Social Savvy – How is the dining decision-making process changing online?

ScotHotAs the online landscape changes, it is important to re-create your restaurant’s personality across the various social channels, it was revealed on Tuesday 5th March at a panel discussion hosted by OpenTable at the ScotHot Hospitality show in Glasgow.

Participating on the panel was Polly Vincent, TripAdvisor; Ian Bruce of the Plumed Horse and Michele Mooney of SoHo Restaurant. The discussion was moderated by Adrian Valeriano, OpenTable.

Mobile has brought a massive shift. Now people ask, ‘what’s near me and where can I go?,’ commented Polly Vincent, kicking off the conversation.

Social media has unseated traditional print and even email marketing as the preferred means for engaging with customers and promoting special events. “We use Facebook and Twitter quite a bit. It’s important to update Facebook regularly,” commented Michele Mooney.

“We used to use e-flyers every week, but now just for larger events,” added Mooney.

Making your online presence personal

“When using social media, you have to re-create your restaurant’s personality online. People want to go to restaurants they feel they have a personal connection,” commented Ian Bruce. “Many people have come through our doors because of comments I have made replying to reviews on TripAdvisor,” he added.

Making your online presence personal also helps to mitigate negative feedback and the dreaded ‘tit-tat’ forum banter. “People are less likely to say something horrible if they know you. It is an opportunity and you have to think about your response,” added Mooney.

“Draft replies to reviews in a Word document first to allow for more time and space to compose a message,” advised Bruce.

Polly Vincent of TripAdvisor agreed that it is a good idea to pause and take a breath before you respond. On TripAdvisor, the business has the last word. If someone writes a review and the establishment responds, that’s it.

TripAdvisor research has shown that when a manager responds, brand perception is improved.

Transition to mobile

Acknowledging that tablet and mobile real estate is smaller, the panel advised viewing your restaurant’s website from your phone, tablet and computer to make sure it views properly across all platforms.

The Plumed Horse has a mobile optimised website which clearly displays restaurant and booking information as part of a feature offered for free to OpenTable customers.

Next steps

  1. “Try lots of different things and see what works for you. Measurement is important,” added Mooney.
  2. “Be true to yourself. Be very aware of where your customers are talking about you and engage in those spaces,” said Vincent.
  3. “Knowledge of how to present yourself is key. Too many emails annoy me. There needs to be a happy medium. We should be respectful of how we use these online tools,” cautioned Bruce.
  4. “It’s important not to lose sight of what actually happens in your restaurant – it comes down to the food and knowing your guests and extending that experience to your social channels,” advised Adrian Valeriano of OpenTable.

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