I love food. For awhile, I was a ranked Klout influencer on the subject of avocados. True story.

Matt Erasmus, "Menu" May 18, 2008 via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution.

Matt Erasmus, “Menu” May 18, 2008 via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution. http://www.flickr.com/photos/mattzn/2541291913/

What makes me really sad is when I go into a restaurant and it’s awesome but there is no way anyone would know about it. Here are a few easy wins you can do with your restaurant right now:

Put your menu online. Somewhere.
Some of the time, Alice is a bar tender. She says if she has to read the sandwich list over the phone one more time to someone wanting to place a takeout order, she may go insane. She estimates she does this at least five times during her typical shift. (Note that while she is doing this, she is not able to do her primary job, which is taking care of the actual customers sitting at the bar.)

Get a website. Even a basic one. Put your menu and your hours on it and you too will have less annoying phone calls. Or at the very least, stick your menu on your business Facebook page or use a website like Open Menu. Both are free and, except for needing data entry, relatively painless.

When people call and see your menu is online, the person answering can now take orders from someone ready to buy, not spend time repeating information over and over.

If you have a website, make sure the menu and hours are up-to-date.
Are your pictures on your website old? Your customers won’t notice unless someone is clearly in, say,  an outfit from the 1970s. What I do need to know are what you serve and what your hours are.

I once checked the hours on a local restaurant’s website and made a lunch meeting there only to get there and find it ‘closed for the season’. The prospective client shrugged at me and I actually ended up not getting their business. I haven’t been back to that restaurant since because they kind of left me hanging.

Make sure people know when you are open. If your website, Facebook page, and front door have the same information, people can’t get upset that you didn’t tell them. (Well that one dude that is upset about everything will be but everyone online knows about his ridiculousness.) Just don’t leave me hanging with hours that aren’t true.

Get your customers’ email addresses as they leave.
The China Dine-ah is the master at this. They give everyone a card about the size of a business card with their check. You put in your name and email on it and get entered to win a $25 gift certificate which is drawn every week and announced over the weekly email blast. They have a list of thousands.

Most people don’t mind giving an email address (even if it’s a secondary one they check less often) so take it. Email is the only ‘free’ way you can follow up with a customer after the fact. It doesn’t hurt to ask; the worse someone can do is not give it to you and, guess what, you are at the same place you are right now.

Offer a juicy, social media only deal.
The people who like you on Facebook or check in on Foursquare are people who not only care about your business but are likely to point their friends your way. Offer this ‘inner circle’ only special and give them some exclusive information they can share. If you are going to put this in the newspaper, etc. this inside scoop will have much less meaning. Think about discovering a treasure you’ve found versus having the treasure pointed at by a big flashing Las Vegas style arrow. Guess which one is more cool and fun?

Make the deal juicy too. 10% off my order of fries with an entree order won’t do it for me and is kind of insulting. 50% off apps on Monday (or typical slow night) will get a new crowd in your doors and get them talking to their friends online about it. Both Facebook and Foursquare have easy ways to make deals. Deal websites are fine but do it yourself and keep the cash that Yelp, DealChicken, and Groupon will take from your bottom line.

Let your staff know what is going on.
When I flash the special I’ve unlocked on my phone via Foursquare and the waitress looks at me like I’m crazy and has to call the manager over (once again, this actually happened), I am thankful I am not a shy person. Most people I know would *hate* this kind of attention.

If you are offering a deal, or a new special, or a whatever, tell your staff about it. If they know it, they can sell it. Your staff is now linked to you in all kinds of fun ways through social media. They can list you as an employer on their Facebook or LinkedIn profile. They can check in on Foursquare. They are part of the social media equation so set the record straight with them so they can help other people understand what’s going on. Because if you make a customer even accidentally feel like a cheap jerkface, they are not going to want to come back in.

No matter what kind of restaurant you run, you can get more bodies in the door if you do more online!

[schema type=”person” name=”Nicole Ouellette” email=”nicole@breakingeveninc.com” ]