Digital Insights

Socially Edible: The Menu To Online Networking And Conversations For Restaurants


Published: September 28, 2010

Social networking is extremely powerful when used correctly. Smaller businesses and burgeoning brands don’t know where to start. This guide will help your restaurant use Social Media to bring in new customers.

Foursquare, The Check-in Service

Foursquare is a location-based (sometimes referred to as ‘geo-location’) service that allows users to ‘check in’ to any venue while earning points, badges and the title of a venue’s “mayor” (someone who has checked in the most into a single venue over the past two months). The check-in service creates a competitive environment to explore new locales and share them with friends through its built-in social network.


Foursquare provides access to powerful analytics. After going through the “Claim a Venue” process to confirm your business information (which has the tendency to be a bit convoluted despite Foursquare’s attempt to simplify this process), a venue owner can view their customer demographics such as age, gender and time of visit to the venue.

In-bound Marketing

Foursquare extends deal and specials. Coupons that have been distributed by outbound marketing means in the past—television, radio, newspapers, mail—are instead seen in real-time by Foursquare users within a venue’s immediate area. This is free advertising that people are actively seeking out. For example, Chili’s offers a free order of chips and salsa for any table that checks into the restaurant on Foursquare. The possibilities are limitless and the promotions welcomed. What are you willing to offer to get customers into your venue?

Linking to Other Social Networks

Foursquare users can choose to link their Foursquare account to their Facebook and Twitter profiles and Foursquare provides this information in the Analytics page, paving the way for targeted marketing.

Twitter, The Real-Time Network

Twitter extends your restaurant’s presence online by giving your establishment a voice that is often lost in direct advertising. A brand personality leads to improved customer engagement and paves the way for new followers.

Twitter is the best tool for sending quick updates to your venue’s community. Some updates can include new menu items, coupons and happy hour reminders. Your Twitter network receives your announcement instantly, can reply to what you say and retweet it to their entire Twitter network to reach an even larger audience.

Facebook, The Friend Communicator

If Twitter is the de facto micro-update network then Facebook is the be-all and end-all friend network. Its market penetration of 500 million users is the largest of any social network.

FBML (Facebook Mark-Up Language)

Facebook makes it easy for businesses, like your restaurant, to be a part of the Facebook community. Your restaurant can integrate HTML into your Facebook Page by adding the Static FBML application. This enables you to design and program a fully-functioning landing page within your restaurant’s Facebook Page. What should you put on your FBML page? The possibilities are endless.

Customer Service With Facebook

Social media acts as an open channel to provide stellar customer service by directly engaging with your customer base. Seek out your customers and inquire about their visit to your venue. Was the restaurant clean? Were the employees friendly? What did your customer order and would they order it again? If positive, thank them for their feedback and invite them to come back soon. If negative, apologize and thank them for the feedback. Tell the customer you will rectify the situation to make sure it never happens again. Your customers will be shocked (in a good way) at the intimate outreach and impressed that you’re listening. The ability to engage and learn from your customer is the key to building loyalty to your brand and learning how to improve your business.


Like Twitter, Facebook also includes an instant update feature. If Facebook can do what Twitter does, why would anyone need a presence on both networks? The answer: not everyone has both a Twitter and Facebook account. While some do, some of your customers won’t. Each network functions differently with advantages and disadvatanges to both. Having a presence on both networks gives your restaurant guarantees a higher brand visibility than if you only choose one.

Local Search: The Review Guide For Customers

Word-Of-Mouth is a Powerful Thing

Customers trust unbiased sources. Google and Yelp provide local search tools for people to use when looking for local attractions, but they’re more than just an online version of the Yellow Pages. Aside from aggregating local data, the greatest thing about these services is the ability to write Reviews. Feedback from your customers is readily available for you and viewable to anyone who searches for your restaurant. Business owners are then able to e-mail their reviewers directly—again, proactively engaging your customers (see the recurring theme?).

Local Search Now As Mobile Apps

Many local search tools are available as Mobile Apps making it easy for anyone to find your restaurant when they’re out and about. This is where keeping your venue’s information updated comes in handy. Anyone searching for a restaurant will be more inclined to pick a venue that not only caters to their taste but also offers accurate information, including your address, phone number, website and business hours. Yelp also enables information on the price range of your menu, whether or not your establishment is good for kids, if you offer delivery service and more.

LinkedIn, The Industry Professional Connector

Professional Networking

LinkedIn shares many of the features you can find on Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare: status updates, social networking, messaging and check-in tools. LinkedIn takes these concepts and applies them to professional networking. While you may be able to reach most of your customers through other social networks, LinkedIn is the only network that gives you access to a large number of professionals in your industry. This will be useful when you want to promote your business, offer catering for corporate events, gain advice from long time food aficionados or acquire knowledge to help your business.

Case Study: Golden Spoon

To illustrate the power of social media, here’s a look into the social media marketing efforts of Golden Spoon in Coachella Valley. I have helped manage the social interactions for Golden Spoon across the networks I have mentioned. Golden Spoon’s results clearly show that social media marketing is an effective way to create buzz, improve customer service, encourage store visits and gather invaluable demographics information.

Foursquare, Facebook and Twitter Cross-Integration

These three networks integrate ever-so nicely and create one of the best customer interaction tools on a localized scale.

Our scenario: a customer checks in on Foursquare to one of the Golden Spoon locations in the Coachella Valley. Foursquare allows me to track who checked in, at what time of day, and their Twitter or Facebook accounts if linked to their Foursquare profile. I then contact them using Golden Spoon’s Facebook or Twitter accounts to ask, “How was your frozen yogurt?” or “Did you try our newest flavor?” or “Did you see our Foursquare specials? We have free frozen yogurt for the Mayor!” Each reply generated a response coupled with feedback for Golden Spoon. I then add the customer to the Golden Spoon Twitter and Facebook accounts if they aren’t already a follower or fan. (Social Consolidation, oh my!)

Mobile Fan Club

While Golden Spoon’s Coachella Valley locations are promoted through the standard social media channels, customers can still receive updates about promotions through a mobile fan club which sends out text updates. The execution is simple and compliments the social channels already in use. The owner of these venues shares just how effective mobile messaging can be: “I’ve been in my store in the middle of the day when it’s absolutely dead. I’ll send a message to my mobile fan club saying, ‘Come into the store in the next hour for a buy one get one free frozen yogurt!’ The store will fill up in 20 minutes.”

Foursquare Analytics And Promotions

Here is a look into Foursquare’s analytics. These stats show who checked in, when, their age to and their most recent check-ins. What makes this really powerful is that you can interact with every single person who checked in to your restaurant if you’re using Foursquare.

Facebook And Twitter Engagement

In conjunction with Foursquare, Golden Spoon has utilized Twitter and Facebook to announce its promotions. We often give a short description of a deal and link back to the blog to provide detailed information. The important thing to remember is to include enough information in the Tweet for people to understand the offer without having to go to the blog (Tweets are limited to 140 characters). The post is only meant to elaborate on it; however, you may find it suitable to not include a Blog link at all, depending on the offer.

We also asked Facebook fans and Twitter followers their opinion on Golden Spoon’s flavors and their experience in the stores. However, we were careful not to make every status about Golden Spoon, or else fans and followers would think of our social media efforts as spam. We varied our posts with general questions to promote conversation and build a community. “How is Coachella Valley doing today? How are you going to beat the heat?” This is still relevant to Golden Spoon (eating frozen yogurt when it’s hot helps you cool down) but doesn’t hit you over the head with a self-promoting tone.

Now you have learned what Social Media is and how it can be used to increase business for your restaurant and how I’ve used it to increase interest. If you aren’t using Social Media for your restaurant, why are you waiting? You’ve learned about the tools, understood the process and read the results. Social Media will increase interest and traffic; there is no reason to wait any longer to engage online.

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