Social Network Marketing for Restaurant Owners/Managers

(or, Sink Like a Stone)


You are a restaurant owner sitting in your office.  Every day it’s becoming more apparent that you will need to get deeper involved in more aspects of social media.  Those newspaper, radio and Yellow Pages ads just aren’t bringing in new faces anymore. 

You leave the office and are walking through the dining room toward the kitchen; you’ve got a thousand things on your plate already and haven’t got time to even look at your “urgent things to-do” list.  How the frig are you supposed to untangle all of this “social media marketing” stuff being thrown at you?  Online sales ads are telling you one thing about add-ons to necessities …necessities that you didn’t even know existed, the head of the waitstaff is telling you another thing, your spouse is telling you not to get involved, and your banker is telling you to hurry up and jump in…  What the frig are you supposed to do? 

In the 90’s, I considered myself techno savvy …I was ahead of the curve.  When we switched from the 1900’s to the 2000’s, the curve got curvier and I fell behind.  It takes all of my savvy and lots of fees just to keep this blog up, running and barely visible. 

So if I’m so behind the curve, why am I giving you advice?  Because I’ve made some embarrassing and expensive mistakes just getting here, -you don’t have to.  Pay someone you trust …preferably a young geek (maybe even a high school kid) to do some research and sort through the maze of services available to restaurant owners/managers.  Get this geek to narrow your choices down to a few companies that are familiar with website design, web design for mobile formats (smart phones and tablets), social networks, online reservation systems, online review sites, -with all of that stuff.  You are looking for one contact to handle all of that stuff for you, -to keep it simple for you.  You need one go-to company for all of your techno needs.  Trust is the key here.  You might have to check out more than a couple of these sources.    

I’ve seen restaurant owners/managers who have successfully done this work themselves and who turned out to be amazingly good at this sort of stuff.  The problem is that as they get better at the techno stuff, it takes them more and more time to keep up with all the techno changes happening daily and inevitably, their restaurants suffer.  The techno finds a way into the front seat and the hospitality ends up in the back seat.  While these restaurant owners are getting new butts into the seats, unsurprisingly, they are losing the foundation of their business.  Old loyal customers are straying away and the newbies pay only one visit; because the experience that used to be great …it ain’t so great anymore. 

Keep your focus on what you do best …on overseeing the thousands of details that make your restaurant more appealing than the competition’s.  The devil is in the details and attention to details keeps customers coming back.  Let the social marketing gurus do what they do best …get more butts into your seats.  It ain’t like it used to be; –no, you can’t do it all. 

You really know this but you’ve got so much stuff going on that you haven’t had time to think about it.  So smile at a geek, ask for advice, take 20 minutes and explain to someone that you don’t even know what you are looking for, but know that you should be looking.  Then smile again, get back into the kitchen, and cook some more frigg’n peas.


You’d better start swimming or sink like a stone, cause the times they are a-changing.      ---Bob Dylan


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Tags: Independent, Owner, Restaurant


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Comment by Emerald Reilly on February 2, 2012 at 1:34pm

Great post, Paul! You've offered loads of great advice when looking in to finding an outsourced solution to your social media marketing needs. It's difficult to keep your fast paced restaurant going when your taking time out to learn what new social sites are hot with your customers or best practices for social. Outsourcing your social needs can relieve a bit of stress that you might have and as someone who has been an outsourced social media marketer for a variety of restaurants over the last 2.5 years, it can also be wildly successful.

Comment by Steve Hungsberg on February 2, 2012 at 12:20pm

In my experience working with restaurants, there are easily more than 100 different places you can go online to manage your restaurant's presence.  Of those, there are probably 3-5 that you want to be managing daily.  Another 3-5 that you'll want to cover once a week or so, depending upon your market.  Everything else will be a waste of time.  

And here's where I see restaurants falling down all. the. time.  Starting something and not sticking with it.  The only thing worse than not starting up a Facebook page is starting up a Facebook page and then stop managing it a week later.

Comment by Magnus Hultberg on February 1, 2012 at 12:55am

I love this point. I know several restaurant owners among our customers who have perhaps taken it a step further and formed strong relationships with food and tech bloggers in their area to get not just the occasional blog post written about them (which gives a bit of SEO juice in the form of links to their website, and a spread among the blogger's friends on Twitter and Facebook) but also to have someone to ask for advice when it comes to websites, mobile, local marketing, Facebook intricacies and so on.

Doesn't need to be difficult. Strike up a conversation online, invite people over for a meet up in the restaurant (trying a new menu item is always popular), discuss with them how they see the online space for restaurants, and how they make use of all these new features to promote themselves and their blogs online.

What I would add though is that you as an owner still need to do a lot of reading up and validating the advice you get. What is best practice, what are current trends in design, what do websites and mobile solutions done by brands with huge budgets look like... Use the advice you get as a guide to understand what's important, and the common way to do/achieve "x" online. Always get a second opinion, either from another contact or via searches in Google.




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