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Golden Corral Coupons?

One of the most amusing restaurant in the South East of the United States is a chain cold Golden Corral. They offer Vegas style buffets for, about $10 per person. We're talking a 1/4 mile long buffet with a chocolate fountain, cotton candy and comedian Jeff Fox Worthy as their celebrity spokesperson. Their public relations has varied over the years in my opinion and their outreach on social media (apparently the responsibility of each private restaurant) is rather lackluster. They've suffered several negative publicity problems from a YouTube video of the kitchen in a dirty disaster to news stories about multiple people getting sick. There was even a hoax of a man kicked out of the buffet for being too fat and eating too much.

I've had my run ins with them as well. A few years back I received a letter from Golden Corral's legal team asking me to remove a coupon from a website that I owned (now defunct). While the legal team was cordial and rather friendly about the matter, I questioned why it was so important for the company to control their online reputation when it came to discount. Rather than use the opportunity to elicit more business they lawyered up. Personally, I would have used that channel (my blog) and offer new direct offers to the audience through its authore (me). But what do I know?

Fast forward to the middle of this year and my local G.C., actually did publish a coupon on Facebook. I took my family of four, but when I arrived the cashier didn't want to accept the coupon except for a single person. I brought it to the cashiers attention that the small-print indicated that such a transaction was permitted and that I would have been glad to print out multiple copies and/or even pay separate, but the logic seemed to evade her. No worries, I paid anyways and shot off an email to customer services when I got home. Here's the response I got a response:

Ms. Jones, thank you for your feedback about your latest visit. I'm sorry for the low level of hospitality that you received from our cashier. I'm very glad you brought it to our attention because this a very new area of marketing for us, using Face book. She should have taken care of everyone in your party with the coupon regardless of what the limit was, we are here to make our guests happy not disappointed. This experience shows that we need to step up our game on the training aspect of handling these types of coupons. Ideally the FB coupon is for the obvious discount but the real push is for us to have a opportunity to  inform the other guests in parties or standing in line to like us on FB and receive all the coupons and specials that we run including the Good as Gold Club were you can get a free drink for signing up and a free buffet on your birthday as well as all our other promotions. We are taking baby steps into this new era of marketing and reaching out to our guests and I really appreciate your feedback of how the experience went and how we can make it better. As a thank you please bring this email in with you and enjoy a free buffet on me. Anytime you have suggestions for us myself and team would love to hear them, it makes us better every time a guest tells us about their experience whether it be great or needs improvement. Thank you for taking the time to contact us!

Name excluded,
General Manager

So did they get it right? I think they did. Unfortunately, I didn't notice their response till a few weeks ago, at which time I learned that the GM who had written me was no longer at the location I visited. We decided to give it a go anyways. This time, the cashier was once again completely confused when I handed her the email. She said, "I don't even know what to do with this". Eventually, her boss handled the matter promptly and followed through on the comp.

This is a perfect case of a need for better internal communications when promotions are released. Since Golden Corral rarely seems to implement such campaigns, it's definitely an area of improvement the company could make to increase their public relations.  Sometimes all you need is a bit off the bill to entice people to come in, but as this example proves, one bad experience could turn your marketing efforts into some negative PR and a nightmare for your customers.

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