This post is by SmartBlog on Restaurants and Restaurant SmartBrief contributor Janet Forgrieve.
Buzz is building in the Big Apple as the opening of 4food nears. The quickservice eatery, which was originally slated to debut in July but is now set for a Sept. 7 opening, is focused on the twin goals of healthier eating and using social media tools to stand out from the crowd. With 20 days and counting until the opening, media outlets have been picking up the story, alternating between viewing the concept as a cool new way to serve lunch in a health-conscious digital age and the more skeptical POV that the eatery’s doughnut-shaped burgers and social media bells and whistles are more gimmicky than innovative.
Restaurant founder Adam Kidron has a long history as a music promoter. He tells the story of how he created the 4food concept in an animated video on the eatery’s website – basically, he was spurred to design a healthier alternative after an episode as a captive audience to an exec from a traditional quickserve chain who sat next to Kidron on an airplane. The seatmate’s soliloquy centered on his chain’s newest giant calorie- and salt-laden offering, inspiring Kidron to launch a healthier and more sustainable option for quickservice customers.
Some specifics about the concept:
- Guests design their own burgers from a lengthy menu of fresh ingredients including humanely raised meats, fresh fillings, toppings and buns, with the option of going online to create and order in advance.
- The burgers are doughnut shaped so the ring of meat cooks evenly and customers can choose from a selection of fillings for the sandwich’s center.
- The eatery’s menu options provide the opportunity for 141 million combinations; guests are encouraged to give their original creations a name and share the recipe via social media. Once a customer’s burger is registered, he or she earns credits each time someone else opts to order the same thing, and the credits can be redeemed on future orders.
Kidron expects social media, Web tools and mobile apps to play a bigger part in the restaurant’s operations and marketing efforts once it grows beyond one location — plans call for 11 eventual locations. Meanwhile, the first eatery is off to a substantial start — with just under three weeks to go, 4food has already attracted more than 1,900 followers on Twitter.
Interviews with 4food founder Kidron show he’s clearly comfortable with technology and social media tools. For other restaurateurs, hitting on the right social-media strategy may not be so easy. A recent conversational string on restaurant social media site FohBoh pointed out that, while some eateries are jumping on social media as an avenue for marketing, many others are unsure how to begin.
Strategy is key, experts point out, especially when it comes to moving beyond Facebook and Twitter and venturing into promoting your eatery through sites such as Groupon, which features promotions from local businesses. This week, the Chicago Tribune reported on some Chicago-area restaurants that found their first steps into the world of marketing on group-buying sites a costly lesson in the importance of strategic planning. One restaurant owner said the hordes of users redeeming their $3 Groupons for $8 worth of food left him about $65,000 in the hole, thus far without the repeat business he had hoped for when launching the promotion. Experts quoted in the story advised eateries to seriously consider the audience they were trying to reach when evaluating whether group-buying sites were the right choice and, most importantly, to collect e-mail addresses from customers as a way to begin building a relationship that goes beyond the one-time visit.
Has your restaurant ventured beyond Facebook and Twitter in its social media marketing efforts? Tell us what you’re doing!
Image via 4food on Facebook