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Restaurants and Social Media, No Reservations Required

Please excuse me for not titling this article “Restaurants and Social Media, a Recipe for Success.” I know the pun is the most beloved of all the writers’ crafts, but I simply couldn’t stomach the thought. Ahem.

Banter aside, an active social media presence truly provides restaurants of all cuisines and calibers the tremendous opportunity to stay engaged with their clientele. How easy is it to take elegant photos of your dishes and add them to your restaurant’s Facebook page? How much time does it take to Tweet your evening’s dinner specials? More importantly, how rewarding can these simple efforts be?

A 2011 study conducted by the Pew Research Center found that more than 51% of adults use the internet to guide them toward a restaurant, bar or club. The savvy chef, manager, or restaurateur will meet bring their business to their clients.

As a former chef, I know the value of customer feedback and communication first hand. There was never a managers meeting without an exhaustive discussion of comment cards and Yelp reviews. Feedback from our customers was always our most valuable asset, and we saw every criticism as an opportunity to fix our own errors, reach out to the guest, and create a lasting relationship built on mutual appreciation.
We wanted our customers to know that we cared, and we often turned to social media and community forums to demonstrate our commitments.

This all said, there are really six stand-out advantages that social media awards the socially active restaurant:

1. The chefs, restaurants, owners, managers, and PR execs of a restaurant are able to notify the public about evening specials. A well described meal usually wets the appetite: Tonight we are serving whole roasted halibut tail over braised lentils with a curried, lobster sauce.

2. Simply by reminding guests of their great experiences, the chances for their return visit become significantly improved.

3. The two-way communication between a restaurant’s chefs, owners, or managers and their clientele makes getting feedback easier and usually more genuine. An unsatisfied but embarrassed guest is more likely to forgo the complaints and the comment cards and go straight to web to voice their disappointment. Find them there and get them back.

4. Menus will frequently reference the farms and fisheries that produce their products, but it is not often that customers remember the name Eva’s Garden, or Verrill Farms, or even Niman Ranch. When a restaurant takes pride in what they serve, they can feature their sources online to everyone’s benefit.

5. By filming how dishes are made, chefs can demystify the culinary process and engage their clientele outside of the restaurant. The celebrity chef is a modern phenomenon, and today everybody seems to appreciate a skilled culinarian demonstrating their craft.

6. Effective social media marketing can help chefs, managers, and restaurant owners seem more familiar to their clients. Everybody likes to feel at home at a restaurant – in essence, this feeling of comfort and accommodation is precisely what the restaurant sells (more than even food and drink). By helping familiarize your guests with your team, you can help build that sense of belonging, of knowing and understanding, and strengthen that essential feeling of comfort that drives success in the service industry.

And oh yea, watching a chef skillfully filet a fish or deftly brunoise a shallot is super cool.