Why Being in the Restaurant Business Means Being in the Media Business

By Andrew Carlson, Foodable Industry Expert

The world is changing rapidly, and to cope with these changes, people want to feel more connected to what’s going on in their community. That means connecting with people and places of influence – no matter the size of the city or town you have chosen to call home for your business.

In the past, we’ve seen people on the hunt and eager to be in-the-know when it came to Hollywood’s celebrities, glitz, and glamour. However, it’s no longer about the fanfare and perfection — people don’t want to see something staged, they want something genuine and authentic. They want to see you and your business, no matter what’s going on. This means transparency and honesty.

Take a look at James Bond. Back when Pierce Brosnan or even Sean Connery played Bond, he would never get a scratch. Flash forward to Daniel Craig – this guy gets beaten to a pulp before becoming victorious.

What does this say about society?

They want to see the triumphs and trials of people. They want to be able to connect with you because life isn’t always pretty.

Business isn’t always perfect.

Restaurants aren’t always flourishing.

Which is why it’s vital to understand that you’re no longer in the restaurant business — you are actually in the media and entertainment business!

How Does This Translate to Your Restaurant?

You’re probably wondering how to actually integrate this thought process into your brand. Well, there are three main ways to integrate your company to a media style company:

  1. Your Website
  2. Social Media
  3. Your Staff and Customers

The way I describe how to turn your business into this way of thinking is to live your life and business with your audience. Give them an opportunity to connect with you on a much deeper level than they would be able to before.

Let’s dive a little deeper into these three integration methods on transforming your restaurant business into one with a media mindset.  

Your Website

Websites are still important in the world of social media. Whoever tells you that websites are becoming obsolete doesn’t understand the power of a good blog that’s attached to your website.

This allows you to explain what’s happening in your business to your customers, employees, and fans who don’t live in the area.

A restaurant in Los Angeles, Calif., that I worked with recently is a great example of a business that communicated through its websites. Earlier this year, they had to close down their commissary kitchen due to permitting issues they weren’t fully aware of when new laws were passed.

Instead of just closing down and letting people speculate about what was going on, they went straight for their blog to inform everyone of the situation. The community rallied together and they were able to get their kitchen open much sooner than normal because the community loved and supported their business so much.

That’s the power of explaining what’s happening. It doesn’t show weakness. It shows that we are all humans and connected on a much deeper level than just serving customers food and drinks — especially when it comes to the regulars.

People use restaurants as a way to escape their lives and to entertain themselves with friends, family, business associates, and even when they are just by themselves.

Bring them into your struggles so they can feel your pain and then let them celebrate with you for your triumphs.

Not only does that create a deeper bond in the community, but also strengthens customer loyalty!

Social Media

Social Media is so powerful. Instagram and Snapchat are excellent platforms to help people connect with your business.  

Instagram allows you to show people all sides of your restaurant — your best, your worst, and your honest experiences through art and photography.

Snapchat allows you to take them into your daily operations. Get interviews with staff, customers, and let your teams have fun with it! (Of course, lay down ground rules so they’re responsible with it, as they represent your brand.)

The key to being a media company is to start right away. Don’t wait until your restaurant is fully built-out. Show your progress to the community.

Here are some prime examples of business happenings you can integrate into your social media:

  • Signing Leases
  • New Store Openings/Expansion/Franchising
  • Staff Appreciation/Showcase
  • Customer Appreciation
  • New Menu Items
  • Chef Specials
  • Day-to-Day Operations
  • Day-to-Day Struggles
  • Trainings
  • Tastings
  • Celebrate Milestones with Staff (graduations, promotions, new car, new house, starting a family, marriage, etc)
  • Events and News in the Community

The list is endless!  

Your Staff and Customers

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How can your staff and customers get integrated into your business?

Empower them to take photos of your restaurant!

A restaurant in Los Angeles called The Pie Hole LA has started a promotion by saying if their customers take a photo and it’s “re-grammed” (when a business reposts a customer’s Instagram photo onto their own profile but with giving credit to the customer), they’ll get a free pie of their choice.

Why would they be willing to give away product for that?

It’s giving an incentive to the customer to take amazing photos, which not only promotes to their followers, but also hitting on the customer’s ego that they were one of the chosen ones to have a good enough photo to be shared on the company’s Instagram, further adding to customer loyalty and connection.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – the industry is changing. The only way to keep up is to change with it. Show the good, the bad, and the ugly. Your customers will be able to relate to you more, which will result in an increase of customer loyalty and an increase on your bottom line.

Test it for 90 days – you will see a spike in your engagement and will become an influencer in your own community, setting yourself apart from your competition.