We live in a world dominated by instant news, celebrity culture, the internet and smartphones. Presidents are Tweeting and celebrities are Instagramming pictures of their every meal. But apart from conspiracy theories and celebrity culture social media has a very important role to play in the development of business, particularly in a fast paced, changing environment such as the restaurant industry.
Facebook hit the internet in 2004, Twitter 2006 and Instagram more recently in 2010. There are many others as you know but my point is that social media is a relatively new concept. However, those three sites alone claim to have 3.5 Billion monthly users! As restaurateurs and business owners we should embrace the power of social media but there is definitely an effective, and not so effective, way to do it.
Back in the day before the internet we did our networking in person, often being invited to different functions or even sporting events. It was an opportunity to meet suppliers, other business owners and potential customers. As with social media these events could prove productive, or not. We’ve all seen that person who indulged just a little too much in the free bar becoming loud and borish. Everyone else starts avoiding them and trying to tune them out – social media can be the same. Careful what you post.
In my experience, what you post needs to be engaging, informative and positive. If you have something definite to say then get it out there. Special events, menu items, awards received are all great things to share with your fans. If you take photos of food please be careful. Look closely at the picture you want to share and be critical, because your customers certainly will be. If you think the dish looks appealing and you would want to order that particular item, then it is probably ok. Food is notoriously difficult to photograph.
If you’ve had a rubbish day at work, do not share it via your professional social media profile. Your customers are not that interested, although there are exceptions. With the recent pandemic we have all had extremely bad days and have needed to share negative news at short notice. One of the worst posts, however, that I saw was a chef / restaurateur who obviously had trouble with a group of customers who retaliated through social media and accused them of stealing the salt and pepper from the table.
Restaurants and other small businesses have had to close or change their operation to one of takeaway only and have needed to get that message to their customers. Where I live in France it was discovered that nearly 60% of small businesses did not have an online presence. They were completely unable to communicate with their clients and let them know whether or not they would be open. The French government has had a campaign to get small businesses to be able to trade online.
The advantage of social media is that it is very “in the moment” and can reflect a particular moment in time and reach your audience instantly. Your website is slightly more cumbersome even if you update it regularly with a blog feed. By linking your social media to your website you can drive more traffic to your site and help reinforce your brand. Adding a “Book Now” button to facebook and adding links into your posts will keep your customers focused on your business. Use Pinterest with some of your best pictures to get new customers visiting your website.
One of the drawbacks of social media, as far as I am concerned, is the time it takes. I know that I’m the one who said it is very in the moment and you can reach your audience instantly. But picture this; it’s saturday night, the restaurant is full, the kitchen is humming and you want to photo and Tweet the night’s special.
I realise for some of the larger restaurants out there that this is not an issue but for us small business owners who actually get their hands dirty it is quite an event. This may explain why my own social media is a little haphazard but it does not detract from the fact that it is an extremely effective tool in the restaurant industry.