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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The Future of Spill Cleaning Technology is Now!

June 14th, 2011 by REW Blog Team

This is absolutely amazing. While I can see this having more successful application in a research lab where mixtures need to be moved from one surface to another in the pursuit of science, it is cool to think of equipping your busboy with one of these in the pursuit of clean tables. I know that a wet rag is more user friendly- and probably more effective– but the wow factor of scooping up a ketchup spill without disturbing its shape is enough for me to consider the more high-tech option.

A side note: if your restaurant is serving processed meat that looks like a pink folded towel (in the production line portion of the video) you may have bigger problems than ketchup spills that need to be cleaned in a fancy, technological way.

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Metro Tests the C5 T-Series with Transport Armour

June 13th, 2011 by REW Blog Team

Metro’s products are built to stand up to more than their fair share of punishment and to survive the rigors of the foodservice industry. In a rare, never before seen archival video, we’re allowed a brief glimpse of the testing process that Metro subjects each of its products to before certifying that they can stand up to the challenge of a busy kitchen environment.

For more of Metro’s videos, check out their YouTube channel

For more information on Metro’s products, check out our sponosor: Restaurant Equipment World

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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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Guide to Social Media Marketing

October 28th, 2009 by REW Blog Team

Social Media For Restaurants

Written by David Finch of Social Media Explorer (socialmediaexplorer.com)

Let’s face it, it takes more for a restaurant to succeed then just knowing how to prepare the perfect Beef Wellington or serve the most trendy cocktail. It takes creativity not only in the kitchen, but also in knowing how to market your brand and connect with the customer.

I will admit that I am constantly intrigued by how restaurants can engage their customers by using social media. I often find myself thinking about how their owners can generate more buzz and create more loyal customers. These ideas have been scratched on napkins as well as dominated many conversations on the way home.

Personally, when I go to a restaurant, if I have great food, great service and I’m surrounded by memorable atmosphere, I usually become a repeat customer. Something changes though with my level of loyalty when I make a connection with a general manager or the owner. I now feel like I want to be a part and because of that there’s something that makes me want to help promote their business. If I feel connected, I often make a point to refer their establishment or brag about my incredible experience. I’m also prone to take someone with me the next time I visit. By feeling connected, I want to connect their restaurant to others.

As more brands are embracing the possibilities that can take place by using social media, you are beginning to see locally owned eateries begin to use social media as one of their main marketing tactics. Usually they are motivated by the opportunity to opt in at a fairly cost effective manner, and also the ability to bring them the closest to their customer. What you are seeing is a vast array of social media approaches that are being used to converse and to connect.

Often times, like in many small businesses you’ll find individuals that are good at their craft, but lack the expertise to market themselves or their brand. Once they realize who their customer is, what makes them tick, what they like and dislike, using social media can be that missing component that takes a casual customer and helps them evolve into a brand ambassador.

Here is a list of tools that any restaurant owner could use to connect with their customer that in return could produce a brand evangelist.

Social Media Tools for Restaurants

  • Make sure your restaurant can be searched and reviewed through local business guides such as Yelp.com, Urbanspoon.com, and TripAdvisor.com
  • Suggest that positive feedback from patrons be shared on these social business guide sites.
  • Twitter – sign up for a Twitter account. Publish your Twitter profile on all documents. Promote giveaways, specials and announcements via your Twitter  profile. Use it also as a tool to listen and converse with your customers.
  • E-Newsletter – Email a monthly newsletter with the latest happenings, new menu items, entertainment news, recipe of the month etc. This is also a great tool to collect email addresses for future opportunities to connect with the customer.
  • Blog – Blogging is a great way to bring the customer into the kitchen. It’s a great way bring them behind the scenes and make them feel a part. Sharing a recipe, employee profiles, and kitchen tips and tricks are just a few options to break down the wall between the kitchen and the dining room. Customers want to be part of something more then just a meal, they want to feel like they belong. A blog can be that tool.
  • Google Alerts – This is a great tool to use to listen to what is being said about your business, website or even your chef. Setting up a Google alert with just the name of your restaurant can bring priceless insight to both positive and negative talk that’s being said online about your business.
  • Facebook – Set up a Facebook fan page to connect with your customers on Facebook. Keep it updated with fresh content and always make sure you’re involved with the conversations that are taking place on “the wall.”
  • MySpace – If your clientele is more likely to be found using MySpace, create a profile page and updated it with fresh content as well. Like Facebook engage in conversations and comments.
  • YouTube – Incorporate video into your social media strategy. Like your blog, take your customer behind the scene and give them a pass to a part of the restaurant that only insiders are allowed to go. Provide a few quick tips and how-tos from the house chef. Share these videos on YouTube and other video sharing sites, as well as your blog. Use video to even show where you buy your produce and meats. This is also serves a dual role because it promotes your local farmers.
  • Mobile – Have customers provide their mobile phone number for coupons, specials and latest news via an SMS message.
  • Events – Host Tweetups for your Twitter community and Meetups for those that gather around topics via meetup.com.
  • The Business Card – Provide a business card or note-card to each customer that maps out where they can continue their dining experience online.
  • Social Calendars – Use sites such as upcoming.org and eventful.com to promote the latest happenings and events.
  • Flickr – Use photo sharing sites to show images of events, behind the scenes and market days. Let your customer see from the eyes of the chef rather then just the brand.
  • Email – Use email not only for your e-newsletter, but also to give away FREE stuff to your customers and continue to build your email list.

Remember, that the effectiveness of social media isn’t the tool; its listening, answering questions and connecting with others. These tools are just opportunities to connect your customers to your brand and by connecting with them they’ll tell others about you.

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