David Finch

David Finch

Let’s face it, it takes more for a restaurant to succeed then just knowing how to prepare the perfect Beef Wellington or serve the most trendy cocktail. It takes creativity not only in the kitchen, but also in knowing how to market your brand and connect with the customer.

I will admit that I am constantly intrigued by how restaurants can engage their customers by using social media. I often find myself thinking about how their owners can generate more buzz and create more loyal customers. These ideas have been scratched on napkins as well as dominated many conversations on the way home.

Personally, when I go to a restaurant, if I have great food, great service and I’m surrounded by memorable atmosphere, I usually become a repeat customer. Something changes though with my level of loyalty when I make a connection with a general manager or the owner. I now feel like I want to be a part and because of that there’s something that makes me want to help promote their business. If I feel connected, I often make a point to refer their establishment or brag about my incredible experience. I’m also prone to take someone with me the next time I visit. By feeling connected, I want to connect their restaurant to others.

As more brands are embracing the possibilities that can take place by using social media, you are beginning to see locally owned eateries begin to use social media as one of their main marketing tactics. Usually they are motivated by the opportunity to opt in at a fairly cost effective manner, and also the ability to bring them the closest to their customer. What you are seeing is a vast array of social media approaches that are being used to converse and to connect.

Often times, like in many small businesses you’ll find individuals that are good at their craft, but lack the expertise to market themselves or their brand. Once they realize who their customer is, what makes them tick, what they like and dislike, using social media can be that missing component that takes a casual customer and helps them evolve into a brand ambassador.

social media for restaurants

Image via: shaaz

Here is a list of tools that any restaurant owner could use to connect with their customer that in return could produce a brand evangelist.

Social Media Tools for Restaurants

  • Make sure your restaurant can be searched and reviewed through local business guides such as Yelp.com, Urbanspoon.com, and TripAdvisor.com
  • Suggest that positive feedback from patrons be shared on these social business guide sites.
  • Twitter – sign up for a Twitter account. Publish your Twitter profile on all documents. Promote giveaways, specials and announcements via your Twitter  profile. 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. This is also a great tool to collect email addresses for future opportunities to connect with the customer.
  • Blog – Blogging is a great way to bring the customer into the kitchen. It’s a great way bring them behind the scenes and make them feel a part. Sharing a recipe, employee profiles, and kitchen tips and tricks are just a few options to break down the wall between the kitchen and the dining room. Customers want to be part of something more then just a meal, they want to feel like they belong. A blog can be that tool.
  • Google Alerts – This is a great tool to use to listen to what is being said about your business, website or even your chef. Setting up a Google alert with just the name of your restaurant can bring priceless insight to both positive and negative talk that’s being said online about your business.
  • Facebook – Set up a Facebook fan page to connect with your customers on Facebook. Keep it updated with fresh content and always make sure you’re involved with the conversations that are taking place on “the wall.”
  • MySpace – If your clientele is more likely to be found using MySpace, create a profile page and updated it with fresh content as well. Like Facebook engage in conversations and comments.
  • YouTube – Incorporate video into your social media strategy. Like your blog, take your customer behind the scene and give them a pass to a part of the restaurant that only insiders are allowed to go. Provide a few quick tips and how-tos from the house chef. Share these videos on YouTube and other video sharing sites, as well as your blog. Use video to even show where you buy your produce and meats. This is also serves a dual role because it promotes your local farmers.
  • Mobile – Have customers provide their mobile phone number for coupons, specials and latest news via an SMS message.
  • Events – Host Tweetups for your Twitter community and Meetups for those that gather around topics via meetup.com.
  • The Business Card – Provide a business card or note-card to each customer that maps out where they can continue their dining experience online.
  • Social Calendars – Use sites such as upcoming.org and eventful.com to promote the latest happenings and events.
  • Flickr – Use photo sharing sites to show images of events, behind the scenes and market days. Let your customer see from the eyes of the chef rather then just the brand.
  • Email – Use email not only for your e-newsletter, but also to give away FREE stuff to your customers and continue to build your email list.

Remember, that the effectiveness of social media isn’t the tool; its 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 tell others about you.

Here are a few examples of how dining establishments are using social media to connect with their customers.

1.    Social Media for Small Business – Caminito Argentinean Steakhouse
2.    How one Coffee Shop Used Twitter to Double its Clientele
3.    Restaurant Entrepreneur Turns to Social Media and On-site Tasting Events for Help

What types of social media are you using to converse with your customers? What has worked and what hasn’t? What would you recommend to your local restaurant owner?

I want to hear your thoughts. The comments are yours!

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About David Finch

David Finch

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