Social networking tools such as Twitter and Facebook are a boon to operators, who can use them for spur of the moment promotions and viral marketing.
Using social networks well does require some thought, however.
Operators with successful social networking promotions do emphasize the importance of shaping promos and posts on social media sites to fit with the brand image. “It’s really important for us that our page looks professional and conveys the image of the restaurant,” says Beth Gruitch-Verucchi, owner of Denver-based Rioja and Bistro Vendôme restuarants, which serve Mediterranean and French cuisine, respectively. “We’re also aware that with so many communications going out so quickly to so many people, we have to be even more careful about simple errors like misspellings.”
Danny Abrams, owner of the two-location Mermaid Inn on New York City’s East Village and on the Upper West Side, agrees. “The last thing you want to do is run off half-cocked and hurt the brand,” he says.
The time commitment also can be an issue. “Once you start, there’s really no way to stop,” says chef Michela Larson of Rocca Kitchen and Bar in Boston. “You have to keep it updated.”
Abrams agrees. “It is a time commitment, because if the content is left alone, people get bored.” For this reason, some operators often hire someone to post communications and answer responses for them.
Zak Pelaccio, owner of New York’s The Fatty Crab, is one of those who hires someone to post for the restaurant. Overwhelming responses to Facebook and Twitter posts pushed Zak to pass the social networking baton to another administrator. “There were so many messages, my Blackberry was buzzing all day and night. It was just too much.”
But even with time challenges, operators say the benefits of social networking sites outweigh the costs. Chef Alison Barshak, of Alison Two, an upscale restaurant and bar in Ft. Washington, Pa., thinks the networks actually save time. With two restaurants and not as much time to personally visit guest tables, she loves the personal written contact Twitter and Facebook make possible. “With a closed kitchen, even though I can’t visit my guests’ tables as much, I can still talk to them.”
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