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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Comments & Reactions

Comments Policy

Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • http://www.Monsoonrestaurants.com The Dexter

    Pretty basic stuff. Amazed business owners wouldn't know this already. Here's ours: http://twitter.com/monsooneast.

  • http://www.Monsoonrestaurants.com The Dexter

    Pretty basic stuff. Amazed business owners wouldn't know this already. Here's ours: http://twitter.com/monsooneast.

  • http://www.Monsoonrestaurants.com The Dexter

    Pretty basic stuff. Amazed business owners wouldn't know this already. Here's ours: http://twitter.com/monsooneast.

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  • http://www.networkmarketingsuccess.ws mlgreen8753

    There are lot's of creative ways to use social media for restaurants. One company is using Twitter to attract local residence by announcing discounts via Twitters mini blog platform. Even large companies are using social media and online advertising techniques. I found Skittles advertising on Adwido, a low budget advertising network.

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  • http://www.sterizon.com/wihome/home.php?utm_source=smexplorer&utm_content=smblog Subba

    We at Sterizon work with restaurants to bring online marketing (the exact points you were hitting on like Email, Social Media, Mobile Marketing) a lot closer to the restaurant customers. These restaurants see ton of customers each year, but barely < 5% of them end up signing up for Email or twitter or facebook or go yelp about their experience. There is a reason for that, customer is very busy and the moment they step out of the restaurant, there are million other important things for him/her and signing up with restaurant is at the bottom of the list.

    Restaurant need to get attention of their customer while they are still at the restaurant, get them signed up for everything before they leave. We facilitate exactly that using wireless handhelds for data collection. It's a win-win for both business and customer.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Great thoughts! Thanks for the insight into how you're doing it. Much
      appreciated.

  • http://hkmoonlighting.wordpress.com/ Jon

    Good article – I wonder if you have any advice on how restaurants can scale their social media efforts based on effectiveness? Afterall, they're busy running a business and all this stuff takes time just to even understand the difference between a Facebook Profile and Groups page, vs. a Tweet or a mention etc. Do you have any tips on how they should prioritize/grow their efforts intelligently?

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      That's a great question and a bugger of an issue to tackle. It's all
      going to depend on your personnel and your ability to trust/train
      them. However, I would say that you should operate social channels
      with measurable intent. Think of doing things that allow you to gauge
      how much foot traffic you're getting from your online efforts. Then
      you can see a real dollar value in the time invested and feel more
      comfortable putting full time help on it.

      I'm sure the restauranteurs in the room will have different/better
      answers, though. Thanks for the question.

  • http://www.restaurantsection.com/ cliff

    Sounds great. You are invited to check out my new social media website for restaurants at http://www.restaurantsection.com It has a lot of features to market themsleves.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Sweet. I'll check it out!

  • http://www.twincitysam.com/ Twin City SAM

    Having spent 20+ years in the F&B industry in pretty much every capacity there is, I am very passionate about this topic. So much in fact that I have an entire section of my company devoted to helping folks in F&B build social media into their marketing plan. There are so many positives for this industry by doing so and not too many other industries can boast being able to see an almost immediate ROI by adding these tools. We all know that for every 1 customer that complains, 26 just don't return.. why in the world would you NOT want to be aware of what people were saying?

    I have a tavern client that made a great statement to me.. she remarked how much she hated the coupon mailers because they always brought in *that* kind of “run your staff around for nothing” customer. By using Twitter and Facebook to send out coupons and promotions, she was sending them to people who already had a VESTED interest in her tavern.

    I think we'll see more and more come around especially with FourSquare and GoWalla, etc coming into the fore front.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Thanks for that, Kristen. We're certainly on the same page!

  • http://eminencegrisemontreal.blogspot.com michellesullivan

    We can add FourSquare to this list now – thanks for sharing

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  • http://fohboh.com/video/video/show?id=1411008:Video:359979 Ray Thackeray

    Hi David, have a look at this video on Social Media Marketing services in the restaurant sector…

  • Jessica

    Well put, David. You've clearly listed all of the tools necessary for effective social marketing. Unfortunately, restaurant owners/managers are busy and generally don't have the time to carry them out. YourAreaCode has created a way to combine the restaurateur's website (menu, event listings, etc), facebook, myspace, twitter and texting capibilities – so that they can all be updated at once. Hope this helps. – http://www.yourareacode.com

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  • roncallari

    What other restaurants have integrated Social Media into the daily marketing and operation of their restaurants or chains like 4Food–> http://inventorspot.com/articles/hold_pickle_ho… This novel approach is one of the first – but have to believe others are gravitating toward this approach?

  • Wiley Cerilli

    You should checkout SinglePlatform (http://www.singleplatform.com). We are a social media and marketing platform specifically for restaurants and bars, and we are already working with thousands of restaurants across the country.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Thanks for the point. I'll probably follow up to learn more!

  • Wiley Cerilli

    You should checkout SinglePlatform (http://www.singleplatform.com). We are a social media and marketing platform specifically for restaurants and bars, and we are already working with thousands of restaurants across the country.

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Thanks for the point. I'll probably follow up to learn more!

  • Wiley Cerilli

    You should checkout SinglePlatform (http://www.singleplatform.com). We are a social media and marketing platform specifically for restaurants and bars, and we are already working with thousands of restaurants across the country.

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Thanks for the point. I'll probably follow up to learn more!

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    Great Ideas… Thanks for the information. I just started a social media company called Golden Lumpia Internet & Social Media Marketing

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  • Wjingleong

    A very insightful write up, and i find it absolutely useful and i would like to quote and reference this in my dissertation topic “social media and its impact on the reputation of the food and beverage establishments in Singapore”

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    Social media marketing can be use in any kind of business and using it as a tool in promoting your business will be a great help to be successful in your business.

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  • Derek S.

    All great tips, I just wanted to add one more, Ghost Post. This company updates your social media accounts for you. Unlike a bunch of marketing agencies that charge a few thousand per month, these guys have monthly subscriptions starting at $40 bucks. We own 3 restaurants and work with them weekly, sometimes even daily, http://www.ghostpost.com.

  • Alessandra

     Great post! Really informative, and all GREAT ways to market you restaurant. I recently wrote a blog post about creative social media campaigns for restaurants if you would like to check it out, you can find it here: http://www.mysmn.com/social-media-for-restaurants-get-creative/

  • http://vastlysuperfluous.tumblr.com Alessandra Ceresa

    I just wanted to add to this article with a blog post I wrote last week about interesting ways some restaurants are marketing their restaurant! Check it out here: http://www.mysmn.com/put-it-in-the-fans-hands/

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  • http://www.lajollabluebook.com/ Jason

    Many areas also have independent directories that can be a great way to market, as well.  They’re typically low cost and focused on driving residents to local businesses.  A few go beyond standard print ads and offer websites and social media outlets as well.  Here’s a great example: La Jolla Restaurants: Guide to Dining in La Jolla, CA.

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