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01 September 2010

Restaurants & social media

Since starting the blog way back when, I've been fascinated by the way restaurants promote themselves.

The immediacy of Twitter has brought this into sharp relief.  Press releases, restaurant reviews and character assasinations are reduced to 140 letters and spaces.  Restaurants, PRs, bloggers and critics are all mixing it up in one big stockpot. In this environment where everyone has a voice, some restaurants thrive on being at the heart of the action.  Others hang in there despite sustained flak.  Others still, it should be remembered, thrive despite having no truck with this new technology.

From my experience those restaurants that have achieved sustainable success have done so because they run good businesses: good food that lives up to or exceeds expectations, they're in a decent location and have a sensible handle on costs versus revenue.  Good PR is also essential because the restaurant needs profile and the public needs to know why they should eat there and social media is an important element of that - it's a brilliant multiplier.

I get the feeling though, that some restaurants and their PRs feel that they have to get involved in social media as an end in itself. Rather than because it helps the company gets bums on seats and that afterall is the purpose of PR.

If I owned a restaurant and a PR agency was trying to convince me that a really important element of my communications programme was to engage with bloggers and social media and they are the only agency that really gets it, I'd ask them the following questions:

  • Why do you think bloggers are so important?
  • Can you send me your social media distribution list and explain your rationale for each individual on it?
  • I know I can't control who eats in my restaurant, but what is the value to my reputation and my bottom line of having a twitter stream and who should write it?
  • Can you justify why my restaurant needs bloggers?
  • Bloggers are always looking for the new thing, so won't they come anyway, whatever I do?
  • Who is going to get the most out of your proposed blogger outreach programme?
  • Why do so many restaurants thrive without entering the social media maelstrom?
  • Can you show me your personal twitter stream?
  • Can you explain to me what you understand by the phrase don't mix business with pleasure?
  • I thought social media was all about the conversation.  Why do I need a PR firm? Can't I do it myself?

It's not all one sided.  If I was in the food PR business, I'd ask some of my clients:

  • Who on earth are you trying to appeal to?
  • Do you not think that there's a reason that nobody has opened up that 'concept' before?
  • Are you sure you want to get bloggers here?  More coverage doesn't necessarily mean better coverage and the outcome isn't always pretty.


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