10% of USA Restaurants Use Social Media

Originally posted September 2009

Denver Restaurants Lead The USA In Using Social Media To Connect With Customers

Over the past two weeks, Chalkboarder.com conducted a study of social media use by restaurants in fourteen major metropolitan areas in the United States. We found some interesting results.

Denver uses more social media to connect with customers than any other metropolitan area in our study. At the bottom of our list we’ve got Philadelphia using the least Twitter, while Miami uses the least social media overall.

We’ve generated some hypotheses around our data, but first wish to continue breaking this out. Here are the results:

City Total Restaurants in Study Website% Email (direct)% Facebook% Twitter% Blog%
Atlanta 399 73 40 11 6 <1
Boston 494 61 31 8 4 2
Chicago 523 60 25 17 11 3
Dallas 367 60 30 9 7 0
Denver 237 87 50 16 14 0
Los Angeles 688 61 23 6 4 2
Las Vegas 616 36 7 8 7 <1
Miami 953 39 20 4 2 <1
New York 932 82 48 5 4 <1
Portland (OR) 168 84 50 8 10 6
Philadelphia 375 58 34 6 2 1
Seattle 549 71 39 5 5 5
San Francisco 1491 52 29 7 5 2
Wash. DC 423 72 35 13 9 2
Totals 7315 64 33 9 6


The purpose of this study was to gain a rough assessment of the ease a customer can have to connect with a restaurant through the virtual door of the internet and social media.

To be blunt – there’s a lot of poor website design in the restaurant industry. We’ll cover that topic in a later article. A humorous result of conducting this study is how hungry we became each day after looking at so much food.

Let’s look at the table. Chalkboarder.com studied 2175 individual restaurant listings on Urban Spoon over the past two weeks. We chose to look at the “Affordable Fine Dining” segment, representing meals in value averaging $15-25 for dinner. We chose to only look at the first 30% of the total listings in this category (user-rated) for the fourteen cities (7315 in number).

Further discovery and extrapolation gives us another surprise – only 33% had a direct email link. We do admit that we factored a bias in this particular data point – the belief that a customer will feel greater ease in connecting to a business when seeing a direct email link, not a comment form.

Now the interesting details on social media. Our study indicates that only 10% of restaurants have embraced social media (Facebook, Twitter and other networks) as a means to connect with customers.

Having said that – the only means that we used to try to discover if a restaurant was using social media was through searching their websites for a link. It is very possible that this percentage is a bit higher – it could be that they have not updated their websites to show that link.

One further note – around 2/3 of the restaurant Twitter accounts we visited had just begun, with follower counts less than fifty.

There’s a lot of dialogue in the industry right now about using social media. It was the dominant topic at the National Restaurant Show in Chicago in May. It dominates the first day of the Oregon Restaurant Association’s annual conference next week. Operators are struggling to understand the media and what best-practice is.

Some observations from our research into effective social media use by restaurants:

  • Be authentic.
  • Don’t advertise. Rather – engage and communicate directly.
  • When you begin – just listen for a while.
  • Share the inner workings of your restaurant (more in the next paragraph on that)
  • Accept criticism from social media positively – it is people wanting you to be better at what you do.
  • Tell stories of your restaurants life and of you.

Chalkboarder.com follows over 300 restaurants nationally on Facebook and just over 200 on Twitter. We’ve seen some great and outstanding examples of effective social media use. We’ve also seen some examples that “fail” (for example: only sharing your logo on your Facebook messages – no text or pics – just your logo).

There are several industry leaders who have been studying best social media practices for the hospitality industry. We certainly have our favorites that we pay attention too, such as Paul Barron of Fast Casual Magazine and Michael Atkinson of FohBoh.

There’s a huge opportunity to cement deep community with your customers through social media. There’s an opportunity to boldly go where others haven’t, yet. Using social media to build your sustainable customer base will be standard best practice in a very short time.

We certainly welcome any and all dialogue on social media use by restaurants here at Chalkboarder.com.

Jeffrey Kingman, President



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