Eat, Drink, and Be Social
Last week, Dialogue brought together Boston’s restaurant community, food bloggers and techies for the “Eat, Drink and Be Social” event to talk about how social technologies are impacting the restaurant experience- both for diners and for business owners. Of all the speakers, the one who stood out to me was Justin Levy of New Marketing Labs, who shared an anecdote about bringing Caminino Steakhouse into the black (he now serves as partner/GM) using a marketing approach laced with social media. Central to the strategy was Prime Cuts, an unbranded food blog that shares video filmed in the restaurant’s kitchen. Justin admitted that using his personal brand enhanced the restaurant’s social strategy, but he was quick to point out that social wasn’t the only factor in its growth (which he now estimates at 20% year-over-year). “Building a community was important, but that went hand-in-hand with SEO,” he noted.
When asked which specific technologies had made the restaurant most successful, Justin paused. “It wasn’t necessarily a technology," he said, it’s caring about your customers. At the most basic level, that means caring about what customers want, say and think. From an advertising standpoint, it means letting go of platform-specific thinking, and embracing the ways customers are using technologies to interact with a brand.
Is social media the secret sauce for restaurants? I recently heard about 4Food, an organic burger eatery opening in Manhattan later this summer. Plans include servers taking orders on iPads and a 240-square-foot monitor in the restaurant to stream Foursquare check-ins, tweets and updates from the 4Food staff. Will that sell more burgers? Probably not. What might though, is the company’s plans to use a custom online application to crowdsource menu development. In addition to getting an order “their way,” customers are able name and market their creations, receiving $.25 worth of store credit for every sale of their unique menu item.
Rewarding patrons for thinking inventively about your product? How’s that for caring?
Photo © Derek Wilmot www.derekwilmot.com.