twitter163In my new venture of social media advising and strategy, many have asked me “why should restaurants use Twitter? What’s in it for them?”  So I thought I’d share a few recent examples to illuminate my strong feelings about how they could benefit from this fantastic social media tool!

There are at least 5 major benefits restaurants (and food-related companies) stand to gain from investing time and effort into using Twitter:

  1. Larger client base with deeper relationships
  2. Increased visits, more sales, greater loyalty
  3. Decreased marketing expense and greater overall ROI
  4. Dialogue that leads to positive word-of-mouth marketing
  5. Increased visibility for establishment, products, website

I have encountered at least a baker’s dozen real-life examples recently, where restaurants missed great opportunities to increase their exposure, gain new customers and learn more about their guests’ experience – all because they aren’t on Twitter.

You might wonder – what’s the big deal? What are they missing out on?  So here’s what I’ve learned: 

Restaurants have the opportunity to capitalize on the “buzz” being tweeted (discussed) every day as people make plans and debate where to go for happy hour, dinner, etc.  They could even tweet back and offer a special deal or mention that night’s specials. During the recent 100-degree heat wave, smart restaurants on Twitter were reminding potential customers that they had air-conditioning, offering cool drink specials and just being a part of a “hot” conversation (pardon the pun)!

Once we, the diners, are actually in the restaurant, we will probably tweet updates during the meal and/or post photos, showing potential customers all the great items you have to offer.  It’s not a bother – we like to do this!  (A recent study by showed that 80% of Twitter usage is on mobile devices, showing that people update anytime, anywhere.)  But we aren’t going to the trouble if you aren’t using Twitter and aren’t benefitting from it – we just aren’t.   But for you, it’s free advertising: “Come eat here, eat beautiful food, be happy!”  That kind of positive, instant word-of-mouth marketing is priceless.

And once you’ve delivered a great meal, your customers tweet to all their friends, along with thanking each other for the dinner, etc.  It’s more exposure for your brand and practically invites new customers to visit.  Back to the research, 78% of consumers trust peer recommendations, and only 14% trust advertising – so where do you want to put your marketing efforts?

And one smart strategy employed by some restaurants that use Twitter is to actually “thank” those customers via tweet!  Talk about building customer loyalty – you just thanked me for spending money with you in front of all my friends!  Where do you think I’m going out to dinner tomorrow? Yup, back to my Twitter-friendly restaurant!

Do you see the beauty of this?  We, tweeters, want to patronize your establishment because you are “one of us” and we want to tell everyone how great you are.  Is there a better reason to be on Twitter??

I want to wrap up by telling you about a fascinating concept called Taste and Tweet (Twitter @TasteAndTweet),   The organizers, Clay Loges and Blaine Millet, invited a Twitter-happy group of foodies to El Gaucho Bellevue (Twitter @ElGauchoBell)  to help raise awareness and increase visibility for the restaurant – which is not ideally located in a somewhat-hidden office building down a side street.

tasteandtweetI was invited, along with 18 other active social media enthusiasts, to enjoy a multi-course lunch, in exchange for tweeting details as the event progressed.  It was an amazing feast of four cocktails (yes, 4!) , four superb dishes and one lovely chocolate ganache lollipop for dessert.  Chef Steve Cain came out to describe each dish and the pairing to the cocktail, and General Manager David Scherling (Twitter @DavidScherling) supplied additional details and answered questions constantly during the event.

So what was the result?  For their investment of 2 hours and lunch for 19, the restaurant received nearly 310,000 unique impressions (323 tweets during the event, mulitplied by number of “followers’ each person has) on Twitter, along with a multitude of blog posts and other publicity in the week that followed.  I’d say El Gaucho got their money’s worth – how about you??  And I probably don’t have to tell you about the buzz that’s now been created for future events like this – everyone wants to participate, restaurants and “taste-tweeters” alike!

So now, do you think restaurants should use Twitter?  I’d love to hear your thoughts below!