As a restaurant, you know your customers are using social media tools such as Twitter and Facebook. As a restaurant social media consultant, I know my customers (restaurant owners/chefs) often aren’t using social media because “I don’t have time for that”  or “I don’t know what to say” or “my customers don’t care.”

So build a bridge and get over it!  Restaurants are one of the most social businesses around, and you have much to gain by being active on social media – new customers, repeat visits, customer loyalty, visibility, “buzz”, and the holy grail – more income!  This is an opportunity not to be missed, and I’m here to help you make sense of it all.

Today I start a three-part series on the ABC’s of Social Media for Restaurants, to help you understand the tools, tricks and tips to connecting with people and maximizing  your experience online.  Since I know you are busy people, I’m doling out the goods in three “courses”, if you will, so on to the first course!

Just like the wandering quartet in Oz, people want to know what’s behind the curtain. Your fans/diners want access to hear from the chef, details about what’s going on in the kitchen,and inside information that the “common diner” doesn’t have.  Using social media is an ideal way to give them special access and build the loyalty that create long term customers

Blogging on your restaurant website is great place not only to post new info, but to share your thoughts as the chef or owner, talk about your philosophy, and also increase your rank on Google (SEO).  It’s also a great way to bring visitors back on a regular basis, to see what you are saying today!  Wondering what would you say on a blog?  Read more here

Greg Barnes, winner of Canlis Menu Hunt Contest

People love to win things!  Twitter and Facebook are great platforms for running contests so don’t overlook this one!  Contests allow you to build community, keep fans engaged, create excitement and show generosity – and keep your name constantly in the buzz!  It can be a dinner giveaway, a name-the-dessert contest, a treasure hunt (hello Canlis!) or a myriad of other fun activities.  The nature of SM lets you instantly update people on the status of the contest, giving clues, soliciting interest, etc.  Here’s 10 lessons restaurants can learn about great contests.

Don’t think you have time to fit Facebook and Twitter into your busy day? A daily 15-minute SM checklist can help you hit the most important tasks in the shortest time, so you can get back to making great meals.  Where do you get a checklist?  Hire a strategist to help!

Twitter and Facebook are excellent venues to post your special events, winemaker dinners, restaurant week menus, etc. Most people aren’t visiting your website every day for news – but they ARE on Twitter and Facebook daily, so reach them where they are. Here’s a post listing 11 ways restaurants can use SM for a Restaurant Week promotion.

A group of 13 Seattle-area foodies took a ferry up to Orcas Island for a lunch tweetup at Allium Restaurant

Local events that draw the local foodie community together to “taste and tweet” are great opportunities not only to promote your restaurant, but to offer product samples and meet the foodies that help you stay in business. Events like Foodportunity in Seattle offer face-to-face relationship building and remember, people like to buy from people, not faceless businesses.

It’s a must to have a Google Alert set up for your restaurant name, your chef’s name and other key phrases.  This will send email alerts about online mentions – who is blogging about you or finding restaurant reviews that you might have missed seeing.  You can even set up a Google Alert for a special dish, like “seattle crab cakes” to see who is looking for them, who is serving them, etc.  Competitive research, baby!

Not every restaurant can be Jerry Seinfeld (or your preferred comedian!) but humor is an effective style on Facebook and Twitter.  If it fits your brand, posting social media updates with a humorous style is a quick way to connect with fans and show you are real person behind the restaurant façade.  Food is fun and entertaining and exciting, and people respond well to that style.

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

Oh where to start with this one!  The iPad has a multitude of uses to make a restaurant staff’s life easier – wine lists, menus, point of sale system, monitor reservations – and my favorite, an effective but subtle tool to use at your front desk/host stand. It allows you to communicate instantly with customers via SM (thanks for coming in, how did your party enjoy the meal, etc) or in slow times, you can search for (and respond to) potential diners looking for dinner suggestions, etc.

So that’s it for today – are you full?  Don’t worry, I’ll be back the next two days with another pair of courses to round out your ABCS of Social Media for Restaurants training.  And if you just can’t wait to get started, I’m happy to help you…what, you didn’t know I’m a Social Media strategist and trainer for restaurants? Shame on me…

Keep reading! Part 2 of the ABCs here!

Keep reading more! Part 3 of the ABCs here!