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Facebook Discussion: Meaningful Discourse on Social Media for Restaurants

Posted by: In: Uncategorized 14 Aug 2010 Comments: 0

Here is an actual discussion that took place on Facebook. It is certainly an example of ‘”critical thinking”, questioning assumptions, and for the most part a very civil discourse on the benefits and deficits of Social Media to the restaurant community. The only parts that were not as civil as they should have been were mine and I apologize for those. In my defense I have been diagnosed with a rare but treatable condition known as “mad fingers” but hopefully I am well on my way to recovery.
My sincere appreciation to Taughnee and Steve for their input as well as there civility.
All comments are unedited with the exception of some spellchecking. I did remove an irrelevant post from the string that was really nothing more than somebody throwing profanity into the mix.
So many great points about guest interaction in your blog! Very well written as well!
  • However:
    Way too early to proclaim foursquare as the Mayor of all things social media or yelp as a meaningful partner in the restaurant business. Both are working diligently to collect consumers of all businesses, not just restaurants. Both seem to be interested in collecting “eyeballs” for whatever purpose.
  • Here is an actual review from yelp “for an endless array of recreational possibilities. Get shitfaced and listen to bluegrass in Speedway Meadow. Watch lawn bowling at, well, the Lawn Bowling Green. Hop on the carousel” Golden Gate Park
  • As for foursquare, businesses give up some sort of benefit because Foursquare brought the patron to the business? Foursquare collects a few more dots on their map and the business essentially pays for it so foursquare can figure out their revenue model.
  • Essentially, there have been well run, well liked, and extremely successful restaurants long before this “social media” thing and those that execute well will be around long after some of these fads fade. Restaurants that make a conscious decision to ignore foursquare, yelp, and groupon may find that to be a very sound strategy. They are probably better served by building community in a platform that they can develop and control, i.e. Website, Blog, or both, and using a platform like a Facebook Fan “Like” page where they can collect reviews, listen, engage, and promote. Forget about “Mayor”, they could use their platforms to have Kings and Queens!
  • Social media, just like a sharp knife in the hands of a chef is a wonderful tool! The goal for the successful restaurant is to build their restaurants from the inside out and employ marketing strategies that build their brands.
    Serving Social can do a lot to help them focus on good sound marketing practices utilizing web and social.
  • Taughnee StoneThanks Mark! :)
    And, I could not agree more … it is my opinion that as far as mobile and hyper-local/geo-location technology/marketing is concerned — we’ve not yet seen “it”. Will Foursquare be a player a year from now? Two? Meh?
    We decided…ed to write about this Chili’s scenario because opened the door to speak about the fundamentals you are talking about: not what is hip and cool in the moment, but on sound fundamentals: good service (along with of course good food, appropriate price/location/atmosphere). And, how online and offline intersect and relate, and how absolutely important it is to invest in those fundamentals (e.g. staff training/empowerment) … why bother throwing money at social media if the customer experience is a total disconnect at the table?
    PS … Yelp, to me, is a player now (perhaps not always), if for no other reason than what currently happens in local search. My clients pay me to make sure their sites operate well in search, but Yelp and other directories/review sites often occupy a large portion of that space and can influence consumers. Thoughts?
  • Taughnee Stone ‎(It’s so hard to write long comments in this little box, I apologize for excessive use of the word “fundamentals” and for really poor grammar lol)August 3 at 1:26am
  • Mark Morenothoughts about yelp? not really any good ones.
  • I somewhat understand the whole SEO deal and how mentions and keywords promote prominence on the “web” but this whole local search thing tends to get a little overstated. I have a hard time believing that people make decisions on where to eat based solely on the local search.
  • “Kids, jump in the car we are all going out to eat. Jimmy you search yelp on your iPhone and Sally you search foursquare on your Droid. I will search my gps and we are going to find a really cool restaurant. Gee Golly Wow, I can hardly wait to get there so we can all check in on foursquare! Hey, we can even write some reviews while we are there. This is going to be a really fun time, Boy oh Boy, isn’t this just swell! don’t forget to buckle-up.”
  • As for consumers influencing consumers, that’s what we all called “word of mouth” long before there was a yelp. I think people are becoming increasingly skeptical of so called “reviews” from people that they don’t know or most importantly the people they don’t trust. Restaurants need to stay focused on building communities inside the restaurant, focus on the guest experience not all the noise online. There are ways to monitor what is being said online to gauge feedback and I would encourage restaurants to take a look. My recommendation is GuestPulse because it focuses on everything being said but in my words “boils it down” so that you can manage the noise.
  • Taughnee StoneGood points, Mark … lots of food for thought. I have a blog post idea simmering now. :-)
    I don’t think people make decisions as you described either. But, there is an argument that local search has replaced the yellow pages (where people surely made decisions, otherwise restaurants wouldn’t have taken up so much real estate) … so, viewing local search as the modern day yellow pages …
  • A more likely scenario where it might impact decision making is, “I’m hungry for Chinese takeout but I am not familiar with any good places that deliver …let me check Google, oh this one that comes up first has tons of reviews on urban spoon as being really great, let’s try them” … in the past, I might have made that decision based upon how big their ad was, whether they printed the menu in their ad, etc. But? I don’t use the yellow pages anymore, a lot of people don’t.
  • The number one reason why people visit a website is to get contact information. If I know I’m ordering from the China House, and I go to find their phone number in search, and a scathing review is the first thing I see … I may read that.
  • Or, when people travel and are setting their itineraries. The last vacation I took, I did extensive research on the restaurants in the area before I left – local search, review sites, etc.. I live in a tourist town, and I notice that a lot of the yelp reviews for restaurants are written by people who don’t even live here. If I don’t know anybody in the place I am traveling to, reading through Trip Advisor may be the best I’ve got to go on.
    I’m not trying to overstate the importance of local search, your points are totally valid …I agree with you that some people are growing skeptical of review sites (especially Yelp and all of the problems they’ve been dealing with) … and restaurants need to build communities from the inside out (absolutely!). Let’s say that people were *not* growing more skeptical of online reviews … having a strong community is the best way to manage reputation *anyway*.
  • Let’s just say I’m watching all of this evolve with a critical eye … and it is evolving, and I’m glad you are questioning it all as well.
  • The interesting thing about Yelp is that they have their own communities, trust is established between a “friend network” and there are different “badges of honor” meant to demonstrate to the casual user who is more trustworthy. And, there’s that whole facebook connect thing, Yelp reviews don’t just stay on yelp, they feed out to other social networks where real people are sending messages to people they *know*. That’s a true word of mouth scenario and very powerful … so this is why I don’t count out their potential influence at this time.
    Anyway thanks for the great chat, really helpful in thinking this all through! I’ll keep you posted if I turn this discussion into a blog post. :-)
    See More
    August 3 at 1:36pm · LikeUnlike
  • Mark MorenoTotally agree, Yellowpages are irrelevant! Really like your comments!
  • Now consider this, what if you could quickly search for what you want to eat when you want to eat it. Type in the word crab cakes and quickly see every restaurant within defined proximity that serves crab cakes, can SEO do that?
  • Taughnee StoneIf you were looking for crab cakes in a defined proximity, most likely you would add that as part of your search (i.e. “Crab Cakes Anchorage”) and SEO (and other tactics as they relate to social media channels that also perform well in sear…ch) can help with what shows up in search. I’m actually pretty conservative when it comes to SEO practices and my clients’ sites generally perform really well.
    Interestingly, if I search “Crab Cakes Anchorage”, what pulls my eyes is five yellow stars … 50 ratings on Urban Spoon for Snow City Cafe (a client of mine!)
    Interestingly (funnily?) … Snow City Cafe, though, has a really stellar online community and reputation *because* they have a really amazing community of customers offline … this is your point, yes? … great food, great service, great atmosphere, great location, great communications, great community involvement/philanthropy … that translates easily to their online presence. They enjoy scenarios like this in search more because they run a really great restaurant and take really good care of their customers, not because of any “SEO trickery”.
    Sorry to get off topic there. lol What fun.
  • Steve Johnsonhmmm…
  • #1 – ” well run, well liked, and extremely successful restaurants long before” television, radio, and … well … even newspapers. Radio and television were “fads” also. Problem is, by the time new avenues of communication prove themselves to NOT be fads, the businesses who were slow to adopt them find themselves playing catch-up to those who were there first.
  • #2 – no matter what the disinterested observer may think of sites like Yelp, the simple fact is that, for the time being anyway, they’re now the places where your customers are congregating and, more importantly, interacting and communicating. If you as a business aren’t in the same place monitoring conversations that your customers are having about YOU, you’re leaving your online reputation to chance – which is never a good business strategy.
  • #3 – from Mark, above: “I have a hard time believing that people make decisions on where to eat based solely on the local search.”
  • People don’t use local search to make a decision any more than they used the Yellow Pages to make the decision for them. I don’t know of anyone who does searches as you illustrate :-) .
    What they DO, though, is go to Google or Yahoo or MSN and type in something like “Cajun food Boise”, or “tex-mex restaurant in Portland”. If you’re a restaurant owner, ESPECIALLY a specialty restaurant, you’d better make damned sure that you know what your customers are searching for, and that you’re somewhere near the top of the list when those results come up.
  • #4 – again, from Mark: “…quickly see every restaurant within defined proximity that serves crab cakes, can SEO do that?”
    Not at the present – unless the searcher enters the region they want to search, which most people do now if they’re looking for something local. Proximity search, user preferences, and that sort of thing can only come from a dedicated app – but then you have the hurdles of both signing up businesses to your app, and convincing potential customers that your app is a life-or-death thing to have.
  • Unfortunately for those kinds of apps, most people are a little lazy – they’ll go to the first thing that they know works – and for now, that’s the major search engines.They’ve already formed the search engine habit, and we all know how easy habits are to break, yes?
    sorry, didn’t mean to write a novelette!!
  • Mark MorenoNot a novelette, more akin to a whitepaper. I think you have done an excellent job describing the current state of the internet and the implications to restaurants.
  • #1 Absolutely “dead-on”, those that require the most advertising of any kind are often the ones that lack good old fashioned “word of mouth”
  • #2 Customers might be congregating and communicating on yelp but businesses really can’t communicate with them. They can listen, I recommend GuestPulse to do that. Google alerts can handle part of the monitoring but GuestPulse shows by sentiment and enables direct interaction with the comments.
  • #3 Your are right Google, Bing, Yahoo! For restaurants to make it to the top of those searches requires tons of seo help. We need a directory that only includes restaurants. Take a look at DiningVerse
  • #4 What I want to eat when I want to eat it. OpenMenu is tackling that problem with standardized menus.
    Lazy? Habitual? Oh yeah that’s exactly the problem that will be solved. When you make it easy for customers to do business with you they will beat a path to your door.
  • Disclaimer: My interest in GuestPulse, OpenMenu, and DingVerse is not financial. I have researched each of those independently and tested them on behalf of my clients (restaurants). I see each of them as solution providers that benefit independent restaurants.
    Thank you for your insights.
  • Taughnee Stone
  • ‎#2 What do you mean businesses can’t interact with the comments on Yelp? Unless something has changed, all they have to do is claim their listing and then they can interact both privately and publicly. I think… using monitoring tools is fine, there are tons of them to choose from these days … Google alerts (free) is a fine solution for most businesses as a place to start. That said I’d like to take a look at Guest Pulse as an option for my clients, is there a way I can see a demo?
    BTW, not sure if you have seen this but businesses can now respond to reviews directly on Google as well …
  • #3 That may be, but if I’ve (or my customers’ customers) never heard of DiningVerse, they are still going to use Google. Even still, training users to move away from Google is quite an ambition. What is this, an app?
  • #4 See above. Standardized menus is an interesting idea, though, my question is … how many of my customers’ customers are currently using it? Is the plan to be ubiquitous and house every possible restaurant menu? If the database does not include every restaurant menu possible, how is it proving more information than Google to me as a user? Again, something I will be happy to look at further for my clients, though, I’d need to understand it better.
    Cheers, to both Steve & Mark! ~Taughnee
  • Mark MorenoGuestPulse has a thirty day free trial
  • Next, how many separate sites should a restaurant operator have to go to everyday? Your naiveté of how restaurants operate is really starting to show as your web expertise starts to take over. I think your goal is to help your clients build their brand using internet tools. Helping them understand all of the noise is part of the process. You cannot respond to all of that noise and that does not mean that listening and engaging is not a worthy endeavor.
  • Build your customers a “bullet-proof” online presence using your expertise and tools and all of the noise is irrelevant. Think of yourself as a “brandbuider” not a webmaster. Do that and you will make your customers into “RockStars”
  • Yes, businesses can engage directly on yelp and doing so only enhances yelp, although I guess you could have multiple sets of customers. all the yelpers sit on this side of the dining room and all of you Google people sit over there.
  • As for other solutions, check them out and I would welcome discussing them with you.
    Thanks for the discussion, we need more like this.
  • Taughnee StoneMark,
  • There you go making it personal again, sigh. ;) Let’s just discuss the issues and not my job title or experience understanding my clients please, it is the respect I am giving you when you discuss internet marketing.
  • I know from years… of experience, education and research how consumers use the web. I don’t think it’s that hard to understand that restaurant operators (and many business owners and professionals for that matter) don’t have time and resources to monitor and respond to online chatter all day long.
  • As I said, there are a lot of solutions available now to address that, Guest Pulse isn’t the only monitoring method out there … but as I said, I will take a look at the trial and I will take you up on your offer to discuss it, thank you! :)
  • I don’t follow the logic on “multiple sets of customers” and separating them into different seating areas … what happens to the people that found out about the restaurant from a coupon pack or a radio ad, do they have to sit out back? ha-ha just kidding … it was getting too serious around here … time to get to work. :-) Enjoy the day!
  • Steve JohnsonBuilding a brand is all well and good – but counseling a business owner that “all of the noise is irrelevant” is an extreme disservice. The world is a-changin’, and owners/operators who ignore it do so at their peril.
    Yes, you can build an eatery or practically any other small business on word-of-mouth, and it IS very important. But that only takes you so far. Getting to the next level involves interacting with your customers in the places they congregate and frequent. And, at least for now, those are the ‘Web 2.0′ community sites, and yes, there are a lot of them and yes, it takes time to monitor and engage.
  • Businesses interacting on Yelp builds Yelp, yes it does — in much the same way that interacting with your prospective customers with a Yellow Pages ad built the Yellow Pages into the monopolistic powerhouse that it once was.
  • Mark, I have a question for you. Put yourself in the shoes of an eatery owner who is trying to expand his business. You have a decent, loyal clientele, but you want more. You recognize that your market is heavily immersed in the internet – it’s an integral part of their daily lives. You know that you need to get yourself seen where your customers are, but you don’t have the faintest idea how to do it. You are vaguely familiar with some internet terms like SEO, and you even know what Facebook is. You know you need help, and you know you want to get it right the first time.
  • You have available to you the services of two different consulting companies. You trust both of these companies, you know that they are going to give you the best advice that they know how to give to help you achieve your business goals. After all, that’s what you’re paying them for.
  • One is familiar with the operation of restaurants and the food service industry. They know the ins-and-outs of eateries — how to help you contain food costs, manage your employees, kitchen sanitation best practices. They know, from experience, how to help you run your restaurant.
  • The other is intimately familiar with the social internet. They’ve been immersed in that arena for years. They have a good reputation as being knowledgeable, honest, and above-board. They listen to their clients’ goals, and provide solutions using their expertise in the area. They know social media and web 2.0 backward and forward. They are experts in their field.
  • Which company would you hire?
  • Taughnee StoneSteve, thank you … I appreciate the comment! But I do want to say that “who should they hire” is not the question. We’re discussing solutions to problems this customer (restaurants) face and there’s validity in all points of view. The experience represented in this thread is what is sparking all of the passion in the responses. Except maybe my high school boyfriend from 1986 (*waves to Jeff*). We can disagree on the solutions, but ultimately I think it’s good that customers have a choice as to which route they take …they can decide what’s right for them. End of the day, I think we all have their best interests in mind. If it was “one size fits all” then everybody would be doing it! :-) Happy Friday guys, cheers! ~Taughnee
  • Mark MorenoSteve, execution of the fundamentals of any type of business are a prerequisite, therefore if it is an either/or proposition than the choice has to be the business expert.
  • As for Web 2.0 experts, there are none.There certainly are those that seem to have a better understanding than others but that does not qualify them as experts. Web 2.0 is one big experiment conducted by an endless series of entities that are seeking to profitize / monetize on this latest incarnation of the internet. That is not to say that there are not honest brokers in the space that can help clients leverage this new media.
  • Noise is irrelevant, feedback is not, responding to feedback is essential for any successful business and it needs to be obtained as close to the customer as possible. The goal is to filter the noise to obtain meaningful feedback. It is like finding a diamond in a mountain of coal.
  • Thank you for your thought provoking argument, I respect the fact that you put a lot of sincerity into it. I also appreciate the fact that you are not stating a position without an understanding of the subject matter.
    Taughnee, Your are absolutely right, “no one size fits all”. Thanks for all the discussion.
  • Taughnee Stone On this I completely agree without hesitation, there is no such thing as a “web 2.0 expert”. It’s why we need to keep thinking critically about all of this.
  • Mark Moreno There you go! I probably wasted a lot of time getting to that point. This has really been an invigorating discussion. Thank You.
    Now, next steps…how’s your next blog coming along?
  • Thanks to Taughnee and Steve for their civility, sincerity, and passion.
    If you see a Groupon ad on this page it is not because I directed it to be there. It is a result of Groupon’s ambitious marketing and they are probably keying in on the word “restaurant” among others. Feel free to click it, each time that you do will result in a charge to them.

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