Social Media Marketing in the Restaurant Business
I’m often asked about the story of my little steakhouse, Caminito Argentinean Steakhouse, in Northampton, MA. It’s not often that I write about our full story. Well, recently I was asked to contribute a case study to the WOMMA Metrics Guidebook. I thought it may provide for an interesting read for you and may give you some insights or be helpful to you for application into your industry. Once you’re done reading, or even before you start reading, make sure you download the WOMMA Metrics Guidebook.
In general, restaurants have a few main ways that they typically market their business: You can run ads in the local newspapers, buy radio spots, have television commercials produced, and grab prime billboard locations. All of these marketing tools will help gain a restaurant visibility and exposure. They’re part of most restaurants’ marketing toolboxes. But, these marketing tools don’t help when an increasing number of eyeballs are turning to Google as their primary source of information.
When my best friend and now-partner, Joseph Gionfriddo, purchased Caminito Argentinean Steakhouse, the extent of the restaurant’s web presence consisted of, essentially, just a copy of the menu. Joe was spending most of the marketing budget on local newspapers and radio spots. The restaurant was struggling to survive even though the food that Joe prepared was some of the best I, and everyone else that came through Caminito’s doors, had ever tried.
Recognizing an opportunity to lower our marketing budget and use the web as the primary tool to drive more bodies through the front door, I approached Joe with the offer of a partnership. My primary responsibility: create the strongest presence, both offline and online, for Caminito, in as short of time as possible.
We immediately sketched out a 12-month strategic marketing plan that included:
- A complete revamp of the website.
- Developing an online presence through social networks, a blog, and a video blog.
- Creating a listening station that allowed us to monitor for conversations across the web about us, our restaurant, our competition and our industry.
Since many of these tactics provide for solid SEO, as part of our goals, it helped us to gain several thousand links in Google and other major search engines. As our online presence became stronger and we developed a more engaged community, we began to rank for prime keywords that we targeted as being important for our restaurant to drive business through search results.
Our take: if prospective customers ran searches for restaurants in the area while making a decision of where to dine and our restaurant dominated the front page of Google, they would be more likely to visit Caminito. Though we had made the decision to decrease our traditional marketing spend by approximately 80% we still continued to run local newspaper and some radio spots. Since not all of our customers use the Internet to do their research, it was important to us to continue to use these avenues to reach our customers. We also contacted each of the newspapers, other print publications, radio and associations to negotiate for digital advertising options, linkbacks on their websites, logo, bio and/or menu publishing.
The first month of this strategy being in play we saw a sales increase of 20% as compared to the same month the previous year. Over the past almost two years we have maintained an increase in sales every single month as compared to the same month the previous year. Additionally, we have finished each year approximately 20-25% up in sales as compared to previous years.
As time has continued, we have tweaked our strategic marketing plan but still maintain the above tactics. This has helped to continue to create conversations, both online and offline. To measure the continued increase in online conversations we use a combination of Google Alerts and Twitter Search. While this does create some duplication, it ensures that we never miss any conversations happening around us, our brand, our competition, or our industry. We monitor offline conversations through anecdotal interactions we have with our community and inferred through the continued increase in new customers and increased sales.
To further guide decision-making we also measure everything from the number of comments we receive on a blog post, to the number of hits on a video, the total number of subscribers, where those subscribers come from, how and where our blog and video posts are shared, who shares them, the level of engagement we have, the number of conversations that are started and tons more. The challenge is keeping up with all of this data flowing in and bringing it all together to analyze our overall online impact.
As a result of the measurement systems we have in place the impact of online and offline conversations is clear to us. Online conversations help to further our online brand, increase conversations, improve search rank for evolving prime keywords, demonstrate and expertise in the food industry, create new opportunities, and increase sales. The offline conversations translate to word of mouth marketing that helps to drive increase and repeat sales.
If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment or subscribing to the feed to receive future articles delivered to your feed reader.