Do you remember where you met your significant other? Do you remember how you found your favorite restaurant or bar or hangout?  For most of us, the answer is yes or at least “I’m pretty sure it was…”  Okay, that’s good enough for the purpose of this column!

My point is that meeting places are significant in a number of ways, and venues offer opportunities to people to connect on many different levels.  As a restaurant, you represent a meeting place, a venue, a connection place for people to develop relationships – not only with each other, but with you.

And there we have the point of a Tweetup, and the reason it should matter to you as a restaurant, bar, winery, etc.  A Tweetup is a scheduled, casual social event for people on Twitter to meet up; thus the phrase “tweetup”!  Many people that know each other on Twitter have never met in person – yet – and you get to be the good guy by providing the means to get them face to face and build a better relationship.

As a restaurant, hosting a Tweetup offers you a number of benefits:

  1. Appetizers are good Tweetup food!

    The opportunity for people to visit you for the first time (“I’ve been meaning to eat there someday…”)

  2. A chance to deepen your relationship with current customers and build a loyal clientele
  3. Establish yourself as the “hot spot” for happy hour or lunch meetings or whatever status you are hoping to gain
  4. Create goodwill by providing a venue for a like-minded community (Twitterers!) to meet, often for the first time, in a relaxing, welcoming place
  5. Help build community and encourage networking – later those very people will bring back their meetings and parties to your venue, because of how hospitable you were and because they’ve seen a fun, successful event there
  6. Increased exposure and visibility for you – when these Twitterers are in your restaurant, they’ll likely be “tweeting” out messages about the food, the venue, the people, etc. which can add up to a constant two-hour “commercial” for your business. And many have blogs and websites where they will later write about their experience, giving you further attention

So, you might wonder, what do you need to offer for the Tweetup to be successful?

  1. A private room is nice, but at least a designated area in your restaurant for the group to mingle freely and not interfere with your other clientele
  2. A few complimentary food items are always nice, but at the very least, offer special pricing on beverages and/or snacks. These people have come to meet each other, but also would like to sample your food too (and they aren’t there to critique it!)
  3. A dedicated server is helpful, to show that you value the group and want to be sure they are taken care of
  4. If your owner is onsite, have them come out and welcome everyone, talk about the establishment and answer any questions.  It’s also a huge bonus to have the chef come out to say hello, chat about the food and just be visible even for a few moments
  5. Consider offering a discount coupon for a future visit – you have a group of captive, hopefully happy (!) customers, and if you hand them a reason to return with more friends, it’s good for everyone
  6. Nametags!  Remember, we only know each other by our Twitter names (@incrediblechef) and we may not recognize faces right away

To give you a real-life example of how Tweetups can work, I was invited by Barbara Evans (@SeattleWineGal on Twitter) to a recent Tweetup at Alexandria Nicole Cellars.  I had never visited that winery (bonus #1), I’d been anxious to meet the very effective Twitter fiend SeattleWineGal (bonus #2) and there were 10-12 other active wine/food enthusiasts attending that I hadn’t met but knew from Twitter (bonus #3).  And I must add, there was a major “strike 1” in addition to the 3 bonuses – the Tweetup was scheduled on an NFL playoff day!  And being the huge football fan I am, it took A LOT to convince me to leave the TV that day, but the 3 bonuses (above) – and gentle nudging to “get a life” – won out.  And I’m so glad it did.

The winery earned great exposure with a smart group of enthusiasts that are vocal on a very public forum (Twitter), so the PR gain there was huge! Plus ANC was able to give us some behind-the-scenes info and educate us about all the great things they offer.  And to top it all off, they invited Rob Williamson, the general manager of Russell’s Dining & Bar, to tantalize us with appetizers from his restaurant, specifically created to pair with each wine – how’s that for added value?! 

Everyone came out a winner in this Tweetup, and it’s only one example of the opportunities out there by hosting Tweetups. 

Next week (Feb 2) I’m hosting a Tweetup with Epulo Bistro in Edmonds, so we can continue to build better face-to-face community in our little seaside town – many people attending do “follow” each other on Twitter but have never actually met.  So Epulo has the opportunity to provide that meeting venue for us, entertain us, get to know us, and most likely, to earn our ongoing patronage.  And that is something most of us will remember for awhile…(see first paragraph!)

So tell me, what do you think makes a good Tweetup? What have you like about past Tweetups you’ve attended and what would make them better?  We’re all ears (below)