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.
By Brad Pierce, President Restaurant Equipment World
Having a blog for your restaurant or foodservice is perhaps one of the easiest online marketing techniques, yet many operators miss this important step in their quest to drive customers and traffic to their sites. The most common reason cited by operators I’ve spoken with is that they just don’t feel like they’re tech-savvy enough to handle the task of getting a blog set up. Have no fear, it’s actually quick and easy to get started, which I’ll explain below. Another common reason I hear from operators is that they are already using FaceBook to post updates, so they see no need for their own blog.
While FaceBook is great and a useful online marketing platform, it’s important to remember that with FaceBook content, you’re helping to build their site, not yours. It’s like the difference between renting a house versus buying one. Ultimately, you want to be the one to control your content and hold ownership of your message. This allows you to market your content on whatever platform is the latest and greatest social media site without being locked into just one. The reason for this is you never know when the next social media site will become a hit, much like what happened when FaceBook took over market share from MySpace. Simply stated, the best practice in online blogging is to develop your own content on your own site, then to tell the world about it on sites like Twitter and FaceBook to drive traffic back to your site.
The most common blogging platform is called WordPress (http://www.wordpress.com). This software is 100% open source and will never cost you a dime as it’s built and maintained by hundreds of volunteers. There are literally millions of online sites that use WordPress, so if questions do arise there is a vast pool of resources available to help you quickly. Installation of the WordPress software is fast. So fast, in fact, they call it the “Famous 5-Minute Install.” The stand alone version of WordPress for your own server can be downloaded by visiting http://wordpress.org/download/. If you prefer not to deal with security updates or don’t have your own domain, you can also choose to have WordPress host your blog on its servers. A hosted WordPress installation can be installed by visiting https://en.wordpress.com/signup/, which only takes a few seconds.
Whichever method you choose, you should plan on investing more time to customize your theme (colors, background, images and the like), but even this process is typically quick and straightforward. Additionally, there is a number of optional add-ons which can be installed to handle functions such as automatic spam detection. These don’t need to be added initially but, as your blog comes to life, you may find that daily management of your blog is more easily done by incorporating these types of tools. As a side note, these add-ons are typically open-source and 100% free, as well.
I hope that you’ll spend a few minutes today and invest in your operation by setting up your own blog. In a future entry, I’ll explore the next steps in blogging focusing on content and strategies for building a successful discussion platform. Happy Blogging!
Brad Pierce, President Restaurant Equipment World
via The Schecter Report
I’ve heard the complaint dozens of times, “Social media doesn’t work for my restaurant.” Whenever I hear operators vent about how they’re not achieving the desired results in their social media campaigns, I begin asking a series of questions to determine why they think this online promotional medium is ineffective. Answers typically reveal that operators are either (1) not investing the time to do it correctly or (2) they’re investing the time, but they’re simply posting status updates with specials and other self-serving content.
The first scenario is easy to solve by devoting more time and effort. The second scenario, however, requires more thought by operators about how they’re working with social media. To use an old adage, people don’t like to be sold, but they love to buy. What’s needed is to change the mindset of customers so that they actively want to engage with a foodservice. Then, with luck, they’ll bite.
Let’s look at a real-world interaction in a typical operation: Managers want to sell more desserts to increase check averages. Previously, staff might put a sign on a display table saying “Try Our Pie.” Amongst all the products on the table, the message was often lost. This is similar to how a message gets lost among all the other postings in the social media world people log on to daily. Because the old paper display sign failed, the argument can be made that advertising desserts doesn’t work to drive sales — much like the argument that social media doesn’t work to drive sales.
Here’s how to do it right. Using my example, what if instead of just placing that small sign on the table, staff enhanced it to show a picture, possible a quote or two from customers that the operation serves the best pie they’ve ever had. Do you think that might sell more desserts? Of course you would, but we’re not done yet.
What if customers were talking with one another about how the pie they ate at a facility was the best they’d ever had? That’s the kind of buzz that sends lines of customers coming in the door ready to add pie to their orders. Readers may be thinking that’s just a fictional example, but how do get my customers to talk with friends about what my operation serves? In the real world, you have the benefit of face-to-face interactions to chat directly with customers about how wonderful the pie is and how it comes out steamy hot just like Grandma used to make. In the social media world, however, this “sales pitch” doesn’t translate quite so well.
Instead, operators should quit posting status updates and offers, and begin to engage with customers. Get to know customers, comment on the things they’re doing, the things they care about. In short, don’t try to sell them anything! Build relationships with and get to know customers. Once operators engage with customers, they’ll be the ones who are commenting to others about the great food and desserts they’ve experienced. This is social media working for operators. Bottom line: An effective campaign built upon relationships and engagement, rather than a lackluster one focused on ineffective postings to drive sales.
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.
Tagged with: Adwords • Delicious • Digg • FaceBook • Flickr • friendster • google • LinkedIn • meetup • Myspace • Reddit • Restaurants • Social Media • StumbleUpon • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy • Twitter • Youtube
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.
Tagged with: advertising • google • google places • laurie sullivan • location • location based • Marketing • next big thing • places • restaurant equipment • restaurant tools • Restaurants • REW • SEM • SEO • Social Media
Courtesy of The Center For Media Research
Social couponing, in which online coupon offers go active once a minimum number of registered users sign on to them, has become a hot new promotional platform, at least for Groupon and Living Social. But new research finds that about a third of the merchants extending those discounts may find them a very mixed blessing.
According to study of 150 businesses by Rice University’s Jones School of Business, of a coupon promotion by Groupon, those coupon campaigns were unprofitable for 32% of the businesses that ran them. And more than 40% of the response group said they would not run another social coupon promotion again.
According to Jones School associate professor Utpal Dholakia, the author of the research, the profitability of a coupon promotion can be measured by two main criteria: whether customers redeeming the coupons spent more than the coupon amount, and what percentage of those customers came back again to shop without a coupon offer.
Those survey respondents who said the campaigns had not been profitable for them reported that only about 25% of redeemers spent more than the face value of the coupon. They also said that about 13% of those coupon holders came back a second time to shop at full price.
The 66% who reported these promotions as profitable said that 50% of redeemers spent more than the value of the coupon, and 31% returned to become customers again at undiscounted prices. But even some of those businesses who reported successful promotions said they would not be likely to run another campaign on the platform, because the offers did not draw the right customers.
Dholakia found that marketers who set a ceiling on the number of coupons offered through the platform tended to see more demand. However, only 11% of the businesses studied in the survey imposed such coupon caps, and those that did set them relatively high at an average of 2,190 offers.
Foodservice businesses sold significantly more coupons than other types, the survey found:
· Restaurants made up the largest single business category in the response pool (32.7%)
· Educational services (14%)
· Salons and spas (12.7%)
· Tourism (8%)
Dholakia writes in the study that “… there is disillusionment with the extreme price-sensitive nature and transactional orientation of these consumers… they are not the relational customers that they had hoped for or the ones… necessary for their businesses’ long-term success… ”
The report concludes that coupon promotions can draw large customer surges into a business, but many of these will be either new users or price-conscious shoppers, unaware of the need to tip service employees or to tip based on the undiscounted price. Businesses need to consider that these consumers are bargain hunters. By nature they are frugal.
For additional information about the report, please visit Promo Magazine here.
Tagged with: coupon campaigns • coupons • customer feedback • customer response • education • foodservice • Groupon • increase sales • industry news • Jones School • Living Social • profit • promomagazine • restaurant equipment world • restaurant news • Restaurants • REW • Rice university • salons • salons and spas • social coupons • Social Media • spas • tourism • Uptal Dholakia