REWrite - The Restaurant Equipment World Blog

The Top 10 Social Tools for Restaurant Owners

July 26th, 2011 by REW Blog Team

Getting traffic in the door…

It may be the most difficult part of the foodservice game, and the ways to make it happen are rapidly changing. While word-of-mouth is still the reigning champion in promoting your business, the forms that it comes in varies greatly. Twitter, Facebook, Google+, YouTube, Blogger, and many others are encroaching on the physical person-to-person discussion of where to eat. The greatest benefit of these new digital communications is that you can often drop in on the conversation.

If you have great food, you’re already in a prime position to tap into this discussion and further promote your business – chances are, plenty of people are talking about you already. The digitized world is big, though, and it might be hard to know where to start. Let’s break it down by service, arranged by how important we think they are to your foodservice operation.

1. Twitter

Twitter is a premier tool to engage with your audiences, and with good reason. With instant responses that can spread through the Twittersphere, your name can be broadcast loud and clear through the internet. It goes without saying that you need to be short and to the point, but being clever and current doesn’t hurt, either. To get people to follow you, you need to follow them first; if they don’t follow back within a few days, unfollow them and try somebody else. A good goal is to have slightly more followers than people you follow, but it takes some work to get there.
It’s easy to get started, just visit Twitter and you just need to provide a name, email, and password.

2. Facebook

The key here is contests and engagement. If you offer a free appetizer coupon for a limited time to people who “like” your page, you’re going to be in for a treat yourself. Ruby Tuesday offered 100,000 free burgers by liking their Facebook page and, as of today, they have over 500,000 followers. That’s a lot of exposure, and even if every single free burger was given away, there’s still money to be made – people tend to bring their friends and will certainly buy some appetizers, sides, and drinks. Make sure you are visiting those who “like” your page and thank them personally. Do this until the volume of likes far exceeds your capacity to personally thank each Facebook friend, and you’re well on your way to creating a viral effect.
Starting a Facebook page is simple. Go to Facebook’s Create A Page portion of their site, choose Local Business or Place, and it’s easy as pie from there on out.

3. YouTube

This is probably the most rewarding outlet in social media; since videos generally have a higher production value compared to the snippets of conversation within other media outlets, they tend to get more attention. Add some behind-the-scenes videos, recipes, or footage from special events. You don’t even need to invest in much; just a Flip camera or similar will do fine, and free editing software such as Windows Movie Maker will do for most operations. If you have the budget, the better your videos are, the more attention they seem to accumulate. Keep adding videos every once in a while to keep your channel fresh and leverage your other social media outlets to drive views and interest.
Signing up is simple: visit YouTube, and you can either sign in with an existing Google account, or just give an email, username, and password and you’re in.

4. Google+

The new kid on the block is quickly becoming the gorilla in the room. Since, as of right now, Google+ is an invite-only platform, and they don’t have any tools for business, you’re best hope is to use your operation’s Google account to engage users as an unbranded “friend,” and hope that they add you to some well-populated circles. The flip-side of the Google+ coin is the user-generated promotion of your site through what Google calls their “+1 Button.” Similar to Facebook’s “like” button, it generates interest and puts your restaurant’s site nearer to the top of the list when people search for places to eat on Google.
Signing up for Google+ is as easy as finding someone who will email you an invite. To do this, appeal to friends, family, and customer’s to see if any of them have invites. To add the +1 button to you’re website, go to Google’s site to get the code. If you’re still new to site development and coding, have your website’s team do it for you, or your neighbor’s kid.

5. LinkedIn

Often viewed as a site to boost your resume, LinkedIn actually has useful tools to keep you connected with colleagues and other business owners. If you’re in the foodservice industry, you know there is plenty of healthy competition, but plenty of friendships as well. As you foster these relationships, you may find strength in numbers.
Visit Linked In and put in your first and last name, your email, and a password and you’re well on your way.

6. Your Own Site

This is an oft-overlooked tool in your arsenal. The most important part reason for having your own site is that you ultimately determine the content and how it is formatted. Put up your menu, daily deals, and push your Facebook and Twitter. Just having a website adds legitimacy to your business and makes customer’s who are looking to try something new visit you in-person; however, having a well-designed and often-updated website can really sway a customer’s decision to choose you over the competition.
You can make your own site, even if you are not a web guru. If you visit a hosting platform such as GoDaddy, you can buy a domain, get hosting, and design a basic site all in one day. If you don’t have the time to make your own site, there are plenty of web design companies who will take care of all the nerdy tech stuff for you. Do a search to find reputable ones in your area.

7. Groupon

Groupon offers daily deals to a rich database of consumers; they might offer a coupon for $30 worth of product at your establishment for as little as $10. That $10 profit is then split between your business and Groupon. It’s much pricier than many of the other social media tools, but the turnout is hard to beat. Just make sure you’re ready for the rush, and you can financially support such a loss-leader. The Groupon folks will push you to drive your prices down to nearly nothing, so go into negotiations with a set percentage off that you are willing to settle for. Also, be honest about your chances that this will result in repeat business – will folks come back for more after the initial coupons are used?
Visit Groupon Works for more information about how it works, and then go to the Get Featured section of Groupon’s site to apply as a business. The bar to get featured is actually pretty high, you’ll need to provide information about your business such as your reviews on Yelp! and City Search (if any).

8. Business Review Sites

We decided to lump these all together. This includes City Search and Merchant Circle, among others. Usually, these sites will allow users to add business themselves, so chances are, you’re already on there. Job well done, right? Not quite. Often, you will want to provide additional information that reviewers have not added yet – your menu, average price of food, business hours, additional pictures. The best part about these sites are that people on them are generally genuinely looking for a place to eat; it’s free advertising! The downside is that even a few negative reviews can affect your restaurant’s business. Often, you are able to respond to customer complaints on these sites, so it is good form to professionally apologize for any inconveniences caused by your establishment and offer for them to try you again (and you may entice them with a free drink or similar). For every customer that puts the effort into adding a review, there are often hundreds who are just looking – it’s important to keep up appearances for those potential customers.
As noted before, you are probably already listed. Visit Google Places, Yelp!, Yahoo, Urban Spoon, and the others to make sure you are listed and reviewed well.

9. Blogging

Though we nearly ironically made a blog post about this in the past, it’s important enough of a point to be made again. If you feel as though you have the time and the content to update a blog on daily basis, you need to start one. If you have your own website (and you should), WordPress offers an easy way to start blogging once it’s installed. In all reality, it’s the only way to go as far as blogging is concerned. It’s free, updated constantly to keep pace with current technology, it’s simple to use, and versatile.
Just visit WordPress’s site and check out their Famous Five Minute install. If you have any questions, visit our past blog about the subject for more info.

10. Email

Email may be on the back burner in the minds of social media gurus, but it is still a force to be reckoned with. Nearly everyone with access to the internet has an email account. Even if all of the other ways of contacting your customers over the internet fail, if you have an in-store sign asking customer’s to sign up for your email marketing campaign in exchange for a free dessert, you are sure to pick up some of the less technically savvy customers you miss with your other online marketing campaigns.
While you can run an email campaign all by yourself, it can become tiresome coming up with new ideas and adhering to good formatting rules. Companies like Constant Contact will help lighten the load for campaigns such as these, for a small monthly fee.

It looks like you have some homework to do! Keeping up on all of these communication outlets can prove time consuming, but if you want to improve foot traffic, they can be a boon to your restaurant business.

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How Dealers Should Reach Out To Promote Their Web Sites

February 4th, 2011 by REW Blog Team

By Brad Pierce, President Restaurant Equipment World

via The Schechter Report

There’s a line from the movie Field of Dreams that goes, “If you build it, they will come.” While this may be true for a ballpark, it couldn’t be further from the truth when it comes to a foodservice equipment supplier’s web site.

This is the reality I know all too well personally. After spending months developing my company’s first site, I eagerly looked at the visitor logs a few weeks after it went live. To my shock, I had attracted a total of 10 visitors, nine of which I’m quite sure were family members. I realized that I needed to do some promotion quickly or the world wouldn’t know about the great content I had developed. The tools have changed since those early days of the web, but the premise is the same: You must get out there and promote your site to make it successful so that operators can find you and the equipment you’re promoting.
Ensuring that your site is listed with the Google and Bing search engines is essential, but this process can be time consuming as you work to gain relevant rankings and is often competitive and costly, especially if you’re using these companies’ paid advertising services. Starting a company blog on the other hand and syndicating your content to the blog search engines is, however, a quick and inexpensive way to start getting your name and site out there.
News releases can also work well, especially if they’re distributed via one of the many established online press release agencies. One caveat is to ensure that the information being presented in your release is relevant and interesting to readers. Sure, it’s alright to toot your own horn to attract operators or promote your equipment, but be sure to spell out the value you’re actually providing and why it’s relevant to them or it’s likely to be dismissed as a sales pitch disguised as a press release.
Lastly, foodservice equipment dealers need to engage in social media networking. Start with Facebook and Twitter, since those have a minimal barrier to entry and the largest audience sizes. Don’t just head right into promoting your site, however, or you’ll likely be blocked by people instantly. Instead, engage in the ongoing discussions, form personal relationships and get to know your existing and potential operator-customers Once you’ve established trust, then — and only then — should equipment dealers  promote your brand and products, and ask operators to visit your site. Before you know it, they will come to see what you’ve built — and they’ll bring their colleagues and business associates with them, as well.
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Avoiding Common Web Site SEO Mistakes

November 3rd, 2010 by Brad Pierce

By Brad Pierce, President Restaurant Equipment World

Via The Schechter Report

It never ceases to amaze me how much “bad advice” there is out there when it comes out to suggestions about how to improve a web site’s search engine optimization (SEO). Here are three common site development strategies to avoid:

1. Generate Hidden Text: Here’s what has been widely considered a brilliant idea – Developers work to fill their web pages with lots of ‘hidden’ keywords to improve a site’s ranking. They do this by coloring all text the same hue as the background of their web pages. That way, search engines “see” the text, but visitors to the site never know it’s there. That was a quick way to rocket a restaurant’s or foodservice department’s web site to the top position of search engines… back in 2000. Unfortunately, many people still errantly advocate using this development technique. Major search engines have gotten much smarter and now see tricks like this as spamming and will downgrade a site’s ranking rather than upgrade it.

2. Stuff “Meta Tags” With Keywords: Here’s the reality – meta tags are dead. They’re no longer recognized by search engine ranking algorithms, due to spamming techniques that made meta tags too easy to exploit. As a result, inserting meta-keyword tags will no longer help to improve a site’s ranking. However if foodservice operators do choose to use meta tags, don’t stuff them with keywords. Instead, keep the list of keywords to a minimal size and never, ever repeat keywords or phrases multiple times or you’re likely to be labeled as a spammer.

3. Guarantee To Position Sites As #1 On Google, Yahoo Or Bing: Many restaurants and foodservices have been pitched by companies selling search engine optimization services “guaranteed’ to place their web sites in “the #1 position.” If you ever hear this promise again, run! Sure, there are reliable ways to get a site into a number one position, but the results of those techniques are very short lasting and almost always will get a site banned from the search engine for violating their business practice terms. These bans can run anywhere from six months to forever, depending on how sneaky the tricks were the optimization company used to get a site into that coveted #1 position. Overall, It’s simply not worth it. Operators will be much better served by going with a reputable search engine optimization company that doesn’t “guarantee” pie-in-the-sky results.

Now that I’ve shared several common SEO mistakes to avoid, I’ll leave you with the magic key to improving the ranking of your site: Develop strong content. Yes, it really is that simply. Content is king. Build it and they will come (and your site will rank high up in search engines rankings, too!)

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A Little Administrative Rant

November 2nd, 2010 by REW Blog Team

by Kaila Colbin

Am I the only one who finds it difficult to manage multiple accounts, multiple admins, and multiple campaigns online? Surely not.

Facebook used to live at the inconvenient extreme of making it impossible to remove the originating Page admin, implying that no mere successor admin could ever be trustworthy enough to carry the mantle forward. Now they’ve boomeranged to requiring a nearly saintly level of trust in each and every Page admin, any disgruntled one of whom can remove all the others and destroy your company’s reputation with a few judiciously placed comments and inappropriate pics. Really, Facebook? There’s no middle ground between the power to post a status update and the power to stage an online coup d’etat?

And, while we’re at it, why are Page ads linked to people and not Pages? The whole point of a Page is to give your company an online presence, right? So let me get this straight: if the gal running the ads gets hit by a bus, nobody else can access the ads. (I’m talking AFTER visiting her in the hospital — I’m not completely heartless!) Heck, all she has to do is take a week off and the system grinds to a halt.

Maybe right now you’re all, “No problem, dude; just make a business account.” But no. Technically you’re not allowed to create a business account unless you don’t have a personal profile. So the guy with the business account — the one you’re trusting to manage your Facebook ad presence — is so social-media-savvy that he doesn’t even have a personal profile. And since technically a business account is only supposed to belong to one person, it doesn’t solve the problem anyway.

So the guy with the business account — the one you’re trusting to manage your Facebook ad presence — is so social-media-savvy that he doesn’t even have a personal profile.
Kaila Colbin –
A Little Administrative Rant

At least Google allows multiple admins on AdWords accounts. But what they don’t allow is single administrative access for multiple YouTube accounts. I have a personal one, and four business ones, and for each one I have to remember what unique blimmin’ email/password combo I used for it. Seriously, imagine if this happened in the real world. You’re a freelancer, but you have to use a different name and cell phone for each client. PLUS I have to log out of Gmail so it doesn’t automatically read the stupid cookies and try to be helpful. You’re not helpful, Gmail. You want to be helpful? Give me a Master Admin page on YouTube and let me choose which account to manage.

Speaking of not helpful, try logging into New Twitter, which jovially announces, “Everything in one place!” (The cheerfulness is reminiscent of the excessively happy Eddie the Shipboard Computer from “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”: “Hi there. This is Eddie, your shipboard computer, and I’m feeling just great, guys, and I know I’m just going to get a bundle of kicks out of any program you care to run through me.”) The reality, of course, is that “everything” is almost entirely unlike being in one place. If I want to manage multiple Twitter accounts — for, say, personal and professional purposes — I’m going through a third-party app, not logging in and out every time I need to switch persona. Incidentally, the fact that pretty much every third-party app offers this functionality shows that it’s not that hard, is it?

The folks who run these services are collectively some of the brightest people on the planet, and have collectively managed to influence our culture more dramatically over a shorter period of time than perhaps any other group in history, so please don’t take this article as a sign of disrespect. It’s just a plea: Look at us. Look at how we use these services. There are a lot of small things you can do that will make our lives so much easier.

Do you share my frustration? Am I being ridiculous? Let me know either way, in the comments or via @kcolbin. And thank you for putting up with this small interruption.

If you want to connect with us as well as @kcolbin, get us on our Twitter @REWonline.

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Can Google Places Be Adapted To Restaurants? You Betcha…

October 29th, 2010 by REW Blog Team

Google Place Search Emphasizes Local SEO

by Laurie Sullivan, of Online Media Daily

Google began rolling out Place Search to combine local and organic listings on Google.com when searchers look for information around location. It aggregates results based on places, so searchers can compare information, but there are a few things SEO experts will want to pay close attention to when optimizing Web sites for local search.

When Google’s search engine believes the searcher wants information about a location, it returns local businesses high in the search engine results page. The new results in Place Search supports longer descriptions and reviews. Scroll down the page and the map follows along in the browser window.

Google Place Search will lead to more SEO work for companies that focus on small business optimization. Andrew Shotland, founder of Local SEO Guide, says the tool favors small businesses in Google’s search results. “It intensifies the competition for local rankings,” he says. “Previously, if you couldn’t rank in Google’s Seven Pack for the local set of results, when it detected a relevant local query, you could always rank in the Web results around the map. If you weren’t good at map SEO, you could get by with Web SEO.”

The new change allows map listings to dominate the page, pushing non-local organic listings down or off the page. Businesses that ranked well in organic search results and had a map listing will now see the two merge. That merge reduces the number of Web results on the page by one, explains Shotland. He also says it means Web sites that don’t have a physical location in the city get pushed off the page.

Sites that have customer reviews have an exaggerated prominence in the search results, Shotland says.

David Harry, community manager at the SEO Training Dojo, says the ability to rank high in the search engine results pages for local search will require SEO professionals to consider domain extensions such as .com .ca .co.uk; and information on the site that might appear on the contact page and in the footer. He says to make sure it’s accurate for each location if the business has more than one, and to update local directories to make sure the business is listed on Web sites such as local directories and Google Maps.

For the better part of a year, Google has been asking local companies from restaurants to lawyer offices to “claim their business” listing by adding information about their Web site, telephone number and local address. IT generates a listing for the location in Google Maps, allowing searchers to find the business, get information and leave a review.

The tool will compete for space with listings on Yelp, Citysearch and other local directories. And now with Marissa Mayer behind the helm supporting local as the vice president of geographic and local services at Google, we will likely see much more innovation focused on local in the near future.

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