Times are tough, everyone knows the story. Enormous rents, upward only rent reviews, one restaurant closing every day, and all of this compounded by red tape galore. It’s a difficult time for the food retail industry, and slashing costs, and streamlining operations is vital to staying alive. Many are cutting what they see as unnecessary marketing spend, and every penny spent on promotion needs to be carefully accounted for. But cost cutting can only get you so far. What about promotion, gaining and maintaining new customers and bums on seats? How do you get footfall in the door without spending a bomb on untargeted or risky marketing and advertising?
Well, imagine almost all your current customers in one place, and add in almost all your prospective customers in the next room waiting to be told about you. Sounds exciting doesn’t it?!
We’ve all heard the buzzwords around Facebook, Twitter, Social Media and Online Marketing. But, chances are you are still debating the question of whether or not free online tools are relevant for my business? Well the answer is categorically yes, and if you are in the service industry, and not using them, you may be getting left behind.
The hospitality industry is all about looking after your customers, building loyalty, customer service, and creating interest in what your provide. Taking this conversation online, when so many of your customers are already there is a logical step.
Some recent research, which we at mylunch.ie conducted, indicated that 82% of people were more likely to visit a restaurant if it communicated with them directly online, while 86% were more likely to try out a restaurant they had never been before if they found an online special offer for the venue.
71% of people followed and interacted with food retailers on social media, while a staggering 93% of those who responded were more likely to provide feedback (good and bad) online, than in store.
These stats are all pointing towards the importance of an online presence, and it should now be obvious that these numerous free tools, such as Facebook, Twitter, Email Marketing, and sites like our mylunch.ie (which is free to be listed on), and menupages.ie can prove very beneficial for purposes of reputation building, loyalty building, customer service, event promotion, word of mouth and crucially marketing of the business. The only cost to you is time, and that’s time spent talking to your customers.
So, where do you start in the online arena? Well, first of all, define your eatery! Perhaps you have a good idea of what your brand represents in your mind, but simply take a sheet of paper and describe your traits. Are your quirky, cheeky, straight up or a bit mysterious? What is your ideal customer, and what do they like to hear about? (ie what are their likes and interests, how do they like to be interacted with, what sites would they use, would they like a free cocktail every now and again with their dinner?)
There are no rules to this at all, and it may seem a bit silly, but it’s to fit the frame around what tone of voice you will use online. A 5 star hotel probably should not be posting gossip about X-Factor finalists on their page for example, while a quirky burger joint should not be getting into arguments over the finer points of America’s economic recovery on Twitter.
Once you have a general idea of this, start by setting up a Facebook Business Page. Not a profile page (a business with a personal profile page is against Facebook’s rules), but a business page, which gives users the chance to like you on the site, and also opens up a whole world of advantages over the normal profile page.
You must have your own personal profile to do this, so set up one as well if you haven’t already.
Next, have a look around Facebook for some of your business’ peers and good examples of other food venues using Facebook. Some we like include Brasserie Sixty6, Gourmet Burger Kitchen Ireland, Carluccios and Wagamama Ireland. Get a feel for what they’re doing, what content they’re posting and how they interact.
A good idea to get the page off the ground would be to invite all your real life friends to join, and share it on their pages, or to put up a poster in store saying “Join us on Facebook”. Simple but effective! You could also begin by giving anyone who is a Facebook fan a discount on a certain meal for a period of time etc, there are no rules!
One of the biggest issues with food retailers on Facebook is being too sales orientated. DON’T BE! Listen, join the conversation, post up a funny Youtube video or two, or something of interest to your pre defined user, and be interesting, not pushy!
Once your Facebook account is up and running, go to Twitter, and open an account.
Twitter is a more fast moving “microblogging” site, which uses the question of “What’s Happening?” to entice you into interacting. You can decide later whether Twitter is for you, as it’s more time consuming than Facebook, but it’s no harm to try it out.
Be sure to give yourself a name which includes your business name, we go by @mylunchie, with the profile being named Shane @ mylunch.ie, and start by identifying and following some Irish influencers in the Twittersphere, and telling the world “What’s Happening?” at your venue.
The start is the hardest part, and once you get up and running, the user base will grow exponentially.