Restaurants have been slow to get on board the social media bandwagon. In fact, after legal professionals some might say the were the slowest to embrace social media marketing. Whether to protect secret recipes or not offend guests or not see the horrible things guests might have to say about their food or service, restaurants have so far avoided social media marketing.
Now a new breed of restauranteur is beginning to test the limits of social media marketing. They are fully embracing social media, even going as far as building their online infrastructure around it; incorporating social media marketing into their brand identity. This is good news for social media marketers, assuming their efforts pay off, which seems very likely, and it is good news for the restaurant industry itself for the same reason.
I never understood why restaurants were hesitant about using social media. I can understand when someone in the insurance, medical or legal industry says they have issues with dealing with client privacy and handling sensitive information, but what has been holding back restaurants?
Take the near ubiquitous “Free Olive Garden Coupons” post that has been floating around Facebook for years. This would seem to me to be a great place for Olive Garden to jump in–especially given that those posts are simply spam links. Here’s a hint: If a spammer can make money off your logo and brand than you can too! I would have liked to see Olive Garden take back their image and offer Facebook users a REAL coupon deal in an effort to say “sorry someone has hijacked our brand for malicious purposes.” They could start a real social media push, with an opt-in landing page for every “Like” and a concerted effort to show they cared about what was happening and wanted to make things right for their customers. Instead, I have seen nothing from them on the subject. that’s not to say they haven’t been trying, it’s just their message never reached me and I eat at their restaurants frequently so I’m a part of the demographic they should be trying to reach.
Whatever the reason restaurants were holding back from using social media marketing, the tide finally seems to be turning.
Customers also get hit with social once as they walk through the doors—stores have 70-inch TV screens that show live Facebook and Twitter feeds of what people are saying about the company. Customers can immediately post their own reviews or show off their new flavor concoction with the iPads installed in each table or their own mobile devices. Afterwards, dad can read the Wall Street Journal on the iPad, while his kids play Angry Birds. Kids beg parents to bring them into the store, said Casaburi, and parents willingly oblige, since there’s entertainment for the whole family.