacted at

Is Your Hospitality Business Ready For GDPR?

Of course you’ve heard of GDPR, it’s been a hot topic for months. But are you ready for it?

Whether you’re a landlord with one pub, or the owner of a hotel chain, the new regulations will apply to you. So here is a quick guide to the changes and to some of the steps that you should be taking.

 What is GDPR?

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is the new legal framework that will replace all the current data protection legislation in the EU. It’s a set of guidelines for the collection and processing of personal data, and the aim is to give people more control over their own data. GDPR will supersede the Data Protection Act 1998, and we’ll see tougher penalties for the non-compliance and breaches. GDPR comes in to force on May 25th 2018, so you’ll need to have adequate measures in place by this date.

 Will it apply to my business?

The short answer is ‘yes’.

All businesses must comply if they are involved in the processing of personal data and your hospitality business will hold almost certainly hold personal data such as guest details, credit card information, or an email mailing list.

 What if I’m not ready?

If a complaint is filed against your business, you’re potentially looking at a fine of up to €20m or 4% of your annual global turnover, whichever is the greater. Having said that, the ICO has also stated that “it’s scaremongering to suggest that we’ll be making early examples of organisations for minor infringements or that maximum fines will become the norm”.

It also makes good business sense to demonstrate that you’re compliant with GDPR. Customers value their privacy and want to know that you are respectful of this.

 What do I need to do?

The Information Commissioner has described GDPR as ‘an evolution, not a revolution’. Although it may sound like there will be a lot of work, for most businesses it’s likely to be a case of reviewing, tightening up and enhancing your existing policies and processes. Here are eight steps to help you get on top of GDPR

1.      Review the personal data that you currently hold.

This includes data on both employees and customers. In addition to your paper and online filing systems, you may be holding personal data in:

  •  Booking Engines
  • CRM systems
  • Customer databases
  • Email marketing lists
  • Membership lists
  • Payment processors
  • Social media marketing tools
  •  Website cookies

You need to establish exactly what personal data you are holding, and then document your findings. Make a record of what information you hold, where it came from, where it is stored, who it is shared with, and whether you have obtained consent before collecting it.

During this review, it’s a good idea to shred or securely delete any data that is no longer required.

2.      Make all of your team aware of the changes.

You’ll need buy-in from everyone. Managers need to fully understand GDPR and its impact on their department. Employees should also be trained to comply with the requirements and they also need to know what to do in the event of a personal data breach.

3.      Make your customers aware of the changes

You’ll have an obligation to make customers aware of their rights under GDPR. These rights include:

  • The right of access to their data
  • The right to rectification
  • The right to erase
  • The right to restrict processing
  • The right to transfer their data to another party
  • The right to object
  • The right not to be included in automated marketing initiatives or profiling

You will need to be prepared to handle any questions or requests from guests regarding their rights. You’ll have one month to provide an answer to any queries and you can’t charge a fee for this. If you decide to refuse a request, then you must provide your guest with the reasons for this and also give them the details for the Privacy Commission, so that they are able to file a complaint if they wish to.

In addition, ‘making customers aware’ will probably require you to update documents such as your website privacy policy and your Ts&Cs.

4.      Be aware of the purpose of the data you are collecting.

When you’re capturing guest data it will need to be for a specific reason. For example, if you ask for an email address to send a table booking confirmation, you cannot then automatically add this address to your marketing list.

You also need a lawful reason for collecting any data. It’s a good idea to conduct a review of all the questions you are asking guests (on your booking forms, registration cards, email sign-up forms etc.). Can you justify requesting all of the data? You may need to know their address for billing purposes, but is a date of birth necessary?

5.      Get consent

You must be able to prove that you have been given consent to use data in the manner in which you are using it.  You’ll need to disclose your purpose for collecting the data and how long you intend to keep it for.

You must get a clear opt-in from your customer to receive any communications, rather than presenting them with an option to opt-out.


  • You cannot use any pre-ticked boxes for opting-in on your forms
  • The opt-in must be a positive statement. You can’t ask people to tick ‘if they don’t want to join your list’.
  • For email subscriptions, a double opt-in process is the best method for proving that you have obtained consent. This requires the subscriber to complete and submit an online form. They will then receive a confirmation email asking them to click on a link to verify their email.
  • If your existing email marketing list did not require a double opt-in, it would be wise to reconfirm permission with all those currently on it.
  • Be specific about what communications people are opting in to receive. Is it a weekly update? Special offers? If you have several types of communication, then obtain separate confirmations for each one.
  • Make it very easy to unsubscribe. There should be a clear unsubscribe button on all of your communications.

There’s an additional consent consideration for children under 16. Authorisation to process a minor’s data, for example at a hotel check-in, must obtained from their parents or a responsible adult.

And remember – even if you purchased a mailing list from a third party, it is still your responsibility to ensure that you have consent from those customers to use their data.

6.      Review your data storage processes.

When you’re storing data, the storage method needs to be secure. You should have a company-wide policy in place, and educate your team on how to keep data secure.

Electronic Storage:

  • Audit your systems What data are you storing and where is it being held (CRM system? Excel spreadsheets? Cloud storage?)
  • Who can access this data? Is it secure and accessible only to those who have permission to use it? Is it just your employees, or do you work with suppliers or contractors who also access this data?
  • Do you have permission to store this data? If not, are you going to delete it, or contact the subjects to request consent?
  • Where are the servers for the systems that you use located? Under GDPR businesses will be prohibited from transferring personal data outside of the EU to a country that does not have adequate data protection.  You will need to check where the servers that you are using are based and, if they are outside the EU, consider using the Privacy Shield to ensure compliance. This includes servers located in the US!
  • Encrypt your devices. Although passwords will provide an element of security, only encryption will protect data if your device is lost or stolen. Remember to encrypt devices like external hard drives and mobile phones, as well as laptops and pcs.
  • Protect your devices against viruses. It’s important to invest in good virus protection. Free software generally isn’t going to be adequate, so protect your network and storage systems the latest intrusion detection   programs. For extra security you can conduct penetration testing.
  • Passwords. Create strong passwords (use a mixture of symbols, numbers, upper and lowers cases). Don’t base them of any personal details such as birthdays! Change your passwords regularly and store them in a safe place such as Lastpass.
  • Back-Up your data. Hopefully you’re already backing up your data regularly as it’s good business practice. It’ll be even more important under GDPR because in the event of a data breach, you will have an obligation to inform anyone who has had their data compromised.  If a laptop with a file of personal details has been stolen, you’ll need the back up to establish who has been affected. You can back-up to a hard drive, the cloud or a mixture of both.

7.      Check that your payment processes are compliant

As a hospitality company, you are likely to be accepting card payments every day. A good start is to ensure that you are already compliant with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). The two standards overlap significantly and complying with PCI DSS will demonstrate that that you are compliant with GDPR.

8.       Data breaches or theft

You need to put a process in place to detect, and remedy any data theft concerning personal data. Any incident should be reported within 72hrs to the Privacy Commission, for all cases where there is a risk that guest data may have been compromised.

This article is based on my interpretation of GDPR and how it will affect the hospitality industry. Please treat it as a guide, rather than gospel!  For the most comprehensive and up-to-date information on GDPR, I recommend looking at the ICO website.

Complying with GDPR may seem a huge task, but it’s a great opportunity to review your processes and systems. It’s also a chance to really think about the data that you’re collecting and how you can use this to add value for your customers. The requirement for consent means that people on your mailing list genuinely want to hear from you, giving you a great platform to develop your relationships and build brand loyalty.

If you’re struggling with your preparations for GDPR, I’d love to meet you for a coffee and a chat about how you can get ready. There is no charge, and no obligation to use any of my services. I can be contacted at


Six Splendid Reasons To Use An Event Coordinator

Would you ever use an event coordinator? I would. Even though I’ve been involved in organising many, many weddings, if I was getting married I would absolutely hire another professional to manage the details and support me on the day.

We put so much time and energy in to planning special events with family and friends such as birthday parties, christenings, reunions and weddings. Then come the day we’re ‘on duty’ and managing our event, rather than creating amazing memories with the people we love.

The build-up can also be stressful. Planning an event can often be tremendous fun, but budgets can get out of hand, time runs out and emotions take over. No one wants to spend the night before their wedding trying to cobble together a table plan that won’t upset Auntie Grace, while weeping tears of regret over the £500 they’ve handed over for a flock of doves to be released during the photos – even though they’re pathologically terrified of birds.

People often think that an event coordinator is an unnecessary expense, especially when they can do the work themselves. Although I’m obviously biased, I genuinely believe that it’s an expense worth seriously considering, and here are my six reasons why:

You have a professional sounding board.

When you’re planning an event, especially a wedding, it’s very easy to get carried away. There are a wealth of bridal magazines, Pinterest boards and wedding shows out there, all packed with ideas for your day.  An event coordinator will have the experience and knowledge to help you refine your ideas and work out what the best options are for you.

You’ll save time.

An event coordinator has already done the research and has the industry knowledge, so they will be able to quickly present you with ideas and options for your event. They can recommend and shortlist suppliers, and even meet with them on your behalf to finalise details. In the run-up to your event, they will review the details, checking and confirming every aspect of the day. One the day of your event, your coordinator will arrive early in order to meet with your suppliers and check on the set-up.

 You’ll save money.

An event coordinator will help you work out your budget and, more importantly, they will help you to stick to it. They will know which areas are appropriate for cost-cutting measures and will help you to save on unnecessary expenses.

 You’ll have access to great suppliers.

Event coordinators will have previously worked with a range of suppliers. They’ll know which DJs always fill the dancefloor, which caterers will delight your guests, and where to source those fantastic 3ft balloons. They know who is reliable, who provides great value for money, and who should be avoided.

Your paperwork will be perfect.

Your event coordinator will pull together all the details, ensuring nothing is missed. They will put together a budget, an event timeline and an itinerary for the day. They will ensure that you have copies of all your supplier contracts and their contact details. They can assist with table plans, floorplans and create bespoke checklists. Once all your paperwork is in place, you’re on track for a smooth running event.

You can relax and enjoy your event.

The best reason of all as far as I’m concerned! Your event coordinator will have worked with you to plan your event and will know exactly what your expectations are. They will check on the venue set-up and ensure that the suppliers are in place prior to your arrival. During the event they will ensure that your timeline is being adhered to and will make sure everything is going to plan. Most importantly, they will be able to act as your eyes and ears, identifying any potential issues and smoothing out any problems.  You can relax and enjoy your time with your guests, confident that someone else is taking care of the details.

As an experienced event coordinator, I love helping my clients to bring their dream events to life, and then seeing them relax and have fun on the day. I offer an ‘Elevate Your Event’ package designed to take the stress out of the planning process, this includes

  • Sourcing of suppliers
  • Personalised budget spreadsheet and advice
  • Creation of event timeline and itinerary
  • Guest list and RSVP management
  • On site event coordination

If you have an upcoming event, I’d love to meet you for a coffee and a chat about your plans. There is no charge, and no obligation to use any of my services. Just email me at to set up a time.

Improve Your TripAdvisor Rating

One of my favourite restaurants is currently rated as number 35, out of 41 places to eat in the local area.  The food is delicious and service is always friendly and efficient, so why isn’t it ranking higher?   If I wasn’t already familiar with it, the TripAdvisor rating would probably out me off booking a table.

Whether you love the site or hate it, there’s no denying your rating on TripAdvisor is important.  There are over 570 million TripAdvisor reviews and opinions and, each month, around 455 million people use the site to help them decide where they should eat, drink and stay the night.

Your TripAdvisor listing is your opportunity to showcase your business and attract customers. So are you making the most of it? There are obvious benefits to being highly rated and your spot is determined by the TripAdvisor Popularity Algorithm.  So how do you improve your place?

The algorithm is based on three factors; the quality of your reviews, the recency of  your reviews and the quantity of  your reviews.  Good reviews are better than bad reviews, newer reviews carry more weight than older reviews, and the more reviews you get the better.

So how do you optimise these factors?

Quality of Reviews

It sounds obvious, but the best way to generate excellent reviews is to give your guests excellent service.  You don’t need to make lavish gestures for every customer, but empowering your staff to surprise and delight your guests in small ways will make a real difference to your customer satisfaction levels.

You can help to prevent negative reviews by training your staff to identify customer issues and empowering them to resolve these before they escalate.  If handled quickly and correctly, a complaint is a great opportunity to turn a negative guest experience in to a positive one.

If you do receive a negative review, don’t ignore it.  Responding shows that you care about your customers and their experience.  TripAdvisor permits one management response to the review, so include all the relevant information and keep it professional.   Your response should include:

  • Thanks for the feedback
  • An apology for the issue. If you do not believe that your business was at fault, then you can simply write something like “I’m sorry that you feel this way”.
  • An explanation of the issue and how you have addressed this, or will address this.
  • An acknowledgement that customer satisfaction is a priority for your business
  • Your contact information so the reviewer has the opportunity to follow up with you.

Reviewers are able to remove and then resubmit their reviews, so a good response may occasionally lead to a more positive review being given.

Although TripAdvisor will not usually remove a negative review, you can request that one is taken down if it does not meet the TripAdvisor guidelines.  These state that the review must be:

  • Family friendly
  • Relevant to travellers
  • Unbiased
  • Helpful, First-Hand
  • Recent
  • Original
  • Non-Commercial
  • Respectful of Private Information
  • Listed by TripAdvisor
  • Easy to Read

If your believe that a negative review  does not meet these guidelines, you can flag it for removal.  This can take some time and is not guaranteed, so you should always respond in the meantime.

Recency of Reviews and Quantity of Reviews

You need to continuously generate customer reviews to increase the quantity and keep them current.

Ask your customers to leave a review for you.  There are a number of ways to do this:

  • Add a written request to any material that customers take with them such as receipts, business cards or leaflets.
  • Include a request for a review in any follow up or thank you emails to your guests.
  • Add the TripAdvisor widget to your website to encourage visitors to leave a review.
  • Ask guests verbally as they are paying their bill or checking out.
  • Use TripAdvisor Review Express to generate more reviews.

When you’re soliciting reviews, remember that it is against the TripAdvisor guidelines to offer any incentives or discounts in exchange for a positive review.  There is also a zero tolerance policy for fake reviews, so don’t be tempted!

In addition to having lots of good quality, recent reviews, a good TripAdvisor page should also be checked and updated regularly.  Make sure your contact details and opening hours are current.  Have at least 20 good quality images on there and include a PDF of any menus.  Make sure that you are including all relevant information for potential guests.  For example, if you’ve recently added vegan or gluten free options, let people know this.

I love to help hospitality businesses with their administration, giving owners and managers time to focus on their guests.  If you’re struggling to keep on top of your TripAdvisor profile or any other admin, email me at to arrange a completely free consultation.