Some Fun Things I Wish Restaurants + Bars Would Do With Social Media

This past weekend, I was in San Antonio with a big crew of friends running a local half-marathon.

On Saturday evening (night before the race) a few of us went to a place called Boudro’s Texas Bistro to get some healthy food that would provide energy for us during the race the next morning.

As I typically do (when I remember), I checked into the place on Foursquare.

Nine times out of ten, I never hear anything else from the restaurant. Ever.

But in this case, Boudro’s sent me a tweet the next day, thanked me for our business, and thanked me for checking-in.

Nice.

Sadly, that small action alone makes a restaurant stand out from most. But as I was thinking on this, I realized there is so much more they could (and should) be doing.

Here are some things I wish restaurants and bars would do with social media:

1. Thank me for checking-in on whatever geolocation application I am using (as referenced above). As I said, simple, but still rarely done, at least in my experience.

2. I wish bartenders would be empowered to twitpic patrons sitting at the bar, and while doing so, share a cool story about that customer. As in “This is Dave. He comes here every Sunday to watch his beloved Chicago Bears!” This demonstrates that you care about your customers, and not just about blasting out the latest specials. I mean, really, don’t just use Twitter to promote you….

3. Instead of the usual boring advertisements about specials that I see in newspapers or magazines, place a QR code in the ad, and encourage people to learn more about you in a unique way. Send the user to a special landing page that tells a good story, and offers personalized specials. Stand out… (sure, a majority of people can’t read QR codes yet. but that is changing!)

4. I sure wish waiters could snap a digital pic, and/or collect my email or twitter handle, and send me personalized digital notes after my visit. “Hope you had a good time” or “Gosh, I sure enjoyed serving you” or “I hope you had a great birthday!” I would never forget this, I would tell others about my waiter, and I sure would talk about this experience with others…

4.5. Although not digital, I’ve been to a few restaurants that send me handwritten notes following my visit. Talk about WOW…

5. As part of their daily routine, I wish more restaurants, especially those trying to build a loyal repeat customer base, would collect vital stats about their customers, and occasionally tweet/blog/email/text specific specials to people based on their customer file. For instance, if you know one of your customers graduated from Florida State, and you notice FSU wins a big game, I’d send a personal email, text, tweet, or Facebook message to your customer, and invite her to the restaurant, and say something like “In honor of your big win, come by, and the first drink is on us!”

[You just have to empower and encourage your employees to record these kinds of details in a notebook...]

5.5. Oh, and to answer the common fuss I hear about how hard it is for restaurants + bars to track customers online, just set up a special column in your Twitter management platform, place all customers there, and devote a few minutes a day to monitor what they are saying. Comment appropriately. This is magic, btw…

6. And another idea about geolocation tools like Foursquare… More and more people are checking in at state lines when they are on the road. If I am a restaurant on the other side of the state line, I sure would keep an eye out for people who are checking-in this way. I’d invite them to my restaurant, and offer a “Welcome To Our State” special.

[trust me, if someone is checking in on Foursquare from the road, they probably have the means to check Twitter and get your note...]

7. I would love for a restaurant to blog about cool things their employees (and customers for that matter) are doing to help the community. As in “We love that Jamie, a server with us for six months, volunteers for the United Way. In fact, if you dine with us, and donate a dollar to Jamie’s efforts, we’ll match the donation to the United Way, and give you dessert on the house!”

[btw, this gives you a lot of cool stuff to share on Twitter and Facebook]

8. Use big events to draw people in on Foursquare. For instance, if there is a big event, such as a football game, when people check into the stadium, offer a Foursquare special if they bring the whole family by following the game.

8.5. And if I am a restaurant in an airport, I would sure do the same when people check into the airport.

9. I do think restaurants should have a Facebook page. But if you just use it to promote specials, it will bore people, and it will be meaningless. I also think what you talk about on Facebook should be different than what people find on your Twitter stream. Here, maybe you feature, talk about, and show pics of the special events that occur at your restaurant…

10. I would love to see video blogs from restaurants that serve my favorites foods. You don’t have to share the “secret” recipe, but it would be fun, helpful and informative to see how these places prep their food, get to know their chefs and learn the stories behind the family recipes they use. This would be fun and helpful content, especially for places that advertise healthy dining. In addition to providing unlimited amounts of content for your blog, it also makes it easy to optimize video content for YouTube, yet another powerful way to be found on the internet.

11. And for gosh sakes….if you want people to hang out at your restaurant or coffee shop, please please please have more than one power outlet… And honestly, if you don’t have FREE WI-FI, I have no use for your joint…

So these are just a few ideas. What do you think? Any others?

P.S. btw, I wrote this at a Caribou Coffee shop. And I checked-in on Foursquare. Just so you know…

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[pic taken from boudros.com]

  • Javier

    Love your suggestions. All restaurants should be doing this. They think its all about “push marketing” , coupons, discounts, etc….

  • Todd Schnick

    thanks javier. i just want restaurants to take advantage of cool tools that enable them to deepen relationships with their special customers…

    thanks for reading!

  • http://www.boudros.com Gayle

    Thanks for offering the advice. Guess I need to find out what a QR code is. – Boudro’s tweeter.

  • http://2witterbug.com CharityHisle

    Great ideas. Follow-up is such an important part of the customer experience. It sounds like Caribou Coffee is getting that right.

    Perhaps in the free wi-fi login screen, businesses could ask for the Twitter handle of their customers. This would be great for hotels, eateries, malls, and even conference halls.

    Love your ideas Todd! Keep ‘em coming!

  • Todd Schnick

    i had a great time at your joint. thanks for responding. hope the ideas give you guys something to think about…

  • Todd Schnick

    you are right. i think that “free wi-fi check-in screen” is a great opportunity to engage… gonna have to think more about that….big opportunity there….

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  • Sam Rexford

    Absolutely loved your article! Most restaurants / bars in the social space are struggling with creative ways to engage their customers and reach out to new ones. I especially appreciate your ideas for Facebook – Food and beverage establishments should absolutely be using Facebook but more in a community minded way, not just for promotional push, but to highlight things going on in their daily world – success stories, positive interactions, customers etc.

    We’re working on a ‘back-end’ dashboard for location based businesses right now (First beta launch in Seattle, WA for Restaurants + Bars) which will help them manage and use social media tools to engage with customers. One of the main problems seems to be time-management for owners and managers of restaurants and bars. It’s an ambitious undertaking managing the day-to-days of a popular establishment, where to find time to successfully operate a social media campaign? We’re hoping the answer lies in streamlining all the many facets of a strong location-based marketing plan.

    Thanks for this article Todd! We couldn’t have articulated these points better. We linked to your post in our blog, full credits at the bottom!

    Sam Rexford
    http://www.search-beacon.com

  • Nancy

    What a great bunch of ideas, and from the customer’s perspective. As a business owner, I appreciate readying this and I thank you! Kind regards, Nancy (Miknan’s Main Street Pub)

  • Nancy

    Javier – As a restaurant owner, I don’t think we all feel it’s about coupons, discounts and marketing. I have a facebook page and on one customer photo I wrote something along the lines that “It is our customers that determine how successful we will be” and I wrote this because he had come in several times that weekend, and that speaks to the atmosphere, the food and the service.

  • Nancy

    These are really good ideas and I appreciate them. I am a firm believer that experience is as important as the service and the food. Customers want to feel connected to the owners, the employees and the place itself. I will share this about our page … I put photos up constantly of our employees, and the more I put up, the more they come to the page. Were new at this location so the likes are still low but the views are incredible…. 1200+ a week … they are engaged and they are interested … and I am saying a little something about each one of them in a photo and a few lines — the affect has been amazing!

    Thanks, again!! Kind regards, Nancy

  • Todd Schnick

    great stuff nancy! glad some of these ideas resonated! where are you located?