How to Market Your Restaurant to Millennials: Getting Social

Millennials

United States millennials span the ages of 18-35 and are a force to be reckoned with. This generation, also known as Generation Y, has surpassed the baby boomers (1946-1965) and now number 75.4 million.

Even with millennial numbers increasing, they don’t have control of the market at this point. Baby boomers still hold the buying power in today’s market; almost 50% of retail sales can be traced back to this group. But, millennials’ spending power will only continue to increase as they begin to earn more.

The true difference lies in how these generations communicate with businesses and brands. Generation Y is made up of extremely vocal consumers that are inter-connected and are not afraid to let others know what kind of experience they had at a business.

The millennial generation is often described negatively by their predecessors, but millennials are socially conscious and creative individuals that are becoming an increasing power in the market. This group’s craving for their peers’ opinions can often dictate many buying decisions, including where they choose to eat or drink.

Learning how to market to this rising group should be a priority for restaurant owners. By understanding the mind of a millennial, restaurateurs can uniquely tailor their marketing communications for this generation. Some call them self-oriented or naive, but millennials are changing best practices of the restaurant industry.

Social Media

Social media is an essential tool for restaurant owners to use when marketing to millennials. Restaurants that don’t use some form of technology platform to reach out and interact with customers seem out of date in today’s constantly changing society. Social media can give your business validity to those searching on the internet.

Celebrate what your business has to offer with your social media. Food is a visual commodity. Those who love to eat don’t only want flavorful bites; they want an aesthetically-pleasing experience they can share with others. Tailoring social media to your restaurant, guests, and mission can further brand your restaurant among many. For example, the “food and drink” category on Pinterest is the most pinned and browsed of all the categories and 90% of pinners are saving food and drink recipes on their mobile devices. This is a great indicator that these are items that people have interest in, so cater to it and get guests inspired by your selection.

You can promote events, menu additions, and even new staff on social media to give your business a face. Encourage your guests to check-in, tweet, post, and pin about your restaurant. Restaurants and bars that take the time to create quality content in their social media interactions can increase top of mind awareness and brand recognition. According to the State of Inbound Marketing, social media has a 100% higher lead-to-close rate than traditional outbound marketing. Use that to your advantage!

Although it is on a larger scale, Chipotle does this very well and it is a brand that millennials want to follow on social media to see what they will post next.

Chipotle

Think of your business as a lifestyle brand that you need to promote. Consumers want to learn more about you and your company’s background and be able to relate on a personal level. Whether it’s about the latest rules on food safety or what your lunch specials will be, creative content about your business and its industry makes you an authority on the topic. Millennials appreciate the diverse but relevant subject matter and your business becomes a reliable resource your niche.

Do's and Don'ts of Social Media

Social Experience

Millennials are constantly branding themselves. By sharing their organic mango and black bean salad on social media, this generation expresses more than just what they’re having for dinner. When looked at closely, these actions say this consumer supports the story behind their food and that this is the type of restaurant they frequent.  Millennials brands themselves to coincide with the identity of the business. They are proud of their decision to eat out, and they want to share their experience with others. Of course, an Instagram feed is often a very skewed perception of reality but still presents a rose-colored lens for the rest of the world to take a peek.

Because of this show-all, tell-all way of thinking, millennials are buying experiences at restaurants instead of just food. Restaurants and bars take on a form of escapism where they can get away and have a gastronomic adventure. Going out to eat is seen as an event by millennials, so always try and exceed their expectations with your restaurant practices. For example, Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville has risen far above the standards of just being a restaurant chain; it’s now a lifestyle choice. This may seem like an overwhelming feat for a small business but it is possible! Rosarito’s Fish Shack (Williamsburg, New York) does a great job as a single location restaurant that brands themselves as a lifestyle. From its tasty Instagram pictures to the nautical exterior, Rosarito’s Fish Shack transports guests straight to the New England coast for a seaworthy experience.

Be proactive with your customer’s experience by training and communicating with your staff appropriately. A restaurant’s staff can make or break whether customers enjoy their stay. Take the time to show them the over-arching goal of the restaurant and your expectations of the team. How you train and communicate with your staff can be the difference between a good and bad experience for your customers. It is these little things that seem insignificant that truly add up in a consumer’s decision to visit a restaurant again.

Do's and Don'ts of Social Experience

Social Responsibility

Consumers can evoke change in the way that restaurants do business, especially consumers that are as vocal as the millennial generation. This generation is extremely cause-driven and wants to see their patronage to a restaurant have a deeper meaning.

Generation Y customers feel the need for a greater value proposition in purchases; they want to know they are making a difference in the world. As science and communication have improved, sustainable movements have been center on the world’s stage for the lifetime of millennials.

Eco-friendly activities strike a chord with this generation quicker than their predecessors. Millennials want the food and restaurant industry to share these same values.

To narrow down what works the best for your restaurant, you have to know your situation. What’s best for your theme, customer, and price point could be completely different than the restaurant next door to yours. This being said there are lots of ways to improve sustainable practices in your establishment. Use local meat sources, beef up recycling efforts, take steps to reduce food waste, find ways to reduce energy output, and visit farmer’s markets for produce.

Millennials are willing to spend more to support businesses that have these values in mind. Whether this way of thinking is selfish or not, Generation Y makes decisions that will increase self-esteem, which, in this case, works to the benefit of the environment. There are multiple ways for you to get involved in your community while also using it as an edge to market it to millennials. It’s not only social responsible for you to consider local and organic options for your restaurant, it could be lucrative as well.

Do's and Don'ts of Social Responsibility

Social Cause

The millennial generation is a melting pot of beliefs and cultural traditions. The widespread effects of social media have made them more aware of the world around them. This drives millennials to search for a greater purpose of community, which restaurants can get in on as well.

More and more restaurants and businesses are using cause marketing as a strategy instead of just an added bonus when you buy that certain product. This technique is attractive for both business owners to increase patronage and also millennial consumers that have deep interests in bettering the community around them. Cause marketing can inspire people to eat at your restaurant because you stand for something, especially if it is a cause already near and dear to that particular community.

For example, Rosa’s Fresh Pizza in Philadelphia started a movement where for a $1 you can prepay for a pizza slice for a homeless person. Rosa’s has championed single location cause marketing that has reached national recognition, with over 10,000 slices pre-purchased for others. This helped grow and aid the Philadelphia community to be more aware of others.

Another example of restaurants doing good (and through pizza) is the mission behind Malawi’s Pizza. This pizzeria’s “Pizza with a Purpose” tagline promotes the restaurant’s buy one, give one strategy. For each meal purchased here, another is given to a child in Malawi.

Pizza

Both of the restaurants are great cases for the success of what combining cause marketing and community can do. Championing a cause is a great way to actively earn free advertising but also allows customers to feel good about eating or drinking at your place of business.

Cause marketing campaigns can help your restaurant differentiate from your competition and do good deeds at the same time.

Do's and Don'ts of Social Cause

As they grow older and acquire more disposable income, millennials are becoming more of an influence in the restaurant industry. Restaurants need to know how to incorporate this demographic when making decisions. The connection that Generation Y feels for the world around them is unique, and it presents a great opportunity for restaurants to appeal to them. As these millennials become bigger consumers, it will be crucial for restaurateurs to craft their businesses to what is important to this generation.

How to Increase Summer Traffic in Your Restaurant or Bar

patio

Days get longer, the sun gets stronger, and everyone is taking vacation days. After Memorial Day Weekend comes and goes, summer is here in full force. This can mean more traffic, different clientele, and new struggles for your business. But no need to stress, there is more opportunity to summer than what meets the eye.
This transition to a new season is an easy way for you as a restaurant or bar owner to include fun activities into the calendar. Summer is a great time to differentiate your business and show off your niche!
Here are some tips to start sprinkling a little summer sunshine (and beat your competitors to the punch).

1) Know Your Audience
Market to your audience smarter, not harder. It is essential to know who you are trying to draw in. Is it all out-of-towners that flock to you during this time or is it your regular crowd shuffling in? By doing a little research, you will have a better idea of interests that attracts this group. If summer also means tourist season where you are, be ready for traffic increases. Train the staff on this shift as well, explain the importance of making sure each guest has a memorable experience (in a good way). Understand what you have to offer and who you will be offering it to.

OutdoorSpace

2) Spatial Awareness
If you are the type of establishment lucky enough to have an outdoor area, it’s time to break out the patio furniture. The end of May is a great benchmark to start having outside seating available to guests, but it all depends on your climate. Not only does it allow guests to enjoy a nice breeze, it helps with overflow seating as well! Just make sure your furniture is up to par before you stick it outside in the inevitable summer storms.

3) A Dash of Summer
Got a fierce strawberry spinach salad you’ve been dying to put on the menu? What about a frozen drink that your bartender came up with by just throwing a mix together? Take advantage of what’s now in-season to put on your menu and come up with summer specials. This is a great way to show off food or drinks that are too expensive to routinely feature. Highlighting these items will present more of an opportunity to be noticed by your patrons, and therefore, ordered. Take it one step farther and get some feedback from these specials. Finding what works may lead to a new staple for your regular menu!

Music

4) Turn It Up Some
While you’re taking the advice of tip #2, use your outdoor area to host live music. Whether it’s a singer-songwriter, DJ, or local band, find an entertainer that fits your genre. Bringing an artist in is a great way to publicize all the extras your establishment has to offer and it might even turn into a tradition. This type of event may also bring people to your restaurant or bar that wouldn’t typically visit. You may be introducing them to their new favorite haunt!

5) Fiesta Like There’s No Manana
There are quite a few holidays that fall within the summer months; so why not celebrate them? Between Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, or just the fact that it is summer, you’ll be able to find a celebration that you can throw a party for in your restaurant or bar. Decorate, have themed entrees or drinks, sponsor a contest- the opportunities are endless! If your budget only allows for one of these types of celebration, no worries, just make it work for your restaurant or bar! Go all out without abandoning the main focus of your establishment or bankrupting your business.

Now that you have some tips to expand your summer plans, the key takeaway is to entertain your clients. Take this chance to have old customers remember why they consistently pick your establishment and invite new ones into an exciting environment to make memories. Variety is the spice of life; the same goes for your summer business when the seasons change.
Does your restaurant or bar have any summer traditions or any advice for starting them? Let us know in the comments below, we love to hear feedback from our readers! Check us out on Pinterest for more inspiration.

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Does your restaurant need a website?

5 Reasons Facebook Isn’t Enough

With the growth of social media and the dependence on sites such as Facebook and Twitter to keep consumers in-the-know, many new restaurants are asking if they need to have a website these days.  While the landscape of the worldwide web and the manner of how people surf the ‘net surely has changed in recent years, my gut instinct is to answer, “yes.”  But it’s not just that simple.  Ten years ago, new restaurants only needed a website.  Today, you need to have a more involved online presence.  Sure, you probably should have a website, Facebook page, Twitter account, Google+ presence, and be managing Pinterest boards.  Not to mention a strategy for Yelp. But here are my reasons why having a Facebook page alone won’t cut it.  (These points can apply to any social network, really.)

1. Not everyone is on Facebook. You can spew the jaw-dropping statistics to me all day long.  I know Facebook is huge. The number of Facebook users continues to grow.  But the truth is, not everyone has a Facebook profile. Not everyone wants to use Facebook. And not everyone uses Facebook to search for restaurants when they’re hungry.  Sure, your Facebook page will probably pop up on a Google search if you’ve set it up correctly, added your name in the URL, and used your restaurant’s keywords throughout the page.  Can you guarantee a non-Facebook user will click on that Facebook result, though?  I didn’t think so.  I will absolutely argue that Facebook is a must-have for restaurants, but it won’t replace your own corporate website.  At least not this year.

2. Facebook controls Facebook. Remember the timeline adoption that rolled out a few years ago? When Facebook changes, its users just have to go along for the ride and adopt.  You are only one page on this gigantic network of pages, and Facebook owns every single one of them.  I recommend branding your pages as much as possible through the cover photo, profile image, photo albums, and of course the messages you post via your status updates, but I also recommend linking your Facebook page back to a fully-branded site that you can design and control.  Don’t forget, you’re going to need a mobile version of that same branded site.  As a side note, depending on your account settings, your fans (and foes) can post information on your Facebook page.  You can reply (or delete, which I don’t recommend), but it’s one less thing you can control on Facebook.

3. Facebook content is limited. A robust restaurant website should include: hours of operations, contact information, a map with directions, current sales or promotions, a complete menu, a photo gallery with pictures of food and ambiance and people, details on involvement with community or earth-friendly service projects, testimonials and reviews, an ever-changing blog, online reservation form, catering or takeout details, a little bit of history, the mission and vision statements, and key staff bios.  If you sell bottled spaghetti sauce, branded t-shirts, or gift certificates, you are also going to want to implement an e-commerce shopping cart and payment processor.  That’s a lot of info to cram into the ‘About Us’ section on Facebook.  You can create custom-designed tabs and a Facebook store, of course, but that can get costly with so much info to share, and not every developer offers Facebook tab/store design.  Besides, Facebook users don’t often look through the tabs, or even land on your Facebook page. If this info isn’t showing up repeatedly in users’ news feeds, there is a good chance they aren’t seeing it.  With recent changes to how all information and posts show up in news feeds, with more opportunity for selecting the type of news a user sees, this even becomes more limiting to restaurant brands.  Plus, if you aren’t already popular on Facebook, getting your content seen, liked, and shared is a challenge.  Facebook insights don’t currently share the impressions your ‘About Us’ section or tabs are receiving, whereas you can measure the traffic to your website with easy integration to Google Analytics.

4. Facebook content is hard to navigate. I mentioned Facebook tabs above, but not all the tabs are prominent from the home screen of your Facebook page. And those posts you share?  Well the timeline goes on and on forever, but Facebook doesn’t archive those posts in easy-to-find navigational menus.  There’s a search bar on Facebook, but it’s going to search the entire network (and web) for results, not just your page.

5. Facebook replaced MySpace. Well, that’s not true.  MySpace is still around, believe it or not.  My point here is that if you invest entirely into Facebook as your main online presence, you’re going to really feel the negative impact when Facebook usage starts to dwindle or the next big social media platform comes around.  I think Facebook does have staying power (for now), but again…you don’t have control of that.  In fact, neither does Facebook.

I want to reiterate that Facebook should definitely have a place in your restaurant’s marketing strategy.  It offers a great way to build community and generate fans.  However, it’s my opinion that you also should invest in a corporate website.  Only there can you control all the content, design, and properly promote your restaurant.  Your Facebook and website pages should link to each other and support the same overall branding of one another.  Being social and socially engaged is vital to the success of any restaurant (or business of any kind) in today’s real-time, interactive, socially demanding world.  Your own website is a great place to start!

? How did we do? Let us know if this restaurant blog article is helpful to you, or what topics you’d like us to cover in the future!

How to Use Pinterest for Your Bar or Restaurant

By now, you’ve probably heard about this Pinterest thing.  Maybe you even pin a collection of boards for your personal interests, must haves, or need-to-dos.  But how do you use Pinterest for your bar or restaurant?  And why should you?  Well those are answers I’m happy to address for you.  As the head pinner for East Coast Chair & Barstool’s Pinterest page, I have been nearly obsessed with this platform for the past year.  And I’ve learned a  lot.  Here are some tips I think you’ll find really interesting, and I hope they will inspire you to jump on board – the pinboard, that is.

Why Pinterest?
Pinterest has taken the social media world by storm.  It was the fastest growing social media site ever; actually, it was the fastest growing site ever, period.  When the site began, users required an invite, but today, users do not need an invite to join.  Launched in 2010 with the biggest boom in general awareness occurring around January 2012, Pinterest is now the 4th largest social media site and the 3rd most popular, behind Facebook and Twitter.  With over 23 million unique monthly visitors in July 2012, it showed a 5,124% increase in traffic from July 2011 to July 2012, according to a CBS News article.  And when people visit Pinterest, they don’t just stop by, they are spending an average of 14.2 minutes (as reported by a SaltyWaffle.com article), and I know many pinners (myself included) who spend hours at a time searching through the virtual pinboard for ideas, helpful hints, and inspiration. What’s more is that Pinterest is referring more traffic to external websites (like yours!) than YouTube, Google+, and Tumblr combined.

Beyond gaining referral traffic, Pinterest is helping businesses (just like yours!) close the sale.  According to Econsultancy.com, Pinterest users spend more than twice as much as Facebook users.  And although the site is predominantly used by women, the men who are on Pinterest are about twice as likely to buy, according to a recent Compete survey.  So don’t rule out men, yet, especially because more males are slowly joining the party on Pinterest.

With the Food & Drink category being the most popular (says Repinly), it’s only obvious to me that bars and restaurants belong on this platform!

What Should I Pin?
Worried about good content?  That’s the fun part!  Here are some ideas and examples for you.

  • Food, food, food.  People love saving and sharing recipes.  So give them what they love.  Post recipes to some of your restaurant’s signature dishes, or create a pinboard about possible menu additions in the future, or both!  The recipes on your Pinterest page could link directly back to that menu item on your website, or maybe you’ll want to create a special recipe section on your website that you can pin directly from, so it makes sharing your recipe even easier.  The other recipes could be repins from the Pinterest community, because remember – it’s nice to share others’ content sometimes, too.
  • Drinks.  Cocktails.  Alcoholic concoctions.  You get the idea.
  • Real photos. Whether they’re of your store front, your different locations, your staff, or your trendy restaurant furniture and must-see decor, your establishment’s own photos give a personal touch to your brand and are oftentimes the most enjoyed. So get out your camera and start adding real-time photos of your real-life restaurant; you’ll be really glad you did!  (If you are a new restaurant, you can showcase the progress you’re making in getting things up and running.  Or, if you do a remodel, you can show off your before-and-after pictures in a special board. The possibilities are endless!)
  • Customer photos.  Someone’s at your restaurant and snaps a picture.  Minutes later it’s on their Instagram page and being shared on Facebook.  Why not invite them to pin it to one of your pinboards, too? 
  • Historical photos.  Are you a landmark establishment in your town?  If you’ve been around a while, you might want to start a pinboard collection of photos through the ages.  Don’t stop at just what your bar looked like 50 years ago; add in photos of what the town looked like 50 years ago.  And of course, you’ll want to pin photos of the people who helped you get to where you are today: founders, past bar owners, and your long-time customers!
  • Geographical-specific images.  If you’re in Houston, pin things that are specific to all things Texas.  If you’re in Boston, pin other places to go or stay while in Boston.  Gain the support of your local community, or make recommendations to out-of-towners – who in turn will remember your restaurant when they visit.  Now you’re thinking!
  • Health & fitness tips.  If you’re committed to offering a healthy menu, then this topic is one your customers have much interest.  And Pinterest is full of pins in this subject matter.
  • Sports.  Didn’t think I’d say that, huh?  But if you’re a sports bar, this is a great fit for you.  Pin photos from your local sports teams’ websites, articles/scores/blogs from your local sports reporters, and photos of your customers dressed in their favorite players’ jerseys.
  • Music.  Do you have live bands?  Known for the hottest dance floor in town?  Associate a certain kind of cool tunes to your overall atmosphere?  Go to YouTube, find music videos that fit your brand, and pin them to a board dedicated to the sound of your bar or restaurant.
  • Merchandise.  Do you have an e-commerce section to your website, featuring t-shirts, growlers, or gift certificates?  Be sure to pin your merchandise with a dollar amount included.  This will help your pin be seen by more people, because the dollar sign will help it land in the Gifts section, too.
  • Videos.  Create and upload videos to your YouTube channel, then pin them at Pinterest, too!  You could do a series of “how to” videos of your chef or staff members teaching the viewers how to properly dice their veggies, how to safely store food, how to stuff a turkey, how to mix a cocktail, how to set a table, etc.  Or, you could do quick customer testimonials in video style, or post videos of recent events or other happenings in your bar or restaurant.  Get creative!  Videos are hot right now, and the most engaging ones are quick to go viral.  Don’t forget to also upload them to your restaurant’s website.
  • Community or charity.  Does your restaurant team give back?  Make a board for that!  Post photos of staff volunteering, or pin photos from the websites of the charities you support.  It helps make you look all warm and fuzzy inside.  And that’s a good thing!
  • Infographics and humor.  If you want to get your pins shared, pin things worth sharing.  An infographic, cartoon, or funny quote that somehow ties back to your brand will be a surefire way to get others to repin away!  The more interesting your pin is, the more likely that it will be repinned and shared on (and off) Pinterest.
  • Anything unique to you.  Ask yourself, “What is my restaurant best known for?”  “What makes my bar different?”  The answer should be in your pins!

What are Best Pinning Practices?
Don’t pin things blindly.  Here are some best practices that I recommend.

  1. Get a content plan.  Decide what types of content and what pinboards you’ll start with.  Remember, you can always add categories and new pins as you go.  But start with 5-7 pinboard themes that you know you want to focus on at first.  Remember, anything that you blog about or post on your website can essentially become a pin, too – so start thinking visually in all your other content, as well.
  2. Decide who will be your restaurant’s pinners.  Note, I said pinners.  Pinterest makes it easy to set up your pinboards to have more than one pinner.  Invite your staff who are natural Pinterest lovers, so while they’re pinning for themselves off-duty, they can also pin for you.  They won’t even feel as if they’re working.  It also means you can invite your vendors or your customers to pin to a board.  You might not want every pinboard to be a group board, but having more than one pinner can help you grow your pins rapidly and diversify your content.  Each board can have different pinners assigned to it, but one person should be the administrator of your overall business account.
  3. Set up a business page, or verify your existing one.  This will give your page an official look and also link directly to your website.  Win win!
  4. Be sure to include a description for your main page and each board. The text is search-able, so don’t miss out on the opportunity to be seen.
  5. When you describe an individual pin, be brief.  Much like Twitter, use #hashtags to make searching for similar pins or topics easy.
  6. Create content before you launch.  With Pinterest’s new “secret boards“, it’s easy to get your pinboards prepped and ready before they go live.
  7. Balance your content with others’.  Don’t have 100 pins, all pinned from your website of your menu items.  That’s not only egotistical, it’s boring.  And it isn’t good in a social space like Pinterest.  Mix it up.  Sure, you can self-promote sometimes, but don’t forget to give a nod to your fellow community members.
  8. Balance repins with fresh content.  There are a ton of existing pins on Pinterest that might fit well onto your boards, and it’s always nice to comment and repin and be an active and friendly Pinterest user.  But, it’s also vital for the health of Pinterest and your brand on the platform, to share new content.
  9. Rely on visuals.  Some text is OK for each pin, but don’t write a story to accompany your photo.  Make sure the link is working properly and take pinners to more content on your website when they click through.  Once again, your content off Pinterest could be shared by others, so think more visually in everything you do.

Who is Ace at this Pinterest Thing?
I am glad you asked, because I can’t wait to share these awesome examples of bars and restaurants using Pinterest.  Please note, I didn’t look at every bar or restaurant on Pinterest, so I’m sure there are many more exceptional pages.

We often look to the “big dogs” in our industry to emulate their successful strategies.  Looking at Chili’s pinboards, here’s what I love:

  • Breaking down their food boards into more specific categories, much like their actual restaurant menu
  • Featuring funny and share-able content in the Someecards board
  • Linking to their Create-a-Pepper site which features user-designed peppers that are colored for a good cause (warm and fuzzy, right?!)

I have to admit, this may be my favorite restaurant pinner I found.  HoHut Mongolian Grill is verified, which signifies right away that they know what they’re doing.  Here’s why I love, love, love them:

  • Featuring brand-relevant Mongolian culture and places, even though they are an American restaurant chain
  • Integrating what’s happening on Instagram with their content on Pinterest (so smart!)
  • Hosting recipe contests to increase engagement with their brand
  • Creating a board for Fu Manchus – that’s brand-savvy and fun!
  • And oh yeah, they also feature their menu and merchandise items, but it’s a great balance!

I also give Moe’s Original Bar B Que lots of love for these reasons:

  • Featuring “real” photos – they aren’t afraid to share pictures taken by their staff and customers and give us a “real” look inside their restaurants
  • Showcasing news, awards, and ads, which makes it really easy for them to then point media to one place for all their information (like an online and visual media kit!)
  • Balancing food and recipes with other stuff that interests their customers, like music and events

What are You Waiting For?
That’s what I thought!  I’ll be seeing you on Pinterest soon.  Don’t forget to follow us, and let me know if you use any of these pinteresting ideas.  I’m glad I could be of help.

On behalf of all of at East Coast Chair & Barstool, happy pinning!