Every Customer Counts

*Disclaimer – this is probably a tempest in a teapot, but it’s a useful exercise in reputation management that directly influences business.

Especially in this economy, every customer counts.

A brief anatomy of how at least sixty people are less likely to eat at the Boathouse in Charlottesville (and I’m one of the sixty).

– Amanda ate at the Boathouse, and didn’t like it. (She’s telling at least 10 people with this post)

– I saw the blog post and remarked on Twitter“I wonder if anyone at the new restaurant The Boathouse in Charlottesville is monitoring the blogs? They should be. http://is.gd/9vMh about 8 hours ago from TweetDeck” (I’ll easily talk to 10 people and recommend them maybe trying something else – admittedly based on only one review)

– So did Elizabeth. “@JimDuncan I saw that review of the Boathouse too. Matches up pretty well with my experience there right after they opened. about 7 hours ago from twhirl in reply to JimDuncan” (I’ll bet she’ll talk to 10 people)

Marijean commented on Amanda’s post (easily 10 people here)

– Nick saw our tweets“thanks @jimduncan and @emccullough for the info/pointers on the boathouse. had thought about trying it, but might wait a while or so “ (Nick, too)

– Waldo noted the blog post about the Boathouse. (Way more than 10 people read cvillenews)

Here’s what I would recommend to the owners of the Boathouse (not that they’re asking)-

– Don’t ignore these blog posts and tweets. Comment on the respective posts. Ask for a second chance; admitting that something might have gone wrong on that particular night and apologizing will go a long way.

– Don’t get mad at the blogger; it’s doubtful they have any malice towards your restaurant – they’re just sharing their experience and opinion.

– Add yourself to Yelp, and encourage your customers to share their opinions there … and then monitor the feedback.

– Invite us to dinner. Seriously. Reach out to the community – they’re the ones who will voluntarily seek to repair the damage that’s been done.

– Ignore it all – it’s only a few blogs and tweets after all (but check out the people who noticed – they’re all connected and are likely either influencers, connectors or mavens)

The first idea is that some people are “hubs” – they are well connected. (True, as far as we can tell). The second idea is that some people are influencers. (Also true, as far as we can tell). The third idea is to spread an idea – any idea which is “sticky” – you target the influencers, who are gatekeepers to the mass market. (This is an idea which is false, in our experience).

Especially in this economy, every person is a critic, and we certainly have choices when it comes to dining out (which is less and less frequent). Reach out – you’ll be surprised how well people respond.

(Visited 38 times, 1 visits today)


  1. Justin December 3, 2008 at 17:05

    Indeed, it is all true. We harbor no malice against the Boathouse, but we were doubly disappointed since we took my parents who were visiting.

    The Boathouse needs to do damage control, because if Amanda and I drop her review into our networks, neither Michael Stipe, Sigmund Freud, President-elect Obama, nor Satan will be eating there any time soon.

  2. Jim Duncan December 3, 2008 at 17:16

    Justin –

    Thanks for stopping by. I talked to another person today – who’s in the restaurant business himself – who shared a similar Boathouse experience.

  3. Justin December 3, 2008 at 18:59

    No problem. We appreciate the publicity!!

    Keep it “real”…. 🙂

  4. Jim Duncan December 4, 2008 at 16:04

    The moral is this –

    1 – You can’t please everybody, and the power of the blogger is likely magnified more than it should be.
    2 – Don’t ignore customers, and be kind to them all (with the exception that there are some who are “that” customer – I waited tables in a previous life myself, I know they’re there) – you never know who’s going to be writing about the experience later.
    3 – Trust what you read on blogs, but verify independently (which I’ve done, and expect most readers will do as well)

  5. Marijean December 12, 2008 at 00:53

    I’ve been underestimated. I’ll tell at least 20 people.

  6. anonymous January 22, 2009 at 18:13

    I was greatly dissapointed in my Boathouse experiences. Unfortunately I gave them the benefit of the doubt after my first poor experience so I went back a second time. Servers were slow on slow nights (which is most nights) The seating arrangement on the dancefloor is terrible, I was reminded of my highschool cafeteria as people (even employees) needed to bump and scoot me to get by. The decor was terrible, rotting boat paddles flaking lead paint on the walls, dirty carpets (kept from Maverick) and boats hung overhead (yeay!) And whats with those flag booth seats? Very tacky. Food was overpriced, a-la-carte and cold when served (especially their shoestring fries that were served without ketchup). Unfortunately they were so slow that night that their owner “Bob?” gave us the “pleasure” of checking on us to see how the food was. When we were polite but honest about the status, he was loud, gruff, relatively unappologetic making some excuse or another about one of the orders taking longer than usual. I guess their heat lamps need stronger bulbs. My second visit was to their bar area which was really nice and upscale. Their beer selection is up to par and prices are reasonable. However it was awkward having other bar patrons seated across me at a distance of 5ft as well as giant mirrors behind the bar guaranteeing at least one random uncomfortable situation with the person seated to your right or left. The Boathouse Sinks

  7. kevin January 30, 2009 at 15:15

    I’m disappointed to see these continued poor satisfactory reports about The Boat House, because we really wanted to try it. In its former life it was pretty lifeless too. Perhaps the owners just aren’t tuned in on-line? Have you guys that have been there a couple times mentioned anything to the managers/owners?

    Its sad that one would sink so much money into a venture and not have the interest nor desire to make it the best. I love the building, even though its an ex-chain style, the location isn’t the greatest, but if done with a little TLC could be a destination in a City that has a dearth of good fun eateries and clubs outside of downtown and not focused on 20-30 somethings. Going to hit the Rock N Roll band tonight and will report.

  8. cville resident February 23, 2009 at 19:00

    The Boathouse ruined my Valentines Day (night). I will never eat there in my life again. The bar staff is great with making the drinks…but the waitress and staff is terrible the food is okay..The problem is getting the food…and when you get it hope its right!!!

  9. Victoria February 26, 2009 at 09:10

    My husband and I had dinner on Valentine’s Day and had a great time. It was crowded but the food was great. Well worth the wait. We’ll be back


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