Sally Jones and her husband, Nathan, own The Hog Hotel in Pakefield, Suffolk. Among the highs and lows of working in hospitality in current times, Sally shares her views on social media and reviews – and how the former helped them track down a new Executive Head Chef.

The use of social media in business is a bit Marmite, you either love it or hate it. Through the medium of the handheld mini-computer – otherwise known as a phone – it appears everyone is now an expert hotel reviewer or restaurant critic, often with little or no credentials to back it up, other than the fact they have paid for a room or meal with us. Idle comments on leaving that they will “get around to doing a review later” can put the fear of God into the staff waving cheerily goodbye, wondering if they had done something wrong or just been brilliant. That said, we score consistently well and remain the top-listed hotel in the area, but we are always on the lookout for the next intrepid Olga Polizzi or Grace Dent, my personal total girl crush favourite.

How we word our responses to these is a job in itself. While I would never book somewhere solely based on the Trip Advisor/booking.com reviews, there is an establishment in a nearby well-to-do seaside town who has lots of excellent scores from contributors who have only ever written one review. This, dear reader, is suspicious, as your average ardent Trip Advisor reviewer will pride themselves on posting as often as possible to get their ‘top rated’ reviewer status; guilty as charged in a previous life! Therefore, I take time to feedback and share both the happy comments and the more constructive ones with the team. And if we choose to stay a hotel, I will often pay more attention to the management responses than the actual reviews. 

But I digress, back to where I started: “You are what you share”, a quote from author Charles Leadbeater. With the crippling staffing crisis within our industry at the moment, finding excellent new staff is like looking for fur on a rattlesnake. Our Instagram account has a not too shabby following of nearly 2,000 people, and this has given us a host of chefs to follow in turn. So, when we started the search for a new Executive Head Chef, our minds wandered back to some delicious food we had seen regularly pop up from one particular account, as well as some fabulous, and what felt like, genuine images of the team, all enjoying what they do. 

A quick snoop of the Trip Advisor status of his current place of work to check for no horror stories and a hastily arranged lunch to try his food out incognito, was followed up with a cheeky DM asking if he was interested in a chat. Happily, and coincidently, he lives five minutes from the hotel, and the temptation of that stroll to work, and the opportunity to work in a brand-new kitchen – and with us! – versus the two-hour round commute, proved to be enough. @chefterrybalme started with us at the beginning of August and he is already beavering away with new menus from September. He was right under our nose, but it took the world wide web to connect us. 

Conversely, we always check social presence of anyone who applies to work for us and often the pictures we see tell a very different story to the earnest CVs. As we keep telling our own children, your digital footprint is there forever. Be careful what you share and keep your account private. Terry sees his Instagram as his rolling CV and has used it cleverly. Some of the others,
less so.

PS. I adore Marmite. 



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