Well . . .the holidays are finally over. How did you spend your holiday dough? Interesting stats about shopping and social media trends during the holiday season. It is cool to see how online shopping and social media has changed our spending habits over the years and on into the future. Check out this infographic and see. Have a safe and wonderful New Year from Restaurant Equipment World (REW).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Tagged with: Constant Contact • Equipment • FaceBook • foodservice • google • Groupon • LinkedIn • MyCitySearch • restaurant equipment world • Restaurants • Social Media • top 10 • traffic • Twitter • Wordpress • Yelp • Youtube
Build a more social menu…
When it comes to being a restauranteur, your recipes are your life. They are trade secrets, sometimes handed down from generation to generation, and there are miles of non-disclosure agreements for chefs and bakers to further prove the point. Each time you use great-Grandma’s apple pie secret recipe, you probably get a bit of nostalgia and reminisce about simpler times, and you share this history and familiality whenever you hand a piece to a customer.
Yes, those trade secrets that customers come to you for are invaluable. Yet, Grandma was not infallible; there can always be improvements. Maybe the age-old recipes have been put on a pedestal, and thought to be made perfect by the passage of time, and maybe you have already tried to improve on them with little success – a little more this and a little less that just made it “not taste the same.” That doesn’t mean that those old recipes are the be-all and end-all of culinary perfection.
So why not try to up your game? If your reading this blog, chances are you’ve been into social media for a little while. One of the best ways to use the social sphere to your advantage is crowd sourcing. One example that uses this to drive traffic to your restaurant, increase brand identity, and prove yourself that “fun, hip company everybody’s talking about” is offering an “Improve-Our-Recipe” contest, with the winner getting the new recipe named after them or some other significant prize. You could give him or her free food for a year, or a hefty check, but sometimes the best prizes are those that are free to you and invaluable to the world – and putting a customer’s name in lights is an excellent motivator.
So how would you judge such a contest? Again, crowd-sourcing. Have your customers post their recipes on Facebook or add them to YouTube, then let the people vote on which creative interpretation of your recipe they prefer. If you still feel a little nauseous at the thought of posting your recipe for the world to see and modify, you can always just ask customers to replicate a version of it on their own, without revealing the intricacies of great-Grandma’s family secret.
In the end, you will be left with your original recipe, a much-loved new version, and gained interest in both. Run the two side-by-side, or offer one for a limited time. No matter how you cut the new-and-improved pie, it’s a win-win situation.
Offering More Than Delicious Food from a Truck
Now that I’m a believer, I want to experience everything that Orlando Foodtrucks have to offer- one meal at a time. My experience last week with the Korean BBQ Taco Box (@koreanbbq_2011) was amazing, but I’ve decided to venture out a little bit further (quite literally a block further up University Blvd.) and try some other trucks. Before leaving for lunch last Wednesday, I checked twitter and found that The Crooked Spoon (@TheCrookedSpn) and Mobile Deli (@ilovemobiledeli)were going to be serving at the Citgo on the corner of University Blvd and Metric in the Fullsail area. Perfect. Everything I’ve seen on line so far has given these two trucks nothing but stellar reviews. They were right.
After looking at some pics on The Crooked Spoon’s Facebook page, I was dead set on trying their Mac & Cheese while my coworker Jared wanted a Bistro Ham sandwich. Oh, man were they good. I’m not a food critic or foodie by any means- I don’t even play one on TV- but this was some of the best Macaroni and Cheese I have ever had. You definitely need it in your life.
Though the food is amazing…
The coolest thing about The Crooked Spoon is how friendly they are and their understanding of social networking. The foodservice industry is plagued with restaurants and manufacturers that just don’t get it when it comes to Facebook or Twitter. I guess that’s why I’ve taken such a liking to the food truck movement; it appreciates and embraces the relationships that social media can build for small businesses. I was thoroughly impressed with The Crooked Spoon when they were willing to just hang out and talk social media/ SMM shop with me while my order was prepared. Like I said before, the food was amazing- but it was their candor and willingness to connect (even in person) that went a long way with me.
Check out The Crooked Spoon on Twitter (@TheCrookedSpn)and get them on Facebook to connect. If you’re looking for their next location or evening foodpod, their twitter is probably your best bet. You won’t be disappointed.
If you own or operate a food truck in Orlando and you’re reading this, get with me on twitter (@REWonline). In the very near future, I would love to come out and talk to you about your food truck operation. We can make a quick video and upload it to youtube, or I can write up an article about your food/story for our blog. No sales pitches, I promise.
By Brad Pierce, President Restaurant Equipment World
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.