It's every small-business owner’s dream: for your business to go viral through social media so everybody knows about you. But what happens when the dream turns into a nightmare—when too many people know about your business, you can’t keep up with demand for your product, crowds get out of hand and other customers get turned off?
McDonald’s locations in Japan are struggling with this problem, thanks to a social-media-sparked craze called “potato parties.” Japanese teens pack into the restaurants, order hundreds of dollars worth of McDonald's fries at one time, spread them all over the table and eat them, meanwhile avidly posting photos of the event on social media. The parties aren’t so popular with other diners, who complain about messes and crowds. In South Korea, where the concept has spread, one McDonald’s employee called a group of teens “brats” and kicked them out—even though they had ordered $250 worth of fries.
Overwhelming demand used to happen only when your product got picked up on "Oprah," but thanks to social media, it can now happen anytime. To keep your customer service flowing, think ahead to how you’d deal with a surge of demand. Could you ramp up production, orders and employees quickly?
As for keeping two competing groups of customers happy, maybe McDonald’s managers could set up special areas of the restaurant for potato parties (like outside!), encourage customers to come for the parties at slow times of the day (like right after school, but before the dinnertime rush), or offer discounts to diners whose meals are delayed or disrupted by the parties so they don’t lose their loyalty. What would you do?