How To Get Your Restaurant Started on Social Media

Restaurant Social Media
photo credit: ShironekoEuro via photopin cc

If I have said it once I have said it a thousand times, eating out at restaurants may just be the most social thing we do in public. Everyday I am amazed at the number of restaurants from multi-unit locations to independent mom and pops, or restaurant SMBs that are NOT using Social Media. Don’t get me started on those that have set up profiles and walked away from possibly the most economical medium available to them. Can you say FAIL? If you aren’t going to stick with it, don’t do it at all.

If you are not taking advantage of social media as a restaurant, you must be out to lunch.

How many dollars are out there for the taking?

Americans will spend about $660 billion dining out this year, according to the National Restaurant Association’s forecast.

4 Simple Ingredients to Getting Started

1. Build Awareness – This is simple, if no one knows who you are, how do you generate more traffic?

2. Educate Your Audience – Once they know who you are (your name), share the type of food you serve and how your customers can use your concept. Are you a Lunch only concept, Special Occasion Dining or Family Friendly? This is about managing expectations.

3. Build Followers – The easiest way to get started is by following people who have checked-in, commented and shared visitations, photos and reviews for your restaurant brand. You’d be surprised how many restaurants aren’t aware that they already have followers and fans. Make sure to promote your profiles in-store, on traditional advertising, your website and on your menu.

4. Create a Relationship and Offer Value – Make friends with your customers, talk to them, ask for feedback and thank them for their patronage. Share content with them such as recipes, pictures and insight into your concept. Have your Chef, Bartender or Sommelier talk about new menu items, signature drinks or wines that you carry. Provide information that will be useful and worth reading.

When you are ready for a recipe that has more than 4 ingredients check out: 26 Tips to Getting Started with Social Media Marketing 

Today’s Recipe

Get Visual. We see food before we eat it, right? Once you establish profiles sharing images is an easy way to entice visitation and inform your target audience about what’s going on at your establishment.

Food on Social Media
photo credit: williamcho via photopin cc

Instagram and Pinterest are two popular image driven social networks to get you started. You might also want to look into Flickr, while you are busy taking pictures go ahead and post them on Facebook and Twitter as well.

Here’s a recipe on how to use images to drive traffic: Picture This… Drive Traffic To Your Restaurant 

Daily Special

Content. What does content look like for a restaurant brand? Content is what you share with your audience. Ideas of what to share:

1. Your food and drinks
2. Where you source your ingredients
3. New menu items
4. Your restaurant’s decor (is it festive or relaxing?)
5. Daily and Seasonal Specials
6. What’s going on in the restaurant this week (live music, trivia, a meet up or a special event)
7. A simple invitation or enticement to come in and dine at your establishment today

Location, location and yes, location

This is the oldest saying in the book. It’s so old I am not even sure what book it was written in but the truth is location today is more about being found via location-based apps, geo-targeted search results and mobile marketing. If there is one thing you do please make sure you create listings for your restaurant(s), starting with Google Places is recommended. They are the number one search engine for a reason.

To Get you started use Daniel G Hebert’s article on How To Improve Local Search Marketing with Google Places

When you are ready to super-size your location-based marketing claim your Foursquare profile, check out Yelp and get on that network called Facebook with over a Billion members and their product called Facebook Nearby.

The Cherry on top of the Sundae

The best part of social media for restaurants is that your customers are all ready doing a lot of this for you. I would bet that more Foursquare locations have been claimed by diners than have been by the restaurant themselves. Check-ins, endorsements and images are flooding the internet daily by fans of your restaurant. Once you are active on social media you will be able to merchandise the social traffic into profit. All you have to do is get started, embrace the medium and join the conversation.

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David Schwartz
David is a Brand Strategist focused on building relevant brands, while creating valuable consumer relationships to promote engagement. By utilizing the popularity of digital and mobile media, along with the social web he helps companies understand the power of controlling their content. David started his career working for MTV in New York, he then proceeded to Atlanta to work with the likes of Coca-Cola, Chick-fil-A and the Home Depot. From his time working with companies of all sizes he has learned that a strong brand is the key to long term success by turning customers into brand advocates. Now living in Nashville with his wife and two children, David works with companies of all sizes teaching and consulting on best practices for building a brand in the digital age.
David Schwartz
David Schwartz

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  1. says

    Excellent article, David.
    As someone who's worked in the restaurant sector for many years, I find it ironic that in an industry dependant upon customer service, that so many owners/managers are reluctant to get social.

    Then again, working in an environment where you deal face to face with your clients can be stressful so perhaps they don't want to extend that to the digital world. Also, time is a huge problem in an industry where profit margins are razor thin. So ironic or not, I understand the problem.

    You share several good strategies. I would add to the Location one, to merge Google Places/Local with a Google+ Page to take advantage of Zagat reviews andSEO.

    … and that Restaurants hire a qualified Social Media consultant to cut through the research, planning and implementation time.

    Thanks, David.

    • says

      Thanks Ray, I absolutely agree with you. I plan to dive deeper into restaurants here this year and hope to present solutions to the problem you outlined specifically time and cost. Therefore, I want to start with educating them on the benefits and let them walk rather than run into without a strategy.

      The issue I still hear most often is that they just don't get it or understand how it can help them now. Depending upon the size of the restaurant and their margins out sourcing social media is a tough pill to swallow. My goal is to prove to them how wrong that thinking is. Social unlike radio or print has a long-term benefit as well as an immediate return.

      Overall an investment in a digital strategy is a better strategy then spending money on traditional advertising or worse yet doing nothing at all.

      • says

        They have little choice but to outsource at the beginning.
        As you say, the challenge is convincing them that social has long term business benefits.
        They're used to putting out ads and counting how many reservations come in as a result.

        Ideally, the consultant will build a plan with them then train and coach people inside the restaurant to run with it.

        • says

          Good point, Ray.

          I prefer to handle the later with my clients. I want to help them build the social foundation, train them to share and post internally and if/when the volume becomes too much for them to handle they are then ready and more willing to outsource. At that point they already see the benefit and can justify the financial commitment because as we know… it works.

          In an ideal world a think a combination of both is best. I can't be on-site for every client in every market to take pictures of their daily specials. Or prod Chefs to share recipes or insights from the owner.

          Like you said the challenge starts with getting the buy in and understanding the potential.

  2. Gettysburg Gerry says

    Hey quit dominating the comment thread you two….LOL

    Great piece David. I couldn't agree more with you, and Ray your right on the money in hiring someone. Running a restaurant is tough work, and time consuming, hiring a professional to do the SoMe leaves the owner time to correctly run the business end of things.

    From the social media side, I have to say that I love working with restaurants, there are so many content rich avenues to pursue there. It is fun and who doesn't love working with food as a major part of the content.

    Very well done as always David..

  3. says

    The article and the comments here are spot on. I have spoken to a few restaurants as we begin to build this niche for our agency and their take is one of confusion first and hesitancy because of negative feedback second.

    In discussing this with them I inform them that the negative feedback can be a positive for them. Simple way is to address it and ask the customer to come back and treat them like kings. Show them that their perception was off on that day because, well, we all have bad days.

    Not only that but then you generate buzz around your restaurant because not only do your fans see you care about your customers but the friends of the person you took care of does as well.

    The food industry has so many avenues to pursue in terms of social media that it would be a mistake to ignore. The more articles, like this one, and the more we educate the sooner the industry will realize the full potential.

    • says

      Good point, as a restauranteur I'd rather know the complaints my customers have versus the alternative and being clueless to my establishment's faults.

      Customer service is just one of the many benefits social media can offer restaurants.

  4. says

    Having been a restaurant owner and a social media consultant, I couldn't agree more that restaurants are a segment that cry out for a social media presence. One caveat: Getting good quality photos of food is critical. It doesn't take much for a great dish to look terrible in a photo.

  5. says

    It's all about foursquare for me… then again… I'm biased since foursquare is partially responsible for me stumbling upon my girlfriend of 2.5 years! See if you want to read the particulars. After over 23,00 check-ins, I've found this tool very useful both personally and professionally!

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