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Make your restaurant mouth-wateringly irresistible with great food photos

CNN has a great blog post by Derrick Chang on taking mouth-watering photos of food. This is critical for restaurant marketing. Customers respond to images of food. Having no images, boring images or sloppy images of your restaurant are missed opportunities — or worse, active turn-offs to browsing potential customers. 

  • Start with great looking food.  Not everything looks good in pictures. Pay attention to colors, contrasts, and moisture (seriously, no dried out veggies). And please arrange the plate nicely. Brown stew in a bowl 30 minutes from the pot isn’t going to look good.
  • Pay attention to lightEven without fancy lighting you can take great food pictures. Avoid flash which can be harsh; natural light is often best. Experiment with time of day, move from table to table. Keep at it until the light is warm and bright. 
  • Get in close. Food details including texture bring the item to life. Don’t be afraid of your camera’s macro setting to get right…up…close.

And now two of my own tips:

  • Use them. Once you have your best pics — and only use your best — post them on Facebook, tweet them, pin them, post to Foursquare and Yelp.  Create social media contests by asking customers to guess the menu item. This isn’t art, it’s marketing.
  • Refresh them regularly. Taking great pictures of food can take a little time but is a great investment. New images are instantly engaging to customers and can help your website and social media profiles. I recommend a few new pictures every month, especially when you release new menu items. 

Need some inspiring examples? Check out our Pinterest boards on food styling and restaurant design.

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Twitter for Restaurants: A Guide to Getting Started

Ordr.in is in the business of simplifying digital life for as many restaurants as possible. With that goal in mind, we’re launching a new series of social media guides for restaurants: How-to guides for restaurants to understand how to make social media work for them to build their brand, handle customer service with care, and attract new customers.

Our first guide is Twitter for Restaurants — an overview of how a restaurant can get up and running on Twitter. The rewards for the restaurant that does Twitter right can be so worthwhile in the long run, so take a look at these Tweeting best practices and make sure your restaurant is maximizing its impact on Twitter.

Our Twitter guide for restaurants is short and concise — easy to print out and tack onto your wall. We hope restaurants everywhere trying to understand the art of the tweet will find our guide to Twitter a useful resources. So share and share alike!

image credit: Twitter ad for @pancheros at their ames location. by Brood_wich, on Flickr

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Three Metrics to Beat Sales Fatigue for Restaurant Operators

We talk to many restaurant operators. All of them are suffering from sales pitch fatigue. The steady flood of daily deals solicitations, loyalty program offerings, and social/local/mobile ad listing opportunities has taken a terrible toll. The problem is that there are some pretty good services on the market; tools that can really help a restaurant attract, engage, and retain customers. The key is moving quickly to separate the worthwhile from the worthless.

There are three numbers every restaurant operator should know cold. In combination, these three numbers make for fast and fairly accurate assessments. Adopt this quick analysis technique for restaurant sales tool decisionmaking, and I bet 95% of sales pitches can be cut off in 5 minutes or less. The three metrics are:

  1. Trial Volume (the number of new customers generated by a program)
  2. Retention rate (percent of new customers who become loyal) 
  3. Frequency of purchase (number of times a loyal customer dines with you)

Since you already know your gross margin per customer (right?) and you can apply your sniff test to the sale person’s assumptions, you can easily compute the value of a program.

Gross Margin x Trial Volume x Retention rate x Frequency of spend.

If this number looks great relative to the program cost and other things you can do, you have a winner. If not, move along fast.

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Restaurants Pick Up the Social Media Gauntlet — But There’s Much More on the Way

It’s becoming increasingly clear that restaurants need to push their marketing further out from their restaurant to capture and retain customers. According to a nifty infographic from the National Restaurant Association, 28% of customers use social media to choose a restaurant; 27% use consumer-driven review sites.

Frankly these numbers seem low, and are low I am sure when you look at younger demographics- the customers who could be with you for the long haul. But even these suspiciously low numbers paint a powerful picture.

This means the decision-making process is happening long before customers walk into your restaurant for dinner.  They did it before they left their office or while surfing their phone. They did it while chatting or texting with their dinner companions while checking restaurant listings and reviews.

Restaurants are not blind to what this means — 9 in 10 restaurant operators say social media will become more important and 95% expect to be on Facebook within two years (if they are not already).

But the percent of diners who are driven by social media and consumer reviews is not the most important data point for restaurant operators. There’s a new digital landscape for restaurants to take advantage of emerging, just as they begin to master social media.

Any guesses? We’ll be posting part two with the answer later today. 

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Facebook Timeline Integration for Restaurants? We’ve Got It

Today Ordr.in is thrilled to announce that our API and white-label apps for restaurants are integrated with the Facebook timeline. Customers using Ordr.in tools will be able to “crave” favorite menu items, and publish what they crave and order to their timeline and friends’ news feeds. 

In 1997 people wondered if shopping online would ever be mainstream. Give my credit card to a website? Uh…. And in 2005 the idea of using your phone for commerce was far, far from mainstream. Still today, socially integrated shopping — especially inside Facebook — is hotly debated. 

It shouldn’t be.

Shopping is one of the most inherently social things we do. We buy for each other, with each other. Friend recommendations are powerful drivers of purchase behavior. Social commerce is already all around us. When social shopping rock star Fab.com integrated with the timeline they saw Facebook referral traffic double

By introducing the first social dining app on Facebook that integrates restaurant delivery into the timeline, Ordr.in is excited to be on the cutting edge of making online shopping activities as social as they are offline.

Restaurants who want to get their own Facebook food ordering app can learn more here and pre-enroll here.  And if you have questions, contact us here.  

Friends and followers are nice. But at Ordr.in we give local restaurants the tools to find, engage and transact with customers. By adding food ordering to the Facebook timeline, restaurants can give their customers a way to bring their restaurant dining experiences to life online. 

Today’s announcement is a great step forward for restaurants and for Ordr.in.

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Have a Phone Number but no Phone?

At the Restaurant Marketing and Delivery Association annual meeting I gave a talk on using social media as a customer engagement tool, especially for service. I asked for a show of hands, how many businesses used twitter for customer service? How many monitored it steadily?

Out of the 100 attendees, about 4 raised their hands. 4? That is worse than having a phone number but no phone.

When you have a phone number and no phone, people- customers- can call all day and no one will answer. You have no idea if they are happy or angry, want to buy, or have an idea. But a phone is one to one communication. Only the caller knows if the call isn’t answered.

Twitter is one to many.  Every person who follows a user gets the same message- they see the tweet and they see the gaping void that follows. 140 characters is plenty of space to get across:

  • Hey @business you shd call Bob’s Deli about joining your restaurant network. They are interested. Ask 4 Bob (108 characters)
  • So happy with @business! Dinner was great and I didn’t have to cook or drive.  #happycustomer (78 characters)
  • Where is my FOOD!? Hungry and tired here. This is getting ridiculous.  Tick tock! #lowbloodsugar #nexttimemakeshaghetti (119 characters)

If you don’t monitor your twitter account you will never know what your customers are saying to and about you. But hundreds or thousands will. When someone calls you answer. When they tweet you should do the same.