An iPad in your restaurant is worth many customers at your tables

One of the common complaints I often hear from my restaurant clients – or potential clients – is that they lack the time, personnel and/or web access to successfully use Twitter to promote their business.  My suggestion – have your host/hostess use a smartphone or netbook computer at the check-in point of the restaurant – was usually dismissed for many reasons (which I’ll leave for another post!)

So I was thrilled, and inspired, when I read “5 Good Reasons to Buy an iPad for Your Business” on American Express’ Open Forum this week.  I wish I’d thought of it earlier – restaurants can easily use an iPad, as opposed to a smartphone or netbook!  It’s cool, it’s fun and it’s definitely a conversation-starter – all things restaurants want to be known for!

With that in mind, here are my 5 reasons to buy an iPad for your restaurant:

  1. Your host/hostess can use the iPad at their front station to monitor Twitter (or Facebook) in slower times, to listen to what people are saying about you – asking questions, looking for specials, making positive comments, etc.  And they can actually respond in real-time, or close to it, making you look responsive and attentive to them. And training your host to use the iPad as an integrated part of their job eliminates the need to hire yet another staffer (except a one-time consultant like me to train you to use it – ha!)
  2. The iPad would be a fantastic way to advertise current promotions/specials and to draw people into the restaurant that wouldn’t otherwise be headed there.  For example, on a rainy Monday evening when the resto is slow and you have tables to fill, you can Tweet out a special such as “next 5 people who come by and say ‘twitter’ get a free appetizer.  Or, you can promote a special entree that is only available that night or has limited availability
  3. You can set up a open search on Twitter to see who is looking for something particular but might not know about you yet. For example, if you have a search for “happy hour Belltown”, you’ll find tweets from people trolling Twitter to see what’s going on – and then you can reply “come see us, we have the best cocktails in town, tonight it’s the XYZ” or “you want the best burger in town? we have ABC and it’s 1/2 price tonight!”
  4. You can use the iPad to monitor reservations and other other details from Open Table, UrbanSpoon or Foursquare without having to run to the back office and log on to your big clunky computer.  In fact, UrbanSpoon has launched RezBook, an iPad app and online reservations platform that will allow restaurants to manage their tables and reservation books.  Need we say more??
  5. Last but not least, the cool factor.  It will definitely set you apart from your competitors to be seen using an iPad at your front station – we’re trendy, current with technology, connected to our customers, just plain cool.  And it will open the door to better conversations with your customers, who will be intrigued and fascinated with your ability to do so much all at the front desk!

So there you have it – five quick and easy reasons to buy an iPad for your restaurant.  There’s an amazing return on investment (for the $499+ cost) with a little time and effort. I’m sure there are many more benefit to restaurants using this new tool and I’d love to hear what you think too!