Restaurant websites look and perform much better than they did in the early days of the Internet, and chains are continuing to build in significant social media pieces, including real-time Twitter and Facebook feeds. Some are taking it a step further, creating their own blogs as they look to build and deepen customer relationships.
Career restaurant guy and FohBoh creator Michael Atkinson has a book coming out titled “Restaurant Social Media – Staying Ahead of your Customer.” Here he shares some tips on how restaurant companies can blog effectively.
Why should a restaurant consider blogging?
Blogging is a discipline and should be part of your communication plan. It’s less about marketing and more about communication – a way to continue building community and building your brand.
Chains have a marketing department to do it, and they have the time and enough stuff to talk about. I would encourage a restaurant chain to have a blog and stay active. It’s not necessarily about creative writing, it’s about keeping people informed, in touch with the brand and updated on what’s going on.
It has to have some sort of a theme, you have to talk about relationships or the food industry or about how it’s spring and you went to the farmer’s market and what you’re doing in the area of sustainability. It takes time, but it makes a lot of sense. In a time when people believe less is more and “140 characters” is probably a verb, it’s pretty easy to send a tweet and say “I was here,” but being concise is one thing and being cryptic is another. There’s a definite place for blogs – I’m a big believer in the ability to have a voice and extend that voice into the community to build a constituency.
How is a theme different from a brand’s personality?
Every brand has a personality and a culture, and it’s not always intuitive. People create the culture and the personality, and it can differ a bit from location to location and even shift to shift. But when I talk about blog themes, I keep it simple. For example, when I was a restaurant operator, I loved seasons. Take a simple approach – just by putting a theme around anticipating the next season or saying goodbye to a season or being in the middle of a season, you can take those three things (as a starting point) and write a year’s worth of blog posts around them.
Or it could be we have a new chef and he’s bringing fresh back – or getting rid of fresh and going back to all meat and Jolt cola. Embrace whatever the theme is and be enthusiastic, and to do that you need rich media, including video and graphics. That’s hard to do in Twitter.
What do you need to get started?
A destination site is one of the hardest things people can do – you can’t build it and assume people will come. Go where the people are. Find blogs that are relevant and contextual to your needs and start writing for them or commenting on other people’s writing. FohBoh is a B2B-centric community, so if you’re interested in communicating with your peers, it’s a great place to start and to get feedback. If you’re interested in communicating with your customers, I would find an avenue out there that would allow you to become a blogger locally. FoodBuzz is a good one. Get in the habit of writing and start getting a rapport with bloggers and readers so that when you start your own blog you’ll have an audience.
- Make it interactive – don’t just post and forget about it. If one person takes the time to comment, you owe it to that person to respond.
- Remember, it takes time to build a following. Commit to six months of posting once a week and make it a habit.
- Educate yourself; get a flavor for what other people do. When I was starting to tweet in early 2009, I looked for mentors and followed Tony Hsieh from Zappos.
- Take a soft approach. Tony tweeted a lot of quotes. He never pushed Zappos or asked me to buy anything. I’ve still never bought anything from Zappos, but I’m talking about it to you.
- Research what it means to be a blogger and learn the rules of the road about what’s appropriate and what’s not.
- Self-edit, and when possible have someone you trust read your post to catch errors.
- Be grammatically correct, write full sentences and do your best to create quality content. That said, people will judge the quality of your passion more than whether you missed a comma so don’t let fear of not being perfect hold you back.
- Don’t be advertorial. Don’t be self- promotional – it’s ugly and you turn people off really fast.