Times have changed. Open the other door to your hospitality operation.

Recently I ran across an article explaining why your website is not just a brochure. This led me to consider how many of the 945,000 restaurant locations in the USA use websites as a virtual door for their customers – or not. Five years ago it was the norm for hospitality operations to put up a static website with their menu or lodging, a little bio and a contact page.

Times have changed. Open the other door to your hospitality operation.

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It’s time for you to open that door wide. Today’s hospitality customers are savvy. They use social media to find where to stay and dine. They use cell phones to tell their friends about where they ate last night. They use social media to find out what you have to say. They want to know who you are before they walk through your door.

How do you get your restaurant, inn, hotel or bar in front of these existing and potential patrons? It’s time to engage – time to step up to the needs of this age and expose yourself.

Here are some great examples:

Frontera Grill

LincolnPDX

The Herb Farm

Ford’s Filling Station

According to eMarketer, by 2011 the total US adult social-networking audience will grow to more than 50% of the population. Are you engaging your customer base through Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn? Are you getting your story and brand out there?

I currently follow over a hundred good restaurants on Facebook. I use Urban Spoon to find restaurants that other diners like. I pay attention to the restaurants and hotels that my friends on Twitter and LinkedIn are talking about. Are you there for me to find?

Websites

Your website can’t be static anymore. Prospective patrons want to see what you’re doing this week in your operation. Writing a blog once a week or more about the happenings and specials you have engages them. Other suggestions:

  • Make it dynamic. Put a quick video of your chef cooking, the bartender mixing or the hotel guest soaking in the hot-tub on your front page. Put a link to your blog that tells them this week’s or today’s news. Make sure they can communicate directly to you via email, phone or social networking.
  • Make it visual. Get those pictures of your best products up. Link them to special deals.
  • Make it inviting. It’s the other door to your restaurant.

Social Networking

The future is here with social networking. If you aren’t engaging your customers through blogging, instant messaging, Twittering or micro-blogging on other social networks – you are losing guests. They want to participate in your operation, not just visit. They want to know what you believe about them, about your food, about your hotel. They want to know why you are in the business of providing for them. Why are you?

  • Get a Twitter account. Learn how to use it. Share your Twitter address with guests. This means you – the owner or general manager.
  • Get your top people twittering too. Guests want to engage the Chef, the bartender, the dining room manager and the front desk manager. Give your top people the power to engage the customer at both the front and virtual doors.
  • Join social networking groups – such as, FohBoh, Wine 2.0 and hospitality groups on LinkedIn.
  • Get on Facebook. Everyday run a post about that night’s special – but make it compelling. Don’t just put a message out with your logo and “$9.95 Bacon Cheeseburger tonight”. Make your post a message people will share with their friends.
  • Host a “Tweetup”. Know anyone who is Twittering? Offer them a free meal or a discount on a room to do a monthly Tweetup – where they message out a Twitter-users get-together at your operation. When they come, be part of it and let them all know you Twitter too.

These are some thoughts on throwing the other, virtual door of your hospitality operation wide-open. I’ve got a lot more thoughts on how to drive customers to your place using Web 2.0 and 3.0 – and I love to share. Let me leave you with an example of the power of social media for a foodservice organization.

Starbucks “Free Pastry” on Twitter Promo

Two weeks ago, Starbucks launched a one-day promotion entirely and solely on Twitter. The offer was a free pastry with the purchase of a beverage. It was marketed only on Twitter for two days prior. Starbucks spent $12,000 putting the promotion together. Here are the results:

  • Generated nearly $500,000 in additional revenue the day of the offering
  • Increased Starbucks Twitter followers by nearly 250,000 in one week
  • Spillover sharing of the promo (friend to friend) increased Starbucks Facebook followers by nearly 40,000 in one week
  • Average coupon turn-in was nine per store
  • Customers had the choice of showing the barista the coupon on their phone or printing it out

So a return of 410 percent on the $12,000 cost of the promotion. That’s not too bad. What kind of promotion could you run through social networking?

You can reach me directly at:

jkingman@chalkboarder.com

Twitter = @JeffreyJKingman

Skype = WolfeCrick

(800) 409-8144

Jeffrey Kingman is the President and Co-Founder of Chalkboarder.com, a digital community management and social media service firm to organizations. A former Executive Chef across the USA, he resides in Oregon where he satisfies his blogging passions in food and sustainability. You can follow his other blogs at:

Kitchen Dances (wordpress)

Kitchen Dances (blogspot)

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One Comment to “Times have changed. Open the other door to your hospitality operation.”

  1. Times have certainly changed we are moving towards advancement there are different ways to do hospitality.You can use social media sites to promote your business.

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