Social Media Saturday: Restaurants

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Social media is made for the restaurant business. I can’t think of anything more social than going out to eat. Even when you dine alone, which I do frequently thanks to business travel, you have to interact hostesses & waiters & busboys. You have to order food with yo’ mouth. It’s nearly impossible to dine without saying a word. And technology can make this experience better.

So I wonder why restaurants — the hub of social activity — have some of the worst websites and social media strategies on the planet. I’m always on the internet looking at my dining options and I want to know some basic things.

  1. Hours of operation.
  2. Location.
  3. Menu.

It’s a rare treat when I can google the name of a restaurant, click on the site, and figure out when they’re open and where they are located. And who told a restaurant that it was a good idea to have cheesy video and royalty-free music but load a menu into the website as a PDF?

Stupid. So stupid.

I know that it’s easy to look up a restaurant on Yelp or Urbanspoon or Opentable; however, sometimes those websites lack basic information and yet simultaneously try to push me into signing up for text message updates. WTF? How do those two realities reconcile themselves? I don’t need to be directed to a Twitter account that you never update or a Facebook page that has stupid comments from twenty of your regular fans if you can’t give me an easy way to see your dinner specials. And I don’t want to download a PDF like I’m downloading a tax form. I want the basics — who, what, where, when, and how — and if you’ve got that, I’ll make an online reservation.

One interesting thing I did see, recently, was the creative use of iPads. This picture is from Lola, which has a cult following in Cleveland and beyond. The bartender told me that they’re the third restaurant in the country to use iPads as menus — right behind Gordon Ramsay and Wolfgang Puck.

I guess it’s old hat for many people, but I liked the use of the iPad so I took the picture (after a cocktail). Sorry about the quality. And as a side note: the 6AM dessert special didn’t suck, either.

So listen, restaurant owners — get the fundamentals right on your website and you will make me a happy woman. And if you want to use social media to create a community, please give me something in return. A Foursquare discount that’s actually worth something. A coupon on your Facebook page. A secret word via Twitter that gives me a free appetizer. A Groupon offer that doesn’t make me jump through hoops to get a sweet deal.

And then give me good food & decent customer service — and give it to me in a clean environment. Get the basics right. That’s what I want in a dining experience.

(And I want enchiladas.)

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