Monday, December 15, 2008

The Restaurant Social Communication Gap

There are some fun things happening on Twitter. People are questioning if brands have a place on the service. Superstar Chris Brogan was able to tell the tale of IZEA and clear up sponsored posts with Jeremiah Owyang through commotion on Twitter. As an agency we are looking at the brand power of Twitter and harnessing its listening and action power.

As we are steering more and more into the hospitality industry (a good thing, giving us focus), we are trying to NOT be the company that says, hey you need to Twitter just because everyone else is jumping on the bandwagon. As some agencies in the past jumped on the blog bandwagon, it is almost all but proven today that corporate blogs suck. We don't want our corporate or brand twitter accounts to SUCK. There is so much transparency, trust and education that can be wrapped in 140 characters.

The problem with the hospitality industry
It may not just be hospitality, but I can only call it as I see it. The biggest problem is a lack of communication between management, marketing and the employees who interact with a customer.

Ted Murphy has been digging into Pancheros
lately due to their active partaking in Twitter. I have said before that I think Joel is awesome and their Social Media initiatives are a great example of how to get started and just listen. But...Ted alluded to a pretty powerful point,
I told both the cashier and the owner of my local Pancheros that I tweeted about Pancheros and they both had no idea what the heck I was talking about.
Pancheros on Twitter(photo courtesy of

This happens a lot with marketing that is handled in home office and not in the field. Joel is doing a great job of interaction and being a face to his company, yet 99% of Pancheros employees have no idea that Joel is the Jared of Pancheros.

I would imagine the Corporate communication chain to look something like:

Corporate big shots --> Joel's boss --> Marketing Team --> Joel --> Regional Managers --> Store Managers --> Cooks --> Cashiers and other staff.

Local Marketing
Orlando Ichiban on TwitterWe are working with a small sushi restaurant here in downtown Orlando (disclosure, they are a paying client, however this post is the workings of my own mind and has not been influenced by the fact that they help pay the company's rent). This small restaurant has a mean lunch crowd and some great specials. To help get the word out, we have been targeting people on Twitter in downtown Orlando who are looking to do lunch with friends. This has led to twitter coupon codes, words of the day, facts of the day, other special promotions and a decent Twitter following.

Orlando Ichiban is a small business for all intensive purposes so the communication channel probably looks something like this:
Owner --> Management --> Cooks --> Servers --> Hosts and other workers.

We deal directly with both management and the owners. So then how in this small chain can the message of their advertising campaign get lost?

Simple answer
No one knows what is going on! Management doesn't deem that their advertising is important enough to pass along to people that may not be affected by it. How many times have you been at a restaurant with a coupon, gave it to the server only to turn to their server buddy who says,
"I've never seen that"
who then proceeds to go to the day manager who says,
"I'm going to need to call the GM on this,"
who then tells you that the coupon is only valid at the "other store."

How to get the team in the game
When a sports team GM signs a new player, launches a new promo or decides to give away free tickets - everyone knows about it. The players know, the fans know, the concession people know and the ticket people know.

They know because they care.
Management and the players care about making the fan experience memorable. The fans care about the players and the team and being a part of that tradition. The food vendors care about making the best hot dog so you remember how wonderful it was so next game day you buy another one. If there is a special everyone knows, because everyone is talking. Fans talk, players talk, the commercials and print ads are talking.

Restaurants need to talk. I know you host shift meetings. Talk. What is going on? What are guests talking about? It does't matter if it is good or bad, just talk.

What do you talk about?
If your brand is on Twitter, do a Twitter search and see what the conversations are about. Did your Twitter handle have a conversation about a certain menu item? If so, that would be a good conversation for both cooks and servers to know about, so everyone is prepared. Listen on Google Blog and News Search. Did someone blog an amazing review of your food? That is super powerful. Did you put coupons online, in the local penny saver, in an entertainment guide, did you do a contest with bloggers that have coupon codes or words of the day.

The idea is to
  • Inform your staff
  • Create excitement that will flow into your customers and maybe they will spend more money
  • Keep management at ground level - no one is above knowing what the customer is talking about
  • Know what you have out there
  • Continue to be creative and innovative

We are working hard to educate our clients on the importance of being knowledgeable and hopefully helping others do the same. In times like these, the more weapons you have over your competition the better. Budgets for eating out are trimming. Knowing how to best serve the customers you do have to give them the maximum consumer experience will help you get through these times and even thrive.

Open forum, what tools are you using to communicate with restaurants?

-Greg Rollett


Joel J December 16, 2008 at 6:24 AM  

YES. Good post, G-Ro. Thanks.

Chris G. December 16, 2008 at 6:49 AM  

Good stuff man! Totally agree. I can definitely do a better job to let everyone know what Rock for Hunger is doing with Twitter etc. Most people know when something new happens, cause they follow my facebook feed. You think I should do less personal stuff on the RFH twitter?

Greg Rollett December 16, 2008 at 7:30 AM  

@ Chris - I think the personal stuff on Twitter is fine. It helps to create a person behind the brand, much like Joel at Pancheros. People relate to people, not brands. Brand trust comes from the trust of people at the brands. So keep the personal stuff, just find a way to make sure that the way you communicate resonates with everyone you come into contact with.

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