When I work with clients at The Apple Cart, often the goal is to get good press coverage or to attract followers on social media. But once that goal has been achieved, many restaurant owners are left saying “now what?”
It’s a great feeling to get mentions and likes, but it doesn’t always pay the bills. There are important next steps to leveraging that praise in order to drive sales. Here’s how to get the most out of great coverage and social media engagement.
Follow-up is essential in creating lasting relationships with media. After you send a press release, give recipients about a week to respond and then circle back with a personal email offering additional images, a sneak peek at menu items or a sit-down interview. Take the time to go for an in-person visit. Often, a personal connection can go a long way with press. And remember, press is inundated with releases all the time, so it’s important to check back in to make sure your information was received.
Once the interview is complete and the story goes to press, send a ‘thank you’ to the journalist letting them know how much you appreciate the coverage. This is a good chance to follow up with an offer for the writer to attend your event or join you at the restaurant for a meal. Offering to dine with the journalist is another smart way to connect--You’re not just offering to feed them (though that’s always welcome), you’re offering to break bread and share your story and a real connection so that you form a lasting relationship. The next time the journalist is struggling to think of a restaurant or chef to cover, you’ve just increased your chances that it will be yours that comes to mind.
Toot Your Own Horn
So often restaurateurs are hesitant to share their own praise. If you can’t be your own biggest cheerleader, no one else will! Share your reviews and mentions via social media and in your newsletter. If the coverage is especially great, consider boosting the post on Facebook so that it gets more views.
If a review praises a specific menu item, make sure you have plenty of it available. Now’s not the time to sell out on what could be your most popular ‘signature dish.’ After your initial post where you share the review, schedule another post where you provide additional context about your process—give your followers a behind-the-scenes look at how you do what you do and what makes it special.
If you’re included in a round-up of other restaurants, take a minute to praise the company you find yourself in. Talk about how those businesses inspire you or contribute to a great sense of community. Sharing the love goes a long way and always comes back to you.
Run Social (and Newsletter) Exclusive Promotions
Guests love the feeling of exclusivity. If you can create a promotion that feels ‘special,’ that’s a great way to engage with potential guests and to track that engagement in terms of sales. Consider offering an “off the menu” dish for customers who follow you on social media or who subscribe to your newsletter, or offer dibs on prime seating to guests who make reservations using a special newsletter code. Consider offering an exclusive promotion for customers who sign up for your newsletter in 2018.
Call to Action
Once you’ve hit your goals for followers on social media or subscribers to your newsletter, it’s time to mobilize them. Make sure to include a call to action with easy next steps. This can be as simple as providing a link to make reservations. So often, we see businesses who prompt customers to “call for more information.” This is not the best way to call followers to action—it creates more work for both your potential guests, who now have to reach out to you via phone, and for your staff, forcing them to divert attention away from their work to answer questions on the phone. Provide as much information as possible online and offer a link to your reservation platform to make the experience easy for everyone.
Another simple way to call your supporters to action is by asking for reviews. Google, Facebook, and Yelp reviews from your supporters can help establish exactly what makes your restaurant special when guests are making choices about where to dine. Create a link that directs guests to the platform where you want reviews—we love Facebook reviews because so many guests go to Facebook as their primary source of information when researching restaurants—and then ask followers to share their great experiences publically.
Saying thank you and acknowledging praise in a humble way is essential. Remember to give credit where it’s due—to the chefs, line cooks, dishwashers, servers, hosts and especially the customers that make running your business possible!