By Erika Kerekes
It’s a fact: These days, good social media buzz can help restaurants fill tables. Luckily, there are simple things restaurants can do to encourage customers and bloggers to post positive comments and attractive photos on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Foodspotting, Yelp, and other important social networks. For example:
- Let there be light. If you see people come in with a camera, put them at a table with good lighting (near a window if it’s daytime). If they’re already seated and you see them snapping photos, ask them if the light is okay where they are or whether they’d like to move. Very few amateur photographers can take decent pictures in the dark.
- Announce your presence. Hang a sign near the entrance with the restaurant’s social media usernames or URLs, as well as any branded hashtags you’ve created. Not only will it remind people to “check in,” but it will also let them know exactly where you are so they can tag you, follow you and “like” your Facebook page.
- Offer rewards. Give a free beverage or small appetizer to customers who have “liked” the restaurant’s Facebook page or followed you on Twitter- they can show you on their phones that they’ve done so. Publicize this policy on your menu or on a small table sign.
- Address the critics. Respond to all negative reviews on Yelp and other review sites promptly and with a manager’s contact information. No restaurant is perfect and it’s likely you will see criticism online – make sure everyone who reads it knows that you heard, you care, you’re fixing the problem, and you’ve made it up to the person who wrote the review.
- Strive for perfect service. Many poor online reviews focus on bad service – and that’s something you can always control. Train your staff in all aspects of excellent customer service and make sure they’re following your lead 100 percent of the time.
- Make inquiries. If you see a customer taking pictures of his/her food, ask if they write a blog. Get her card and give it to the manager so he or she can send a personal email (“Thanks for dining with us!”). Most blogs are a labor of love, so recognition and personal attention go a long way.
- Network in the real world. If there is a local food blogging group (like Food Bloggers Los Angeles here in southern California), offer to host one of their meetings or otherwise get involved.
Erika Kerekes is CEO of The Kerekes Group, a social media marketing agency in Santa Monica, California. She also writes the award-winning food blog In Erika’s Kitchen and is co-founder of Food Bloggers Los Angeles.