How to Make Your Restaurant Successful on Yelp

Find Us on YelpFaced with large amounts of competition, businesses are constantly fighting for their customers’ attention. Word-of-mouth marketing is a powerful driving force in today’s society and has the ability to sway decisions like what to buy and where to eat. This type of marketing may seem difficult to harness, but with programs like Yelp, businesses have a way to engage with customers and help mold their opinions.

Yelp is a great way for small businesses to compete with larger chains by showcasing what they have to offer. In Q2 of 2016, Yelp had a monthly average of 23 million unique visitors who went through Yelp’s mobile app and another 69 million unique visitors who visited Yelp via the web. A Nielsen study reports that 78 % of users rely on Yelp to find restaurants (out of all categories), capturing the highest percentage of the categories. Needless to say, Yelp is a well-used resource for restaurant-goers whose importance is often under-estimated by restaurant owners.

How It Works

Imagine you’re on vacation and it’s your first time at a destination. Up and down your hotel’s strip, there is dinner option after dinner option. As a consumer, the choices are overwhelming. How do you even begin to choose? You could just waltz into the first place you come to and take your chances.  Or, you could leverage the experience of thousands of Yelpers that have visited before you and have left reviews of just about every restaurant in town.  Without the uncertainty and risk of visiting an untested spot, you and your family can get down to the business of enjoying your vacation.

According to their website, Yelp’s purpose is to “connect people with great local businesses”. Their automated software program scours the top reviews that are written by users (“Yelpers”) based on quality and helpfulness, and it ranks businesses according to a proprietary algorithm. So how does your restaurant get the highest ranking? Typically, a larger number of reviews lead to a higher ranking in Yelp search and many other search engines.  The strategy then with Yelp is to get your restaurant as many good reviews as possible.  In this article, we are going to show you how to get started.


Yelp Ads
Claim Your Business

Claiming your business is the starting point for all businesses on Yelp. To be proactive with a Yelp strategy, you must claim your business to have control of that page. After you claim your page, you can then personalize it to help distinguish it among other pages. The goal of this page is to drive traffic to your own site. Optimizing this page will help your restaurant appear, not only in yelp searches, but also in search engine queries like Google.

It is interesting to note that according to a Boston Consulting Group study, businesses that simply claimed their Yelp profile generated incremental revenues of $8,000 annually just from being on Yelp.  Wouldn’t it be nice if your business could bring in an additional $8,000 per year by spending a small amount of time setting up you page and managing your reviews?  By the way, according to the same study, those who claimed their profile AND advertised on Yelp through PPC campaigns (more on that later) generated additional revenue of $23,000.

Rack Up the Reviews

Although it is the core function of Yelp, many businesses may wonder how customers will know to leave a review. Be cautious of how you approach this topic.  Yelp prefers “organic” review, which means reviews that have not been solicited or, worse, paid for.  It’s understandable if you think about it.  Most businesses only ask for reviews from their happiest customers, not those who have had a bad experience.  That might be great for the restaurant, but it damages the overall credibility of the review system. Yelp wants your restaurant to earn great reviews through exemplary business practices, not through solicitation and/or reward.

Even though Yelp discourages direct solicitation, they do leave the door open for more subtle ways of generating reviews.  The first, and most obvious, is to make sure that your customers know you actually have a Yelp account. You may have a customer that comes to your restaurant every single day for their morning coffee, but if they don’t know you’re on Yelp, how will the world know that you have nurtured and cared for this customer, so much so they visit your business every day? Make customers aware that you use Yelp by using this form to receive a window cling for your business. Also, remind customers to visit your Yelp page with a link in your email signature and/or a badge on your website.

To attract customers that are in the decision stage, use a Check-In Offer to entice them. A Check-In Offer is a reward a customer receives when they check into a business on Yelp. This reward is redeemed by mobile device at the place of business. After a checking in from a mobile device at a restaurant, the user is later asked to write a review of where they checked in at. Be careful not to offer incentives to customers who give better reviews, which is against Yelp’s policiesCheck In Offer

While the tactics above are handy with a new restaurant or during a slow time to jazz up reviews, you should always try and go above and beyond for customers. Have the mindset of what kind of experience you want your customers to walk away with, and then double it. What sets your business apart from the competition? Is your atmosphere, food, staff, or price point? Find what makes your restaurant original and makes for a memorable experience for your guests. Inspire people to choose your restaurant, enjoy themselves, and then right a smashing review because their experience was just that good.

Take a look at this improvement calculator to see how many reviews it will take to attain a certain rating for your restaurant.

Interact with Customers

You’ve put the work into claiming your business, spruced up your Yelp page, and the reviews are pouring in. All of a sudden, your first bad review comes in: a piece of coal in your carefully cultivated glittering diamond mine of positive reviews. Your first instinct might be to ignore the review, hoping it gets lost in the sea positive reviews. Maybe no one will see it?  That is a big mistake.  You should always respond to a negative review, even if the response is private.  The last thing that you want is an already upset customer feeling like you’re ignoring them.  You’ll definitely want to reach out to that Yelper in a way that lets them know that their concerns have been heard and you will take their input into consideration when shaping future decisions.

Whether you handle bad reviews publicly or privately is up to you, but maintain consistency – don’t respond publicly to the reviews where you feel like a customer is wrong, and privately to the reviews where you know you messed up. The flow chart below outlines Yelps best practices for responding to reviews publicly or privately.

Review Flow ChartFinally, remember that your public responses will be seen by existing and potential customers so always be courteous and understanding. Practice up on your PR skills and don’t isolate customers. You don’t want jeopardize your future business with a poorly worded response.

Free Assets for Business Owners

Yelp has many free resources for business owners to use, making it effective and easy on a budget.

Yelp for Business Owners app is the most comprehensive of these resources. With the app (available in the App Store for iOS and Google Play Store for Android), businesses track engagement, leads, and clicks to their site from Yelp. The app also has the capability to track the number of check-ins to a business, calls (from clicking the phone number), and the reservations made off of Yelp. Not only do these factors help you gauge your success on Yelp, but could justify an increase of foot traffic in your restaurant. Through the app you also have the capability to respond (publicly or privately) to messages, upload photos, and report reviews or messages. For a busy, on-the-go restaurant owner, the Yelp app is extremely valuable in managing your presence on the site.

Again, you don’t want to come right out and ask for reviews. But if you want another, more discrete way to remind customers about giving you a review, place a Yelp review badge on your website. By placing a review badge on your site, your customers can see that people have a reviewed your restaurant and prompt them to check out your Yelp page. Potential customers will be more inclined to visit a restaurant with many positive reviews, which the badge helps them see at a glance. Every time your business is reviewed, the counter clicks up and/or reflects in the stars. Per Yelp’s brand guidelines, there are only two badges allowed on a business’ site that shows their association with Yelp.

Web Review Badges

It is important for business owners to stay up to date on ways to effectively use Yelp. Yelp offers free 30 minute webinars that improve upon your existing Yelp knowledge. Topics range from how to respond to reviews to becoming a 5-star brand. These webinars help clarify how your restaurant can use Yelp as a sustainable, effective strategy for the long term.

Yelp Ads

While Yelp has plenty of free resources for businesses, there are also advertising packages to enhance your profile even further.

Yelp’s advertising packages operate on a cost per click (CPC) basis and could be beneficial for your particular niche. There is no pre-determined set cost because the cost depends on the competition and relevance of your advertisement to the user’s search. Yelp Ads can help your business with targeted local advertising and a more prominent placement on search and competitor pages.

If you want to upgrade your Yelp experience by paying for advertising, the Call to Action button may be one you want to take advantage of.

Whenever potential customers have searched and found your business on Yelp, what is the next steps you want them to take? The best way to provide a specific direction for these customers is to have a Call to Action button. When set up, this button appears towards to the top of your business’ page, underneath the location and uploaded photos.
When narrowing down what your Call to Action should be, think of what your desired end goal is. The button will take customers to more information in the form of a specific page of your website or coupon.

Call to Action
In the example above, Olive or Twist’s Call to Action button promotes their happy hour and links to their specials section on their website. Make sure your button is labeled with a broad, but relevant statement. You don’t want to give away all the information on your Yelp page, because then there is no need to click. This button provides a next-steps for potential customers to take part in.

Compare the different products that Yelp Ads has to offer with this chart.

Please note that just because a business advertises on Yelp does not mean they automatically get better ratings. A business could be rated two stars and advertise, leading to more people seeing that rating. On the other hand, a business that does not pay to advertise can have a five-star rating. For more information on Yelp’s advertising policy, feel free to check out their FAQ page.

If you own a restaurant that has never used Yelp or only as a consumer, go claim your business. Doing a simple Google search will leave you with endless results on how to optimize Yelp and best practices. But the best way to use Yelp is to jump right in! There are so many free resources and options for a business getting started on Yelp. Don’t think the only way to be successful on Yelp is to shell out a portion of your advertising budget. Let your customers know that you have a Yelp presence, respond thoughtfully to their reviews, and keep providing excellent experiences to make Yelp work for your business.

Does your restaurant or business currently use Yelp as a strategy? If so, what’s your experience with having a page? If not, what are your reservations about it? Let us know!

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.

Mobile Wallet Basics for Restaurants

Mobile Wallet Basics

Your smartphone is again evolving in usefulness.  At a point when you likely can’t imagine not having this device which serves as your phone, computer, planner, and social connection, it can now be your wallet.  In the restaurant industry, this concept poses a new adventure for owners because as with any new technology, the increased appeal to customers creates a massive adoption of the latest fad and convenience.  Your best bet is to become familiar with this concept and decide if you want to jump on the bandwagon to offer this new convenience to your customers.

What is a “mobile wallet”?

Termed “mobile wallet” or “digital wallet”, your smartphone, tablet, or smartwatch becomes the digital equivalent to that bulky wallet you carry around in your purse or back pocket.  Instead of pulling out a credit card to make a purchase, you just pull out your smartphone and pay with it.  This concept offers consumers two main benefits: convenience and security.  These benefits, as explained in a great article called Contactless Payments are Here. Are You Ready? by Brant Schelhaas from Vantiv Integrated Payments, are detailed as follows:

  • Convenience
    • No longer digging through a purse or bulky wallet to find cash or a credit card. Just grab your smartphone for payment.  Smartphones are more readily accessible these days than a card.
  • Security
    • More secure due to the fact that the technology uses encryption to help securely transmit data. Encryption is the process of encoding messages or information in such a way that only authorized parties can read it.
    • The customer never has to hand over a physical card therefore less likely to leave their card behind
    • Many contactless payment methods offer advanced identification technologies, like fingerprint readers
    • Payment networks that process contactless payments have the ability to detect attempts to use the same transaction information more than once
    • Contactless payments do not require the cardholder’s name to be passed between the card and the terminal
    • Many contactless payments do not use the customer’s actual account number when processing a payment

In addition to these customer benefits, Brant Schelhaas discusses the benefits to business owners.

  • Due to the benefits that are offered to customers, there has been and will continue to be a large increase in customer use. For those businesses that accept this new technology that customers are embracing, they will have a competitive edge over those who do not.
  • Contactless payments process faster than traditional payment methods. This means shorter lines and better customer service especially through peak times.
  • Contactless payments make business owners less vulnerable since they do not transmit the customer’s card information to the POS system.
  • Other benefits not listed in the article include:
    • Less wear and tear on your equipment due to no contact
    • Paper receipts are not required (unless requested) so there is less expense for you
    • More focus on selling versus handling cash or a card which can lead to more unplanned purchases
    • Less cash flow through your business

How do mobile wallets work?

A wallet begins with the download of a smartphone app that holds and stores debit, credit, and even loyalty card information for purchases in-store and through any virtual avenue.  Some smartphones already come with a wallet for your convenience but other apps can be downloaded if you prefer to not use the one on your phone. Below is a chart listing and offering basic information about some, but not all, of the best mobile wallets for 2016 ranked from bestcompany.com, an online company who reports real, unbiased reviews based only on consumer ratings, opinions, and experiences.  We have included the top seven of nineteen wallets listed in the article for your review in addition to some other apps on the list that are quite popular and frequently used:

Samsung Pay
  • Payment using a compatible Samsung Galaxy device
  • Swipe up to launch the app, secure with your fingerprint, and hover over the card reader to pay
  • Ability to add membership and loyalty cards
  • High-quality security
Apple Pay
  • Payment using an iPhone, Apple Watch, or iPad
  • Setup is easy with Wallet, preloaded on several apple devices
  • High-quality security with Touch ID
  • If your device is lost or stolen, use Find My iPhone or iCloud to stop the ability to use your phone for purchases
Android Pay
  • Payment using Android devices
  • Ability to add membership and loyalty cards
  • Setup is easy as it comes preloaded on some Android devices
  • High-quality security
  • If your device is lost or stolen, use Android Device Manager to instantly lock your device and secure it with a new password
Moven
  • Available on iOS and Android devices
  • Moven provides a digital bank account paired with an app to help you track your finances in real time and manage your spending
  • Can pair with your current Moven bank account and cards or you can link to your current bank account and cards
Level Up
  • Payment using iPhone, Android or Windows Phone
  • Get an instant digital receipt
  • Offers rewards for use so you can save money when you try new places and upon return
  • Engineered for security
PayPal
  • Pioneer of mobile payments
  • Send and receive payments using your desktop or iOS, Android, or Blackberry device
  • Compatible with lots of apps to make fast payments
  • Send a request for money with an e-mail or phone number
  • High-quality security
  • Free sign up, link bank info, debit and credit cards

 

Other popular apps that are frequently used:

Google Wallet
  • Send and receive money using select Android and iOS devices as well as on your desktop
  • Linked to your debit card or bank account
  • Google Wallet Fraud Protection and a PIN number for protection; high-quality security
  • If your device is lost or stolen, you can instantly remove access to your account at myaccount.google.com
Capital One
  • Payment using select Android or iPhone devices
  • Full access by Capital One credit card customers in good standing.  Capital One Bank and Capital One 360 debit card customers can use the app to receive real-time notifications, digitize gift cards, and view account balances and transactions; Wallet was designed to complement their app.
  • Instant purchase notifications and receipt capture

Once the chosen app is downloaded, the next step is to input personal payment information into the app for future use.  This can easily be done by following the instructions within the app paired with having access to your debit, credit, and/or loyalty card information as well as with your bank account number and routing number.

When loaded up with your personal information, your mobile wallet is ready to use.  Yet, not all stores/restaurants accept contactless payment.  Search on-line or in the app as to find out which establishments accept these types of payments.  Or, ask ahead.  You can also look for the contactless payment symbol within the store or restaurant as shown below.

To complete a mobile wallet transaction, the transaction requires two things:  a smartphone and an industry standard point-of-sale terminal that uses Near-Field Communication (NFC), a wireless connectivity technology that enables devices to communicate.  The smartphone just needs to be placed within 2-4 inches of the terminal and payment is completed.  Most smartphones are now equipped with NFC technology yet not all stores and restaurants have the equipment for this communication.  As time passes, this will most likely change.  With the concept of mobile wallets on the rise, customers are looking for convenience and speed with payments therefore requiring stores and restaurants to conform to these new payment trends.

How can my restaurant start accepting payments with mobile wallets?

With mobile payments on the rise, restaurants are looking to take the steps needed to adopt this new technology.  Here are some steps you can take to get the ball rolling:

Review your average sales traffic, customer base, and demographic area that you serve to determine if contactless payments are right for you.

Contact your payment provider to determine if your current point of sale terminal is already NFC/contactless payment-capable. If it is, ask your provider to enable it so that you can begin accepting contactless payments.  If it is not capable, find out what you need to do and the cost involved in changing out your equipment so that you have the ability to offer contactless payments.

Once the decision is made to offer contactless payments, develop a schedule of implementation and train your employees on how to use the contactless payment equipment and systems. Demonstration is always a great way to train so a mock set up to this process is ideal.  This would also be a great time to test the process to make sure that if any changes need made, they are done before offering it live.

When you are ready to offer contactless payments, it’s time to let your customers know! Send out an e-mail blast, communicate on all of your social media platforms, and order decals for the different payment methods that you are offering to put them up in your establishment’s windows.

These steps may sound simple but the process does take time and effort on your part to adopt.  Your current payment provider will be your biggest asset in this transition so working with them to assist you during your transition is key.

Will you jump on the bandwagon?

Mobile technology has really changed our lives.  Our phones have become more of a need than a desire because of the increased usefulness that it offers to our daily lives.  Because of this, you rarely find anyone without it.  When you add the option of using your phone as a wallet, an even closer attachment to a phone will be found and the benefits that it offers will guarantee it.  As a restaurant owner, will you jump on the bandwagon and accept contactless payments in your restaurant?  It’s a serious option to consider and one that offers benefits all around.

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How Your Restaurant Can Capitalize on the Pokémon Go Phenomenon

Pokemon Go Cover
Pokémon has made a strong comeback 20 years after its initial release in the form of a social media sensation, Pokémon Go. Nintendo first released Pokémon in 1996 in Japan where Satoshi Tajiri, the creator, and Ken Sugimori, the artist, were junior developers at. The game was later released in the United States in 1998 where it found great success. Now, the developmental giants at Niantic Labs, the Pokémon Company, and Nintendo have revived enthusiasts’ old love for the characters and friendly-competition with Pokémon Go. All players need is a smartphone with GPS and camera capabilities. Currently, Pokémon Go is the most profitable app on both the Google Play Store and Apple App Store, and Nintendo’s stock is going through the roof. At this time, the game is restricted to the US, Australia, New Zealand, UK, Canada, and Germany, with other locations becoming available day by day.

Pokemon GoSo how does this impact the day-to-day of the restaurant industry?

Many business owners may look at Pokémon Go as a distraction to their business. Something that will have gamers popping into their restaurant just to catch a rare Water Pokémon or Pikachu. They will roam the waiting area, pretend to look at the menu, only to leave and cause a distraction amongst the paying customers. It doesn’t have to be this way. Pokémon Go augments a user’s reality to include these collectible creatures. So why not be an asset to them? Pokémon Go can be used to your restaurant’s advantage; you just have to find what is the best method for your business.  Already there are businesses that are seeing increases in their numbers because of this game. Pokémon Go is a chance for restaurants to build community presence and increase traffic (and sales) by a fairly simple means.


Become a Pokéstop or gym.

A Pokéstop is where trainers can stock on items used to help them catch Pokémon and a gym is where you can train and battle against other players. As a business you should aim to become one of these. This is one of the ways many businesses are seeing huge spikes in foot traffic. There is a subset of the population that is actually preferring certain restaurants because of their interactivity with the game model. When you become either a Pokéstop or gym, your restaurant can then be placed on the map so players can find you. When Pokémon Go was initially released, Pokéstops and gyms were pre-determined which limited the availability in some regions. Users now have the ability to request that a location be activated. So no fear if you weren’t one of the original chosen. Likewise, those who are not fans of the game can request to be removed. Click here to turn your restaurant into a Pokéstop or gym!*

Food Truck Set up a food truck or stand.

Pokémon Go has elements similar to geo-caching, the biggest one being you physically must be in that location to play the game. If you have a town square or park that is open and already frequented by Pokémon trainers, this is a great opportunity for your business. A food truck or stand can be put in these locations to promote your restaurant. Walking around can certainly work up an appetite, hungry trainers will thank you. This can be especially useful if you have a small brick and mortar location and still want the opportunity to bring your name and products out into the community. Even something small like a coupon card that promotes your business being Pokémon-friendly could make a difference. The rewards can be great for restaurants who get out in the community and involved in this trend.

Make an experience out of it.

The more ways you advertise that your establishment is a Pokémon-friendly environment, the better. Create specials like the “Bulbasaur Bruschetta” or “Horsea Ham Sandwich on Rye” to entice hungry players that come for the creatures and stay for the food. Integrate your social media with Pokémon Go by making a rewards program that offers guests an incentive if they post a Pokémon Go pictures from your location and tag you. Enlist a coalition of businesses around you to host a Pokémon bar crawl or food walk. This way you can get a larger group on-board and have a wider range of resources to work with. Your avenue of creativity and level of involvement is completely up to you as a business.

Busy StreetUse Lure Modules to attract Pokémon and customers.

One of the most reliable ways to attract Pokémon Go players to your restaurant is to purchase a Lure Module. A Lure Module will bring Pokémon to a specific Pokéstop for 30 minutes, meaning any player at the particular location can catch them during that time frame. Restaurants can use these to appeal to trainers during slow periods of the day, with the goal being to turn them into customers. One Lure Module is 100 Poké coins for $0.99, making this a fairly cheap way to attract the Pokémon Go crowd. Other businesses are going so far as to letting their customers know when they’re going to be using a Lure Module. This gives trainers a definite location and time of when the Lure Module will be used so they can be prepared. If you have a big event coming up, let know your social media followers know a Lure Module will be in place so they can come and take part in it. Using this method of advertising, you can physically bring Pokémon players into your location and have them enjoy what you have to offer as a restaurant.

Pokémon Go allows restaurants and businesses to interact with their guests like never before. As a business, you will have to make the call whether this a trend you want to take part. If you have the creativity and time to plan on how you want to use this game to attract customers, it could be worth your while. Just remember, opportunities to drive massive traffic to your establishment don’t come around that often, and you have to take advantage of them when they do.

*07/25/16 UPDATE: Pokémon Go is no longer accepting submissions for new Pokéstops or Gyms due to an overwhelming influx of submissions. Changes such as trading, breeding, and more sophisticated Lure Modules are in the works for players as the app evolves. Check back as this is subject to change!

How New Technology Offers Customer Service Improvements at Your Restaurant

Touchscreen Technology for Restaurants
Restaurant owners and managers are always seeking innovative ways to draw new customers and retain current ones. With the advent of mobile technology and social media, it’s become easier to reach out to a much larger customer base than ever before.

Here’s why you’ll want to be using technology that can help you introduce your eatery to the masses:

  • For Convenience. We mean both your convenience and your customers’ convenience. There are quite a few apps out there that can help your customers find you easily and then make a reservation, like Open Table. Having an online registration system that is connected to your computer system through a website, program, or the Cloud will make it easier for you to fill your open spots and open tables. Make sure your website has contact information both at the top and bottom of the page, and add a “Testimonials” tab and fill it with great reviews. Reviews and testimonials pages usually have the third-highest page views on a restaurant’s site, right after the home page and the menu.Offering WI-Fi is a must, and with chain restaurants like Chili’s and Applebee’s putting tablets at each table to place orders and pay bills, many owners will be thinking of other ways they can streamline their ordering system using wireless technology.
  • To Keep In Touch. With mobile devices so popular (more than 40% of website views are made from a tablet or phone), some restaurants create apps that help to tether their customers to them. If you can provide some helpful or entertaining information in app form, it may be a nice way to notify your customers of upcoming specials and encourage engagement with your brand.  How to get them to download it? Offer customers an instant coupon for downloading your app while they’re enjoying their meal, but be sure to provide an ongoing value to your app users.Email lists are helpful, too. Some places like to send out an email to customers that lists the weekly specials or the weekend entertainment schedules. Some owners use email to deliver special coupons to repeat customers, too. You can also use the email to get some fabulous reviews. Have a customer write a quick online review that can be used on your website or on Google Carousel, and then send them a coupon as thanks. They’re likely to return, and you now have a new review that you can publish and promote.
  • To Let You Share Your Experience. After you’ve had a great meal, you probably want to tell everyone how wonderful it was. Your customers are the same way: dining out isn’t just eating a meal, it’s an event they want to commemorate. They love taking pictures of food and sharing it on Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, and Urbanspoon.  Online reviews—whether they’re good or bad—are always a good way to connect and keep in touch with customers and everyone who is reading their appraisal of your restaurant.Social media can be a very powerful tool for telling your restaurant’s story and listening to the experiences of your customers.  Embrace social media tools for your restaurant as a way to get feedback and get to know your customers a little better.

The newest way to communicate to your customers may be through technology, but it’s also highly personal (known as “high-tech, high-touch”). Before you can embrace this technology, you’ll have to learn about it so that you can determine what’s most effective for your restaurant and your customer base. From there, you can start implementing some of these ideas, or hire someone to help, because once you start, you’ll get a following—and they’ll expect frequent updates. Set a schedule and stick to it, and get ready to welcome new customers through your door.

Restaurant Trends for 2014: What to Watch

2014 Restaurant Trends

Every December, upcoming trends are published and shared so that restaurant owners can decide if they’d like to continue with their current service, food, and décor—or if new trends will benefit their business and clientele.

We have scoured industry blogs and articles, and we’ve gathered the most talked about restaurant trends that your customers may come to expect in 2014.

Local Sourcing Stands Out. This idea, which started to become popular about five years ago, continues to grow. Using locally-produced food means that you are supporting others in your community, that you truly believe fresh is best and the most nutritious, and that you’re environmentally conscientious. Some restaurants are being built next to garden areas, allowing them to use hyper-local sourcing—literally, food from a restaurant’s backyard.  Because the phrase farm-to-table is being used a lot these days, be careful to identify your local food sources very clearly and with the utmost transparency.  If you get your eggs from Farmer Jones on Lincoln Road in Your Town, USA, say so!

The True Power of Social Media. If you concentrate on one thing this year to bring customers in the door, it should be to learn and then use social media. Many restaurant owners set up a Facebook page, link it to a Twitter account, and then do nothing else. In the meantime, people are looking for information about your restaurant and come across a Facebook page with one post, with no reviews, with no menu or pricing. Don’t let that happen! If you don’t have time, hire someone to help you. Now that Google+ is starting to gain traction in the social media world, it’s another source of information that people will use to make decisions about where to eat, so you should post on there too after creating a Google+ business page. You can use Twitter to share promotions and to attract bloggers and local businesses. Overwhelming? It can be, but setting aside 20 minutes a day to work on social media will pay big dividends.  (If you need help learning the ropes of each network, check out this series of articles I wrote regarding social media for restaurants.)

Bread Makes a Comeback. After years of a downturn in bread and starches, mostly because of fad diets that were trumpeting meat, people are beginning their love affair with bread, pasta, and potatoes again. Starches are once again an acceptable part of restaurant menus, and they’ve branched out. Specialty and flatbreads are becoming a part of bread baskets but are also complementing main dishes.

Healthy Kids’ Meals. If you want to attract families to your restaurant, you probably have chicken nuggets, hot dogs, and mac and cheese on the menu. With consumers becoming more and more interested in the benefits of healthy food, though, many parents prefer that their kids have a nutritious meal when they eat out. But what can you serve that’s healthy AND that kids will enjoy? There are programs available, such as Kids LiveWell (a partnership with Healthy Dining and the National Restaurant Association), that introduces meal selections to restaurants that feature lean proteins, whole grains, vegetables and fruits.

Ordering Using a Mobile Device. Online ordering ahead of time used to be a technological wonder. Now, restaurants are jumping ahead and letting customers sit down and order using a mobile device—mostly using customers’ devices in the era of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device). However, a major restaurant chain just announced their plans to use a tablet at every table that they say will decrease wait times and make them an attractive option for a quick lunch or a long dinner—plus diners don’t have to flag their server down to get the check. While smaller, independent restaurants may think that’s a pretty expensive way to attract customers, remember that many companies who design apps that can be used on customer’s mobile devices are competing for the businesses of smaller restaurants. If you consider convenience to be one reason why people want to eat at your restaurant, you should consider what you can do to upgrade the customer experience.

These ideas are just the beginning of what 2014 will bring to the restaurant business. While most places won’t be adopting all of these ideas, owners can use this list to introduce fresh concepts to their customers.

We wish you all a successful new year!

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!