Seattle is preparing for the fall run of Seattle Restaurant Week (SRW), a promotion that runs Oct 13-17 and 20-24 at more than 160 local restaurants.  But most of the talk you see on social media is about how diners in Seattle can take advantage of the great deals during SRW –  so 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 an inexpensive opportunity for restaurants to showcase themselves to people looking to venture out of their normal restaurant routine or take advantage of great price breaks at special restaurants.

For a restaurant, getting these first-time diners in the door is just the first step. 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 Restaurant Week, so how can 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; that’s a no-brainer. How are restaurants competing for hungry (and bargain-hunting!) diners with the 160 other participating restaurants?  For example, Ray’s Boathouse tweeted: “10 days of 3-course meal deals coming @SeattleRW. Each day we’ll spotlight one item you can select from our menu #SRW”  That promises fresh, creative tweets for the next two weeks, rather than tired old information.

At One Smart Cookie Marketing, I help restaurants with this type of marketing strategy, helping them turn social media tactics 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 (include #SeattleRW in each tweet).
  2. “Like” the SRW Facebook page and comment on their posts (or share them to your wall) especially if they are about your restaurant!
  3. Encourage your guests to post photos from their SRW dinner (at your restaurant) on your Facebook page; perhaps offer a free gift card to the best photo posted each day.
  4. When diners check in at the front desk, ask them if they follow you on Facebook and/or Twitter. If they use Twitter, send a tweet that evening and thank them for dining with you.
  5. Don’t stop after that first interaction with new customers (see above). Follow them back on Twitter and start relationship to make them a repeat guest – people love to have restaurants acknowledge them in their online communities.
  6. Make a short video of your Chef creating one of your SRW menu items – post it on your website/Twitter/Facebook to entice diners to visit.
  7. Post a status update on Twitter/Facebook sharing what is the most frequent SRW menu combination ordered at your restaurant, and ask if customers have other suggestions. This turns into a full conversation about all your SRW menu items, giving you extra exposure.
  8. Welcome SRW diners prominently on the front page of your website, making it easy for them to find your SRW menus.  Good examples of this are ART Restaurant and Purple Cafe.
  9. Conduct a raffle for SRW diners to win a behind the scenes kitchen tour with your Chef . Be sure to collect their email addresses when they sign up so you can add them to your newsletter or contact them with future updates.
  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 – just 2% – but it is a promotional angle to encourage repeat visits and build goodwill.
  11. Display your Twitter/Facebook addresses prominently (check folio or table cards or front desk signage) and track the increase in your followers during SRW. That will give you data about one aspect of your return on investment for this promotion.

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 – make it a great two weeks!