Social Media and Restaurants

This week at the NRA Show there was a lot of chatter about the future of social media and how it will be used in the restaurant world. Right now most, like myself, are just trying to find our way. Youtube is five years old and growing up fast. Facebook, twitter, and all the rest are changing by the day if not minute. There is a new tool being created constantly. So how do you figure out what, how and when? Who cares, stop over thinking this and get in on the action before it is too late.

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  • Jeffrey,
    Sorry for the delay, I was out of pocket for a few days. Thank you for walking through the door and into the room. I'll meet you at the cool aid table with Richard and we can raise a glass together. Cheers.....
  • Hi, Michael...
    Respectfully, you've chosen to characterize my comments as being provocative rather than address my specific views or conclusions. I'd like to think that my comments deserve your constructive feedback. I even went out of my way to say I'm not being "anti-social media" just to be that way -- but to ask for more critical thought. That seems explicit... as are my other conclusions. But I realize time is precious and maybe we can take it up later.

    That stated, I'll walk through the door you just opened. No, I'm not drinking the cool aid at all. That's why I just high-fived Richard. Because he's not either :) and you seem to agree completely with Richard.
  • Emerald – Thank you for adding even more clarification. Great stuff

    Michael A – Thank you for the video, I love ice cream

    Richard – Thank you for extending the WOM perspective. I agree with you on the filters, if the tools do not provide them the community will not support it. Thanks for sharing.

    Jeffrey – I’m not sure if you are disagreeing just to disagree or you are just not completely drinking the cool aid? To jump in on Richards’s example, WOM has always been an effective marketing tool that has never gone away. No matter what the “hot” tool was at the time (print, billboard, TV, etc…) WOM has always been there. Social Media tools are not the only tools they just bring WOM to the forefront. All the other tools are still available they just cost a lot more and are not as effective. And the measurement for that is the decline in use and the increase in production despite that decline.

    For everyone- No matter where you fall on this topic, you have to appreciate that we have venues like FOHBOH just to express our thoughts. I love it!!! Can’t wait for the next blog.
  • Richard...
    I just previewed a 4 part series on 2000 years of history -- and what it teaches us about social media today. If you watch here (or just at in general) you can read it in days ahead. The author is rather well-known, Jonathan Salem Baskin. I'm privileged to be on his Kitchen Cabinet ;) and figured you'd be interested to read these -- given your insightful comments.

    Many gurus call me crazy for saying such stuff -- that all media is social media. You've taken it even further! Nice :)
  • I find this debate completely fascinating. Social media is not new, in fact it is as old as mankind itself. Think of Pheidippides who ran a marathon to announce the victory over the Persians (and then unfortunately collapsed and died). Think of chatter at taverns in the middle ages. Think of party lines. Word of Mouth or "WOM" in this industry has now had technology applied to it. And the beauty of the web is that what is said can be tracked, evaluated, measured and categorized. I agree with those that say that simply following a twitter feed does not a "media" make, but in the aggregate we have an incredibly valuable marketing tool, And beyond that it is a tool that can and will define communities and ultimately define products and services needed by those communities. But one thing will not go away--we all need to eat. Eating is more than nourishment, it IS social, it is a shared experience. Many or us are looking to our dining experiences as a core part of our social existence--so that is where the technologies of social media come into play. Learning how to listen and when to react is key.

    ANd the successful tools will allow for filters to separate noise from information. There are many analogies to this in other areas...and as products get further refined so will the algorithms for measurement and filtering.
  • Hi, Emerald...
    Indeed. Again, I'm not disagreeing with any of you on the point of "payback." You are expecting one. In that your stated use involves a qualitative outcome -- an authentic assessment of customer outcome. Did they have a problem or did they have a great experience.

    Also, I ask that people be careful when suggesting that social media extends to "everything." We hear this a lot. "It's all good."

    Social media can be worthwhile -- if we design it to extend beyond a novelty item.

    But most of the time I see it being used in gratuitous ways that do not involve a qualitative outcome -- by design. And then we quickly attribute success to it in very ignorant ways that defy common sense logic.

    As an example, Morton's steak house (unfortunately the story has been taken down) recently had a write up called "Morton's Makes The Most of Social Media" where it did anything but that.

    I'm not suggesting anything "anti-social media" (I get that a lot) but merely asking that the hype and "it's-all-good" type of comments be set aside for a moment -- just long enough for us to give it a critical look. To examine if we're truly using it in ways that are meaningful to ourselves and customers.

    Many thanks for your thoughts.
  • Hi Jeffrey, to me the digital version of the "check back" is everything social media encompasses. You can use the same formalized procedure on Twitter as you would at the table in the every day world. Just today I was able to "check back" with dozens of people who dined in my client's restaurants. For example, a guest tweets that they are at my client's restaurant for their brother's birthday, or maybe they checked in on Foursquare. Through social media I am able to ask how everything was with their visit. They were able to tell me what they loved about it or maybe even what they didn't care for too much. It is as simple as that.

    Every day people are uploading pictures of their meals to Facebook or tweeting about their experiences when dining out at restaurants. By using social media tools you are able to see right in front of you who enjoyed their experiences with your staff or who didn't like the taste of one of your dishes. With tools like Twitter, Facebook, Yelp etc. you are able to interact with your guests in the same way: thank them for their patronage, inquire about their visit, wish for them to return, apologize if something went wrong. When using social media tools you interact with your guest exactly the same hospitable way you would if you were doing a "check back" at a table, just in a virtual world.

    I do agree with both Minichello and Biesemeyer, a payback is not always what you're looking for when you are doing a "check back." It is the core of this business to just be genuinely interested in whether or not your guests had a fantastic experience with you. That will bring them back.
  • All valid points that I am not disagreeing with. Again it is a matter of semantics. You can call it what you want but a “check back” or “table touch” are all forms of engagement. The thing is that it all takes place with in the four walls. If you do not go outside of the four walls, you will not have the opportunity for a “check back” or a “table touch”. That is were the old value of “Mom and Pop” operations comes in to the picture and Social Media is just those operations on steroids!
  • Precisely, Michael. Thanks for clarifying. Your example is a perfect one. My point, if you will, is that the "checkback" is a formalized procedure. A game plan. It has a specific qualitative goal in mind -- measurable satisfaction. Not love or joy. Certainly that's part of it but it's not the end-goal of a business owner.

    In this way, the emotional aspects that we hear so much about are actually a byproduct of respectable, profitable, qualitative good business practices.

    You see, I don't see social media creating opportunities. I see the opportunities already existing and social media just coming along and helping.

    This is a fundamental viewpoint of mine that typically doesn't blend well with those who I refer to as "the gurus"... who believe that social media is responsible for creating new value.

    With few exceptions, it's not. It's a far greater opportunity, for most businesses, to extend value that already exists.

    Hence, IMO it's less about "engaging" for the sake of it and more about aligning your existing business actions with your customers' actions -- using digital.

    Which brings us back to the "checkback." I now ask (to anyone who might consider): "What's the digital version of the checkback?"

    And I suggest we know it's worth exploring -- given how important the checkback is in real life. Not because someone wrote a book about it and proclaimed it to be more important than what we already know is important.
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