Seattle is all abuzz about Seattle Restaurant Week (SRW), a promotion that runs through Oct 27 at more than 150 local restaurants.  But most of the talk you hear on social media and the web is about how diners in Seattle can take advantage of the great deals during SRW –  but how about the ways restaurants can benefit from this two week extravaganza?

As they serve up delicious three-course dinners for just $28 (some offer three-course lunches for $15), it’s definitely an inexpensive way for restaurants to showcase themselves to people who are looking to venture out of their normal restaurant rut, willing to try something new, or taking advantage of great price break at special restaurants.

But for a restaurant, getting these first-time diners in the door is just step 1! The real task is turning these screaming deal dinner offers into repeat business and thus stock the pantry with diners to carry you through upcoming lean winter months. I’ve read traffic can double during RW – how do restaurants capitalize on that?

By using social media, of course!  But it’s not enough to post your SRW menu options to Twitter and Facebook – I’m already tired of participating restaurants doing nothing more than that! How are restaurants competing for hungry (and bargain-hunting!) diners with the 150 other participating restaurants?  For example, Bennett’s Bistro tweeted: “We’ve got 10 days of $28 3-crs meals ahead of us for @SeattleRW. Each day we’ll highlight one of the dishes you can get on the SRW menu!”  That promises fresh, creative info for the next two weeks, not the same old, same old!

My primary job at One Smart Cookie Marketing is offering this type of restaurant marketing strategy, helping restaurants turn social media prowess into repeat customers and raving fans. So here are 11 ways restaurants could use social media to maximize their results during SRW:

  1. Follow SRW on Twitter and retweet some of their messages for cross promotion and extra visibiility
  2. “Like” the SRW Facebook page and comment on their posts (and fan comments) – especially if they are about your restaurant!
  3. Encourage your customers/fans to post their own pics from their SRW dinner on your Facebook page, and perhaps offer a prize for best food photo posted from your SRW menu
  4. When diners check in, ask them if they follow you on FB or Twitter, and take their username; later, go post a message and thank them for dining with you
  5. Don’t stop after that first interaction with new customers (see above)! Follow them back on FB/Twitter and start relationship/conversation to make them a repeat customer – people love to have restaurants acknowledge them in their online communities!
  6. Make a short video of your Chef creating one of the SRW menu items – post it on your website/twitter/facebook to show what’s cooking!
  7. Post status update on Twitter/Facebook to share what is the most frequent SRW menu combination ordered, and ask if customers have other suggestions – this turns into a full conversation of all your SRW menu items!
  8. Welcome SRW diners prominently on the front page of your website, making it easy for them to find the info (link to special menu page) and dine with you!  Good examples of this are ART Restaurant and Rays Boathouse.
  9. Conduct a raffle for SRW diners to win a behind the scenes kitchen tour with your Chef (bonus: when they enter, you have their email address and/or twitter/FB info for future correspondence with them!) – this also gives you something creative to tweet/post about
  10. Offer a future deal for returning diners – I read about a Washington DC restaurant that handed out 2,000 gift certificates that entitled diners to take 50 percent off a bottle of wine when they returned after Restaurant Week.  Only 40 patrons did, an underwhelming 2%, but it is a way to encourage repeat visits and create raving fans
  11. Display your Twitter/Facebook addresses prominently (in the check folio or table cards or front desk signage) – and track the increase during SRW!  That will give you a true sense of your ROI for this promotion

So, what other ideas do you have for restaurants to capitalize on Seattle Restaurant Week?  I’d love to hear your ideas!  And if you need help implementing some of these ideas for your restaurant, I’m here to help!