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Social Media
Credit: Lisa Richov

There is a hefty white notepad situated on top of my nightstand that has ‘rested’ there since the day I moved in.  Across the top, I’ve penned the words The Power of Social Media for Restaurants. For others, this notepad may serve as a passing interest; for me, it has become a journal of my extensive learning’s about a world driven by online content.

There is a certain magic that develops when two impressive industries collide. Online marketing drives 926 million restaurant visits per year to 624,000 restaurants across the United States. Building a strong brand is essential in staying relevant.  And while building a brand is a good start, capitalizing on what you’ve created is what will convert hard work into real capital.

Here you will find 12 ways to build your restaurants brand online:

Stop Hiding Behind Filters: Be Authentic on Instagram.

Building a friendship with other Instagram users is crucial.  A simple way to garner real followers is to interact with them on a daily basis.  Find a brand that relates to you; comment on their posts and like their photos.  It’s that straightforward.  Use hashtags that your quintessential customer is searching for but keep it relevant to each post.  If a user comments on your post, reply and acknowledge them.  Chances are that they will engage.  Instagram users tend to interact more when they can relate to the content.  Curated photos taken on a smart phone will typically garner more interaction than a flyer or press release.  Keep it entertaining and social.

Extra! Extra! Read All About It: Be Professional with Facebook Newsfeeds.

Everyone loves great content. With so many social media outlets, where you place that content could define your business.  Prioritize.  Press releases and flyers with a call-to-action button typically command a strong ROI. By boosting a post to your target demographic, you are essentially hand-picking the people you want in your establishment.  Engage and stay active.

Leverage Influencers, Press and Bloggers.  

A clear way to garner new customers is to collaborate with pages and handles that have a large following.  Many of these outlets have large followings that will immediately draw new patrons to your restaurant.  Online articles, photos and write-ups are a few examples of great media to post.

Know Your Neighborhood; Target Your Customers.

The best way for me to explain this is from personal experience. I own and operate two successful bar/restaurants in New York City, Atwood Kitchen & Bar Room and Shay & Ivy.  Through extensive neighborhood research I have chosen to target demographics based on our locations: Corporate Clients and Millennials. Corporate business and company events are an area of this business that is often neglected. If you know there is a small-to-large size company within the radius of your establishment, the best way to reach them is oftentimes through online outlets like Google or LinkedIn.  The priority should always be to get an in-person meeting that you will potentially turn into business. A millennial is anyone born between 1975-1995, a body that accounts for 80 million people in the United States*.  Restaurant Marketing Labs shows that on average, millennials spend more on dining out each month than non-millennials, $174 compared to $153. *** With somewhat affordable housing in my surrounding area (whatever you call that nowadays in NYC), millennials are an obvious target.

Houston, We Have a Problem. Stay Consistent with Your Message.

Oftentimes a team member will take it upon himself or herself to post verbiage online about your business.  Put procedures in place to unify the message.  It is great when a team representative wants to get involved, but only when there is a consistent message. Take ownership of what you want people to see and stick to it.

It’s All in The Hips, Or, The Subject Line.

45% of consumers have made dining decisions based on an email. * Create targeted lists based on your customers and curate information based on that history.   Always link a call-to-action into the email to make booking a reservation easy for your customer.  I have tested Mailchimp, Constant Contact and iContact, all which do a nice job.

Modern Day Networking.

Stop looking at LinkedIn as a resume builder and start using it as a networking tool. As a business owner, LinkedIn has proven to be the greatest online resource in bringing in new business. Fifteen minutes a day connecting with potential decision makers should lead to 30-50 quality connections a week.

If You’re Slowly Growing, You May Be Slowly Dying. 

Don’t let your competitors get the edge.  Research, research, research and always stay ahead of the curve.

The Gift and The Curse: Yelp.

A few weeks back, I read a quote that said “You have $86,400 in your bank account and someone stole $10 from you.  Would you throw away the $86,390 in hopes of getting back at the person who took your $10? Or would you move on and live?  Right, move on and live.  See, we have 86,400 seconds in every day.  So don’t let someone’s negative 10 seconds ruin the rest of the 86,390.  Don’t sweat the small stuff. Life is bigger than that.” Respond to the good. Respond to the bad.  Take note of great feedback and most of all always stay level headed.

Connect with Potential Employees. 

I’ve had the chance to hire many quality employees via personal social media content. You’re sure to draw quality employees by reaching out to people in your trade and regularly checking your inbox and DM’s.

Be Passionate. Be Positive. Be Original. 

I’ve installed the words “Just be yourself, everyone else is taken” onto the wall of one of my restaurants.  People recognize positive and original social media campaigns.  If you’re passionate about something relevant then put it online and people will take notice.

Always Work Harder.

Cooking, overseeing staff, accepting deliveries, negotiating contracts and more, may feel like a small spec on your list of priorities. The next time you pass up an online marketing opportunity, remember; 80% of restaurants have successfully increased revenue using social media. Be relentless, stay hungry and let your creativity flow.  These are the qualities of a winner.

What I’ve practiced for years in private will reward you in public when you consider these steps.  Don’t be left behind.

By Evan Rosenberg, Co-Founder & Managing Partner of At Your Service Hospitality Group (www.ayshg.com | @evanmrosenberg | @atwood_ny | @shayandivyny)

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