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Strategically Promoting Your Restaurant with Social Media Tools

March 24, 2009

This is an article I wrote for Restaurateur Magazine and appears in their April 2009 Issue. Due to popular demand, it was reprinted here for those who do not have access to the Magazine. Enjoy!

 

You work hard to get everything right, the food, the atmosphere, the service, the kitchen and back of the house staff, and once a guest comes through the door, you have the power to make sure they have the best possible experience. Then they go home.  A place you can’t control the experience – and you don’t know what they’ll tell their family, friends, co-workers, and anyone who will listen, about their experience. What if you could control it? What if you could extend the dining experience beyond the walls of your restaurant? With social media tools, you can.

 

You’ve heard the buzzwords: Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Linkedin, and YouTube.  These tools allow you to enhance and carry the dining experience beyond your front door. They allow your customers to take the physical connections and loyalty virtual to experience it online as well. With customers increasing their online activity, the online experience that guests have with you can make or break you.

 

You put thought, consideration and passion into every physical aspect of your guests’ interaction with you, but how is their experience with your website?  Does it convey your brand, atmosphere, and message? Is it easy to navigate? Are your menus and specials quickly found? Is your contact information, location, hours of operation and amenities crystal clear? These are just the bare minimum standards now needed to entice someone to interact with your online brand.

 

When they interact, they feel connected. When they feel connected, they’ll often be your evangelists and make a point to refer your establishment or brag about their incredible experience. They are inclined to take someone with them the next time they visit, and will want to connect your restaurant to others.

 

In the best of times, it’s hard to promote a restaurant.  With labor and food costs constantly battling to take the lead as your primary concern, you need systems and tools that can give you the greatest return on your investment of dollars and time. Social Media are emerging tools that fit that bill.

 

Social Media tools are increasingly moving from consumer to consumer tools to business to consumer vehicles.  6,000 people a day are signing up for Facebook and only a percentage of them are the college students that the platform initially attracted.  Many businesses are motivated by the opportunity to opt in at a fairly cost effective manner, and also the ability to bring them to an intimate space next to their customer. What you are seeing is a vast array of Social Media approaches that converse and connect. Once you realize who your customer is, what makes them tick, what they like and dislike, using social media can be that missing link that transforms a casual customer into a brand evangelist.

 

Using tools for the “cool” factor of saying you use them will not bring you a tangible return.  You’ll need to start with a strategy. Once you’ve determined who your customers are, you need to know which social media tools they use, and engage with them on their turf. The effectiveness of social media isn’t simply using the tool; it’s listening, answering questions and connecting with others. These tools are just opportunities to connect your customers to your brand and by connecting with them, they’ll help you build relationship and gain invaluable insight to their propensity to buy from you.

 

Here is a list of tools that any restaurant owner can use to connect with their customer to convert them to brand evangelists:

 

Social Media Tools for Restaurants

  • Make sure your restaurant can be searched and reviewed through local business guides such as Yelp.com, Urbanspoon.com, Getsatisfaction.com and TripAdvisor.com. Encourage your guests, that if they had a great experience to please post it to one of these sites.
  • Twitter – sign up for a Twitter account. Use it also as a tool to listen and converse with your customers.
  • E-Newsletter – Email a monthly newsletter with the latest happenings, new menu items, entertainment news, recipe of the month etc.
  • Blog – Customers want to be part of something more than just a meal; they want to feel like they belong. A blog can be that tool.
  • Facebook – Set up a Facebook fan page to connect with your customers on Facebook.
  • MySpace – If your clientele is the MySpace generation, create a profile page and consistently update it with fresh content.
  • YouTube – Incorporate video into your social media strategy.
  • The Business Card – Provide a business card or note-card to each customer that visits your establishment with their receipt that maps out where they can continue their dining experience online by connecting to you via social media.

 

Christopher Lower is the Co-owner of Sterling Cross Communications, a Social Media, Public Relations, & Web Design Firm, that focuses on the Restaurant, Hospitality, Hotel, and Lodging industries. In addition to over 20 years of PR & Marketing experience, Chris worked over 8 years in the Hospitality Industry. He can be reached at www.sterlingcrossgroup.com or can be found on Twitter: www.twitter.com/mrchristopherl.

 

Sterling Cross is a proud to have been selected as a preferred vendor for Hospitality Minnesota. Hospitality Minnesota is the management entity for
 

 

 

The Minnesota Restaurant Association, Minnesota Lodging Association and Minnesota Resort and the Campground Association. These Associations provide legislative and regulatory advocacy, marketing, education and information and money-saving programs to members. In addition, Hospitality Minnesota operates a non-profit education foundation, the Hospitality Minnesota Education Foundation, which provides a high school curriculum in foodservice and lodging management and provides scholarships to students pursuing higher education in the hospitality field. For more info: www.hospitalitymn.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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2 comments

  1. Twitter can do wonders for businesses to reach broader audience at the click of the button. But, to be successful, you need to get the customers to follow you first! You need to try to explore every avenue to get your customers and potentials to follow you, and it may include Email Marketing. Awareness is the key.

    We at Sterizon are bringing Email, Mobile and Social Media Marketing all in one single bundle right to the customers dining table. There is no better place on earth to look for customers than your own restaurant. Give every customer at your restaurant the opportunity to signup for email list or follow you, and you’ll see the results.


    • Subba – I agree that you need to build followers, but the list building techniques that many propose to scrape emails or gather emails through surreptitious means will only alienate your guests and make them feel as if they have been spammed. We work with our clients to promote engagement via in store and online promotions to much greater success than list building. Social Media has a greater adoption at this point, and therefore a greater success rate for conversion. We are still ahead of the curve for mobile, and while it is definitely growing, the cost effectivieness is not there for many restaurant owners and operators.



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