OpenTable partnered with Kristen Hawley, founder of the popular Chefs + Tech newsletter, to create How to Grow & Thrive in the Restaurant Business, the ultimate guide to serving guests and growing your business at every phase of a restaurant’s lifecycle. We’re teasing excerpts all week, so follow along and download the whole guide here.
It’s never a bad time to reach a new audience from a fresh perspective, and social media is the best way to do that, whether your restaurant is 10 or 110 years old. “Social media is essential today,” says Chef Eric Ripert of New York’s Le Bernardin. “We have a direct relationship with someone with an interest in what we do, almost like a direct connection with a potential customer.”
Social Tips to Transcend Restaurant Stage
Be inspirational. Share what excites you. “We don’t expect all of our followers to end up in the dining room,” says Ripert. “But we believe that being inspirational creates an interest and visibility. Of course, potentially it will have some positive impact on the life of the restaurant by adding people coming to Le Bernardin.”
Share news. Established restaurants can use social to create news events the same way a new restaurant does. Share specials, anniversaries, new menus, new dining room changes, a new staff member—anything! “It’s basically like having your own magazine,” says Ripert. “We now have a massive audience of followers who receive news directly from us.”
Don’t overthink the process. “We use social media the exact same way we were using appearances on TV or articles in a magazine or newspaper,” says Ripert. “It’s just an extra element to promote the fact that we exist.”
Have fun. You’ve grown your following by doing what works best for you. Now’s a great time to push the boundaries and try new things to see how people respond. Stick to your strategy here, but don’t be afraid to get creative or take inspiration from others who do it well.
New Social Technologies
If you’ve mastered the social platforms that are necessary for your restaurant, consider experimenting with new ones. Or, start using more features of existing services to tell your restaurant’s story in a new way.
Share Casual Stories with Instagram Stories & Snapchat
Snapchat has become a solid social network in its own right. The learning curve may take a little longer than some of the “traditional” networks, but if you or someone on your staff is excited about the product, it’s an innovative way to reach a particular audience. In short: users post short stories that eventually disappear. You can send these Snaps directly to others—but more importantly for your business you can create a series of Snapchat Stories that are displayed to followers. Because they’re so fleeting, posts on Snapchat are a great way to experiment with creating new types of content. Plus, the off-the-cuff nature of the platform gives followers an insider peek inside the restaurant—your kitchen, staff, and community—that more established channels can’t always offer.
Instagram recently launched a similar feature, allowing users to post a series of images or video meant to feel more casual than a regular Instagram post. Stories are an important way to stay active and relevant on the Instagram platform, especially now that the service algorithmically weighs posts and displays them for relevance, not just timeliness. (Snapchat is a vibrant and robust platform, but if you have time for one, choose Instagram Stories—especially if you already have a viable Instagram presence.)
Live-Stream with Facebook Live & Twitter Periscope
Live-streaming is hot right now, and the functionality is available on both Facebook and Twitter. This means that you can use new technology to reach those same fans and followers you’ve already amassed. The same general social content rules apply here: identify the story you want to tell, then show the story. Live-streaming is adaptable to planned and scheduled posts (think: a “how-to” series or reveal of your seasonal menu), but it’s also great for unscripted moments like a trip to the market, the moment a particularly exciting seasonal ingredient arrives in your kitchen, or just having a fun with your bar or front-of-house staff.