restaurants and social media

Casual Restaurants Doing Social Media Right in Charlottesville

By Social Media

Recently, I took a look at a selection of fine dining establishments in Charlottesville to see which were using social media platforms to attract customers.

Many readers pointed to examples of restaurants that are using social media, and doing it well — but all of these are in the casual dining category — which is what I’m devoting this post to covering.

Three standout examples in the area include Revolutionary Soup, BBQ Exchange (in Gordonsville, Va.) and Beer Run.

Revolutionary Soup is by far, the leader of the pack. Will’s Blog is featured as a main element of the restaurant’s website, with the passion and philosophy of restaurant owner Will Richey coming through loud and clear. The blog is not updated often but posts are thoughtful and have a single-minded purpose, sharing the process of bringing locally grown and nurtured food to the community. Three categories say it all: local, Rev Soup Farm and seasonal specials. I’m particularly impressed with Rev Soup’s website – a design that incorporates a page for reviews, suggested beer and wine pairings and daily or seasonal specials. (It’s no surprise when, upon investigating, I learn that the site was done by my very talented friend Michael Davis of Yellowfish.)

Revolutionary Soup is on Twitter, with an account for its Corner location and what looks like the “main” Twitter account for its downtown shop.

Rev Soup

There’s some opportunity for the Corner account to improve its bio, add a photo, increase followers and friends — but assuming that the focus is primarily on the downtown location, I focused on Twitter.com/@RevSoup. I like the way the account is being used, with tempting descriptions of recipes and daily soup offerings, mixed with observations from Will like, “Marker drawing all over my fav cook book. Should have known the 2 year old was not as impressed with Tournedos Rossini as I.” This kind of tweet, and indeed, all the real interaction from Will and the staff on the social web humanizes the brand and builds its loyalty. One might argue that the soup and sandwiches do that on their own, but if you’ve never been to Rev Soup, you don’t know that, do you?

When there’s more to say than what will fit in a Tweet, the restaurant uses its Facebook page, a smart way to use the additional presence — and to share good content with nearly 500 fans.

The BBQ Exchange is off the beaten path out in Gordonsville and, if you’re not inclined to leave the city of Charlottesville, a destination brand designed to tempt you on a short road trip with delicious smoked pork and spicy fried pickles as a reward. Craig Hartman is using Twitter and Facebook to get the word out to a broader audience than those in the immediate vicinity, a smart strategy for a restaurant that also serves customers’ catering needs. The restaurant has integrated its tweets into the home page of the website as a way to keep the home base of the online presence fresh. You can follow BBQ Exchange on Twitter (not recommended for vegetarians as main topics include pork, bacon and pork. ) As proof, here’s a recent Tweetcloud from the account:


Last, but certainly not least is one of my personal favorites, Beer Run. While the operation’s website leaves a lot to be desired, and does nothing to point fans to its presence in social media, Beer Run’s Facebook page updates have driven me to tastings or special events on more than one occasion.  It’s disappointing to see Beer Run’s Twitter account so underutilized – there are thousands of engaged Twitter users in our community and yet Beer Run is following only one other user. I challenge Beer Run to get connected to the Twitter community by following and engaging with them, tapping into the power there to promote events or to boost traffic when business is slow.

While this is merely a selection of restaurants using social media well in a couple of ways in the Charlottesville area, I’m sure there are more that are worth a mention. Let me know in the comments if there are any I should see.

Seven Ways Restaurants Can Use Social Media

By Social Media

My friend Ginger Germani was “helping” me find some shoes online the other day. It started with her razzing me about my choices, then Ginger said, “I’m not a complainer without solutions.”

I liked that, and that’s a good model to follow. I’ve tried to do that on this blog; when I note a company not communicating well or using social media to its full benefit (or making a colossal mistake) I follow it by sharing what they should do, or tips to help them improve.

As a follow up to my review of area restaurants and their use of social media, here are seven ways a restaurant in any community can improve their use of online interaction to increase customers.

  1. Create a chef’s blog that’s updated frequently (at a minimum, once a week). Use it to share new menu items, local ingredients and the occasional recipe. Make liberal use of photos and video, but don’t let that be the sole content on the blog.
  2. Work with FourSquare to offer special deals to the Mayor of your restaurant.
  3. Set up social web monitoring alerts to let you know when a community member is asking friends on Twitter, “Where’s a good place to take my boss out to dinner in C’ville?” or “I’m looking for a good C’ville restaurant for my mom’s birthday.” Be responsive when these conversations occur. Recognize the Twitter user when they come in and reward them for the interaction (you’ll likely have a customer for life).
  4. Create special, behind-the-scenes content or offers for fans of the restaurant on Facebook. Let the fans name a new dish, or offer to host a Tweet-up on an otherwise slow evening or at a time the restaurant is normally closed.
  5. Follow members of the community on Twitter and ask them what you can do to better serve them — the people who follow your restaurant become your online focus group.
  6. Monitor the social web for mentions of your restaurant, in case anyone posts about a bad experience (they will; I promise, no matter how great your restaurant is.) Before you find these mentions, develop a plan to react and respond to negative comments and make sure anyone who acts on the restaurant’s behalf, knows and understands the plan. Remember always that in the case of a negative customer experience, the right, first thing to say is “I’m sorry,” followed by, “how can we make it better?”
  7. Share the love. Look, no one is going to eat at your restaurant every night. The culture of social media rewards those who share, and who recognize others. Following other restaurants, retweeting their content, commenting on their blog posts, sharing their special offers won’t hurt your business, it will earn you respect in the social community. Respect is loyalty and loyalty means customers that come back to see you again and again.

Social media is a fantastic tool for restaurants who can time tweets to tempt us with menu offerings right when we’re starting to get hungry for lunch or dinner.

They can help us out by reminding us to make reservations for that special birthday or anniversary coming up.

They can offer to help us out of a bind by sharing menu options that suit the vegetarian or gluten-free guest coming to visit.

In short, restaurants are a vibrant part of our community, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be reaping the benefits of being part of our online community as well.