MOGL: Real-Time Restaurant Rewards Program

Mogl, the leading restaurant rewards program with a mission to end hunger, recently announced that it is the first in its category with direct access to real-time data from Visa, MasterCard and American Express transactions.

Mogl’s relationship with the three major card issuers, combined with its proprietary technology, helps restaurants stay full by offering consumers the right restaurant at the right time. Since Mogl is fully automated, restaurants can increase profits without adding any extra work.

Through its new variable cash-back feature, restaurants can now choose to offer customizable, time-based cash back rewards to Mogl users that can be changed at any time throughout the day. This flexibility enables restaurant owners to increase cash back to fill seats when they need it, or limit the rewards when it’s not necessary.

“Mogl’s one-of-a-kind technology helps restaurant stay full and increase profits without adding any work. It acts as a powerful catalyst to get customers in the door when business is slow – and it also allows you to pull back when you’re already busy and don’t want or need to offer discounts,” said Jon Carder, CEO and Co-Founder of Mogl.  “Further, for consumers Mogl is more exciting as many restaurants are prepared to offer unheard of cash-back amounts such as 15%, 20% and even 30%, in order to win their business.”

Why Restaurants Choose Mogl:

  • It’s Effortless – Restaurant owners don’t have to train their staff or manage the rewards – Mogl is 100% automated and seamless, through secure credit-card tracking.
  • It’s Time-Based – Restaurant owners can customize their cash-back rewards by time of day to keep their restaurants full and limit discounts when they are already busy. The Mogl algorithm automatically determines the best reward to give at exactly the right time, giving restaurants the ability to optimize their program on the fly.
  • It’s Affordable – Restaurant owners can leverage Mogl’s technology to gain unlimited customers for a simple flat monthly fee. No long-term contracts.

Mogl combines the best elements of local search with a rewards program focused on philanthropy, making it a unique opportunity for restaurants. Mogl helps restaurants acquire new customers by promoting them within the app and website, and drives repeat business through its rewards program. Mogl guests spend 44.9% more per month on average and increase restaurant profits by more than $10,000 per year on average.

New Variable Cash-back Feature Enables Restaurant Owners to Help End Hunger in their Community and Increase Profits in Real Time

“We have been loyal to Mogl since they arrived in the Conejo Valley,” said Shawn Berger, director of operations at Bandit’s Bar and Grill (and Mogl member since 2011). “We are excited about the new variable cash program as we can dedicate more focus to non-peak periods and drive even more business.”

What’s in it for Consumers:

Mogl is now an even more powerful tool for consumers to save money and give back to their local food bank when dining out. Instead of a traditional 10% cash back at any participating Mogl restaurant, they can now use the Mogl app to locate restaurants in their area that may be offering 20%, 30% or more throughout the day.

Restaurants with the highest cash-back return (or offer) at any given time will rise to the top of the search list, making it easy to select a venue where they can save the most money – or make the largest impact by donating meals (all cash-back can easily be converted to meal donations via the Mogl app).

The unique combination of cash-back rewards, discreet redemption, jackpot competitions and meal donations keep Mogl members coming back to the app again and again.

How it Works:

  1. Consumers sign up for Mogl for free online or via iPhone or Android apps and link any debit or credit cards of their choice.
  2. Consumers use that link card to pay at any participating Mogl venue. The cash-back amount is determined by the offer that is live when they pay their bill.
  3. Consumers receive a alert on their phone and via email and with a finger swipe, they can choose to keep the cash back or donate any or all of it to their local food bank.

Fighting Hunger
For every 20 cents a consumer donates via Mogl, a meal is provided through a local food bank to someone in need in that city. It’s like Tom’s Shoes for food. To date, Mogl members have donated more than 600,000 meals.

 

Will you check out Mogl? Let us know your thoughts!

How to Improve Restaurant Profits

improve restaurant profits

The most profitable restaurants in the country excel at doing the vital things very well.

If you’re wondering how to improve restaurant profits, here are 5 critical areas on which to focus:

1. Staff Empowerment

Successful restaurants have trained their staff exceptionally well. They also tend to “keep no secrets.” That is, everyone knows how and where the restaurant makes money, and knows their roles and responsibilities relative to those revenue streams. That type of knowledge is empowering to restaurant staff across a number of fronts.

The Skinny: Employees can make efficient decisions about work practices if they know where the money flows and grows. The first secret to success and more profits in the restaurant business is in having no secrets. Develop a “sense of ownership” with your staff by clearly outlining profit centers.

2. Analyze your “product”

Knowing what it is that people are buying when they come to your restaurant is important. That information helps you determine where to put the most effort in terms of staff service, cost analysis and marketing of your “product.” For some restaurants the profit center may be the bar. Everywhere people stop or stay more than 10 minutes in your restaurant is a component of your success.

The Skinny: Whatever your approach, there are opportunities to learn more about your customers. Coach your staff to discuss the reason for patron visits and what they like most about the restaurant. That information serves as an ongoing foundation for profit analysis. “What do you like about us?” is the simplest question to ask and the greatest way to identify potential profit sources.

3. Be social

As noted in the “analyze your product” commentary above, there are great social tools that can help you build customer relationships and increase profits. You simply need to use social media in the proper way. Today’s customers like the feeling that they have a friendship with you. That means you should make it easy for them to Friend you on Facebook, follow your Twitter feed or sign up digitally to receive your newsletter or menu updates.

The Skinny: People like the inside scoop and getting deals for being connected. Make your social media connections visible in your restaurant, user-friendly to every type of customer (so people don’t feel excluded) and virtually accessible on mobile devices so that customers “on the go” can take advantage of deals that make them want to come back, and can share interesting information with their friends.

4. Make it easy to spend money and “buy into” your restaurant

Today’s customer wants to pay on the go. That doesn’t mean dine and dash. It means you should provide them options to pay using their credit or debit card with mobile devices on the spot, using mobile credit card processing that is safe, secure and viable to increase your restaurant profits.

The Skinny: If your restaurant excels at entertaining people, customers may not want the buzz-kill of stomping up to the cash register to pay. Instead, go to their table and take care of it all for them there. Using tablet POS (point-of-service) onsite can help your profits. You can offer up calculations on tips and sell t-shirts or other merchandise by adding it to the bill with mobile payment processing. Your waiters and waitresses become salespeople for the restaurant and you can create new profit centers through other branding initiatives from gift cards to event registrations.

5. Find and develop partnerships

When you stop viewing your fellow restaurant owners as competition and start viewing them as partners, you can build your customer base in new ways. Sure, many people like the warmth of coming to their favorite restaurant every week, and you should offer rewards to your regulars for their loyal business. But many customers like to vary their routine, and those customers often welcome a referral and will offer one in return for your business. In the tourist town of LeClaire, Iowa where the American Pickers cable TV show is based, business is growing for everyone because restaurant and business owners from wine shops to restaurants to a distillery are all sharing their customers and providing referrals.

The Skinny: If you’re not comfortable sharing business with other restaurants, then consider talking to art galleries or the local gym, with the idea that providing customer rewards programs and referrals can build business for everyone.

Building your restaurant into a more profitable business takes work, but with the right strategies you can count on making your existing customers happier and landing more business with your ingenuity and hospitality.

This post was contributed by Greg Constantine. With over 25 years of experience in the payments industry, Constantine provides expert business leadership and marketing strategy development to SecureNet (and its clientele as Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer.  From Fortune 500 companies to successful startups, he has an extensive background in entrepreneurial guidance, marketing, sales, product planning, client services and operations management.

 

Celebrate National Taco Day at Rubio’s

In honor of National Taco Day, Rubio’s, the restaurant brand known for fish tacos, unique seafood dishes and a devotion to the ocean, is giving Social Hospitality readers the chance to come in and try its craveable menu options fresh from the grill.

Since the first store opened, Rubio’s has sold more than 170 million Original Fish Tacos®Today, Rubio’s menu, which serves 85 percent sustainable seafood, has grown from The Original Fish Taco to include additional recipes inspired by the sea that feature sustainable shrimp, Atlantic salmon, Regal Springs® tilapia and mahi mahi.

Rubio’s dedication to seafood cuisine began when Ralph Rubio and his father, Ray, opened the first Rubio’s in 1983 and started the fish taco phenomenon that spread across the nation. The time Ralph Rubio spent developing the fish taco recipe became the basis for everything Rubio’s stands for today: interesting and complex flavors in chef-crafted recipes using fresh ingredients.

In my interview with Ralph Rubio earlier this year, he shared a lot of great insight into the brand’s social media strategy and their focus on evoking personality online:

Rubio’s fans are extremely loyal and believe Rubio’s is “their restaurant.” They are very proud to be our fans, and we pride ourselves in taking exceptional care of them. For us professionalism and personality go hand-in-hand. At Rubio’s, we’re passionate about showing our guests our attention to detail and the interesting and complex flavors in our chef-crafted recipes. By engaging our guests online with open, honest communication and craveable, mouthwatering menu descriptions, our brand voice and personality shine.

Rubio’s has continuously set a high bar in regard to social media initiatives.In May, they asked their fans to share their best fish faces for free tacos. The contest garnered a lot of entries and helped showcase the brand’s fun personality.

This month, Rubio’s is celebrating its Coastal Trio: a taco flight of our three sustainable tacos including the Original Fish Taco, Salsa Verde Shrimp Taco and the Regal Springs ® Tilapia Taco.

National Taco Day

In honor of National taco day October 4, Rubio’s is offering a lucky reader a $25 gift card. Which of their tacos would you most like to try?


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LiveDeal: A Real-Time, Online Marketplace

Imagine being able to visit a single website to peruse a variety restaurant deals in your city. I don’t mean a LivingSocial or Groupon-type site that requires an account, transactions, or expiration dates, but rather, a simple resource where you could go to find deals then redeem them without hassle. LiveDeal is such a place.

LiveDeal is a real-time, online marketplace that connects you with local restaurants that are offering deals right now.

Unlike daily deal sites, LiveDeal will never flood your inbox with irrelevant offers. No more teeth-whitening products, no more belly dance lessons. Instead, LiveDeal only publishes limited-time promotions and deals from popular restaurants that want you as their customer.

LoveDeal Real Time Deal Marketplace

Best of all, you won’t have to stress about expiring vouchers or prepayments. With LiveDeal, you don’t buy vouchers online. Rather, you pay each business directly – at the point of sale.

Restaurant owners can promote their establishments on LiveDeal totally free of charge. They’re able to customize their offers and run deals that are valid only at the locations of choice. With superior geo-targeting capabilities, LiveDeal can publish discounts that are visible only to users within a certain radius of your live promotion.

I had the opportunity to interview Jon Isaac, CEO and President of LiveDeal, to get the inside scoop and learn more about the company and its vision. The below are his comments regarding the inspiration for LiveDeal; what differentiates it from similar sites like Groupon and LivingSocial; as well as plans for the future.

There’s big disconnect in communication between merchants and consumers. On a Monday night, a restaurant manager with a half empty restaurant is likely willing to discount his menu items if he can entice people to come in. However, there exists no clear, easy and instant/real-time medium to communicate that message with nearby hungry patrons. 

The market is also flooded with daily deal sites who bring no value to restaurants. Groupon and LivingSocial’s pitches are: “Dear restaurant owner, please discount your goods by 50%. We then will take half of whatever we collect from our user. We might send you 5,000 new patrons, however, we don’t care if your restaurant can only accommodate 30 people at a time. Also, people who buy the vouchers will all visit you on days and times of their choosing. They might come in on your busy nights, such as Saturday night. It’s their choice, not yours as to when they come in. Also, don’t expect to be paid for 60 or 90 days, since we must hold the funds in a reserve in case of refunds. Finally, please know that most of our users buyers are coupon chasers, going from one deal to the next. So, don’t expect to build a loyal following unless you plan on running with us again, which by the way, is limited to 3 times per year. Good luck.”

The above is no exaggeration. Restaurants are hurt everyday by these big publishing companies who promise big and deliver little. The big publishing companies have failed to listen to these business owners to truly understand what their needs are, which is “I need business on certain days and on certain times, without giving away the house.”

This is how LiveDeal was born. We bring value to restaurants by allowing them to segment and schedule when they’d like their promotions to run- whether that’s every tuesdays from 12pm to 8pm, or everyday from 11am to 4pm. The restaurants makes their own schedule. Further, the restaurant sets the maximum number of vouchers they’re willing to accept. This helps them manage their traffic and avoids having 100 people show up to their 20-table restaurant. It also allows restaurants to immediately publish promotions on the fly, on their own self-serve dashboard. No need to call in advance or make arrangements in advance. Reservation cancel? No problem. Login, create a promotion, and instantly publish to nearby patrons.

LiveDeal truly bridges the gap in communication between hungry for business merchants, and hungry consumers. It currently helps many save everyday at local restaurants in the San Diego area, though the company plans to expand into multiple cities in the next coming months.

We have no ideal type of restaurant; all types are participating. However, we do plan on personalizing results for users based on their past behavior. Our goal is to display deals to each user from highly relevant places. Therefore, a sushi lover might see different deals when she logs in to Livedeal than would a steak lover. Our ability to track user preference brings value not only to users, but also to restaurants who can then create custom offers for ‘steak lovers’ only.

The system is free for restaurants to publish as many deals as they’d like. The company plans to release a paid version of the site in the future where restaurants can elect to promote their deals in premium places within the site. We will always have a free version of the site for restaurants.

Big thanks to Jon for his time and for providing this first-hand account of the business and its goals!
What kinds of deals would you most like to see on LiveDeal?

Mobile Food Ordering: Pros and Cons

With more than four billion smartphones in the pockets and purses of people on this planet, everyone is trying to find a way to benefit from mobile marketing. One of the most intriguing methods I have stumbled across is the use of tablets and smartphones to order food while sitting at a restaurant.

Although I haven’t experienced this personally, I am somewhat excited to see how this process works.

Customized Applications
There are companies dedicated to developing customized apps for smartphones and tablets that would allow a customer to sit at a table and order food without the host or hostess bringing the menu.

This is also in conjunction with using the apps to order food for takeout or delivery in addition to dining in. Since I have used delivery and takeout apps before, I wonder if this takes away from the interpersonal element of speaking to a living person.

Although my life revolves around the use of social media. I’m still curious about the implications of technology eliminating interpersonal contact.

On the other side of that coin, I also don’t have to deal with snarky staff who may have had a bad day before I arrive.

Time Saving
If I had an app for my favorite restaurant that will allow me to order before I arrive, I would probably dine out more. Sometimes, I can be an impatient person and waiting for my food to cook allows my mind to wander too often.

If I could be seated with my meal that I ordered ready to go, I can be in and out and continue with my daily routines without spending 20 minutes sitting at a table staring at a glass of water. As these apps could incorporate payment at the time of ordering, I could also have the meal paid for before I arrive.

Essentially, I could walk in and be seated to eat and then walk out when I was done. Fast food restaurants would have to change their ethos.

Jumping on the Wagon
As time marches on, more and more restaurants are looking to more efficient methods of conducting business while benefiting from the technology.

From a product that I had imagined that was relatively new, imagine how surprised I was to learn that many locations utilize apps such as these for increased efficiency.

Unfortunately for me, I live in a rural community that is operated by many “Ma and Pa” stores that would fight being dragged into the 21st century. However, it’s nice to know that apps like these exist for my favorite locations when I travel – which I do often enough to warrant downloading them.

The advancement of technology is happening at a rapid pace. Many hotels and restaurants are using apps to improve relations and increase efficiency.

While this may take some of the personal interaction away from the experience, I can see how it will allow an organization to provide an expedited experience in order to make the customer happy.

After all, a happy customer has a higher chance of repeated business over one who didn’t have a very pleasurable experience. I wonder what other innovations will be developed to improve business functionality in the future.

This article was contributed by Madoline Hatter. Madoline is a freelance writer and blog junkie from ChangeOfAddressForm.com.

Ten Ways to Increase Revenue with Social Media

It doesn’t matter whether you’ve just opened your first restaurant or you’re celebrating your 20th anniversary: you can’t afford to neglect social media nowadays. Facebook has over a billion active users, and Twitter has a little over half of that number. Restaurant owners can’t afford to miss out on this valuable revenue-boosting tool. Here are ten ways to earn more money for your business by using social media.

Create Social Media Profiles

Create a Social Media ProfilePhoto credit: mkhmarketing via Compfight cc

Aaron Allen, a restaurant consultant, advises restaurant owners to establish a presence on social media. Open accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, if you haven’t already done so. Display links to your social media profiles in a prominent place on your website, so visitors will not need to hunt for them. Allen also recommends adding feeds from these profiles to your site; these feeds can show people engaging with your brand, which will encourage others to try out your restaurant.

Sign Up for Foursquare

Foursquare for RestaurantsPhoto credit: dpstyles™ via Compfight cc

Foursquare is a popular mobile device application that people use to find where to hang out based on recommendations from friends and experts. They check in at locations registered with Foursquare and share that information through their social media feeds. It’s free to register your restaurant on Foursquare, and once you’ve signed up, you can promote your business by posting special events and discounts. Customers can also earn badges through Foursquare, which spurs people to visit your restaurant.

Create a Mobile Application or Website

mobile apps for restaurantsPhoto credit: paterjt via Compfight cc

Mobile device applications are programs designed specifically for smartphones and tablets. They can be an important marketing tool in today’s hyper-connected world. Your mobile application could let customers make a reservation or order takeout. It could also alert your client base to discounts or menu changes. The app could also let them “check in” virtually to Foursquare, post pictures on Instagram, or share comments on Twitter or Facebook.

Offer Coupons Online

online couponsPhoto credit: HA! Designs – Artbyheather via Compfight cc

Your restaurant might already have coupons posted online, but you might want to consider offering a deal on Groupon or similar sites. These social media sites offer discounted services, which attract new customers to the business. However, the cons of such deals can outweigh the benefits. Whichever site you choose to host your deal gets a significant chunk of the profits, and you might be sacrificing your loyal customer base for people who are just after a low price. Content marketer Carla Dewing advises restaurants to limit the length of online deals and upsell other products that will keep customers coming back.

Leverage Instagram

Instagram for RestaurantsPhoto credit: Mr. T in DC via Compfight cc

Instagram might be a way to bring customers into your restaurant. Restaurant consultant Aaron Allen suggests leveraging the popular app to boost your restaurant’s business. He notes that restaurants can hold contests using Instagram photos and reward patrons with freebies or give customers a behind-the-scenes look at the kitchen to create a personal bond with customers. Allen emphasizes that Instagram is an excellent advertising tool that allows you to instantly engage with your clientele.

Host a Social Media-Related Event

social media eventsPhoto credit: mkhmarketing via Compfight cc

Bring more customers through the door by hosting a social media-related event. Marketer Vincent Ng proposes hosting a tweetup, which is a meeting organized on Twitter. Tweetups allow people with the same interests to meet face-to-face, so why shouldn’t that shared passion be your restaurant? Ng points out that the tweetup doesn’t only attract attention on the night of the event, but raises a business’ profile days before the meeting takes place. You could also create a Facebook event for all of your restaurant’s fans or followers, which will bring in both loyal customers and those who are curious about your brand.

Write a Blog

 restaurant blogsPhoto credit: pedro mg via Compfight cc

A blog can be a critical tool in your social media arsenal. It gives you a platform to share stories about your restaurant as well as publicize deals or menu changes. Blogs also give your customers a chance to communicate with you by posting comments on what you write. An article in Pepperdine University’s Graziadio Business Review comments that blogs can improve your website’s search engine ranking and visibility. You do not need to spend a great deal of money on creating a blog; there are a number of free or low cost services available.

Communicate Through Email

email marketingPhoto credit: Sean MacEntee via Compfight cc

You might think that email is an old-fashioned tool for communicating with your customers. Email advertising campaigns can have quite a high return on investment if used properly. They are an excellent way to inform people about special events, promotions and special events. Just don’t use too many pictures, or send out emails too frequently. Marketers at the British PR firm Contently Managed suggest timing emails carefully; sending out a list of drink specials at 9:00 am on a Tuesday morning won’t attract as much notice as it would if you sent the same message at 4:30 on a Friday afternoon. Also, customers can use email to communicate with you. They can send a message to reserve a table or ask questions about your restaurant.

Host a Podcast

 restaurant podcastPhoto credit: Colleen AF Venable via Compfight cc

A podcast is a series of audio, video, PDF or ePub files that users can download or stream. This platform lets restaurateurs share news about their business such as special events, changes in the menu and promotions. Recording and distributing a podcast might sound expensive and complicated, but the exact opposite is the case. In addition to a computer and internet connection, you need a microphone, a recorder/mixer, a soundcard, and audio software. If you want to interview people during your podcast, you’ll need a telephone connection. With the exception of the computer and the internet connection, all of the equipment can be purchased for less than $100.

Hold a Contest

 restaurant contestPhoto credit: kevinthoule via Compfight cc

Hosting a contest might also sound like an old-fashioned idea. However, social media puts an innovative spin on these friendly competitions. Restaurant owners can run a contest for every social media platform upon which they have a presence: they can run a “Twitter Follower of the Week,” a “Facebook Fan of the Week,” a “Pinterest Pinner of the Week,” etc. The contest could be as simple as having your followers posting family-friendly pictures of themselves enjoying your food, and others vote for their favorite photo.

This post was contributed by Rachel Levy Sarfin. Rachel is a contributing author to a Toronto catering company called Feast Your Eyes. She enjoys reading restaurant blogs and cooking.

How to Handle Unsatisfied Customers

Complaints are inevitable when you provide products or services to customers, because there is simply no such thing as 100% satisfaction across your entire market. There will always be customers with expectations which you cannot meet, or those who will misunderstand your offerings completely. It is because of this that customer service is a crucial part of any business, and that, in turn, is why customer care call centers are now so common.

But with the boom of social media, handling unsatisfied customers has proven to be a rather big challenge. A few taps and clicks can change the perception of hundreds to thousands of people, and it is every marketing person’s nightmare to be the center of a complaint posted on social media.

Though there is very little you can do about a customer’s posted complaint once it is made public, there are, however, many ways of handling the problem. There even lies the possibility of turning the situation around. So, what are some ways you can serve irate or unsatisfied customers?

1. Apologize for the mistake

Let’s admit it: apologizing and swallowing your pride are two very underrated and underappreciated actions. The more natural response to a complaint would be to get defensive, but that would only lead to fighting fire with fire.

When a person is enraged and unsatisfied, the best way to start off your end of the conversation is to say, “Sorry.”

2. Address the customer right away – publicly

In such situations, the worst thing you can do for your business is to let the situation drag on. Ignoring a person’s negative feedback could only cause more anger to build up, or worse, it could make everyone think that you do not care at all. Remember that social media could work for you too, so do not be afraid to respond to complaints, especially if the mistakes can still be rectified.

Start by showing your customer that you are giving appropriate attention to his or her concern, and that you are publicly taking responsibility for his or her dissatisfaction. Make it clear that you wish to correct the situation.

3.  Offer a precise solution

Without overpromising, try to be clear about the next step. Especially if the solution might require further expenses on the company, or if you (as an administrator of social media accounts) do not have the authority to promise customers whatever they want, be open and transparent about how the situation will proceed.

4.  Offer a re-do or a replacement, along with additional benefits, when possible.

More often than not, the customers simply want to get the best out of what they paid for. If they were not satisfied with your product or service, what you can do is offer them a re-do or a replacement.

If it was a service, assure them that you will be putting them in the hands of your best staff members, who will be doing their best to provide high-quality service. If it was a product, ensure that you will do everything in your power to provide their money’s worth.

5. Take the conversation offline

Although it would be advantageous to show other potential clients how good you are at customer service, try not to discuss the details of your problem and solution in public. It would be best if a representative of your company offered to meet the customer to discuss the issue further. In cases when that would be too much to ask, a management-level representative may also just call the client and present ways by which you can make up for the mistake.

Just remember that, to an irate client, seeing an actual face, or experiencing the actual presence of a company representative will do wonders in letting them know you care.

In the end, the customer is truly king. For as long as their complaints are within reason, and are actually constructive enough for the company to recognize some areas for improvement, there is no reason why negative feedback should be ignored. A simple apology and some effort to make up for a mistake or misunderstanding could go a very long way, and could even develop some good will between clients and your company.

This post was contrbuted by Sheine Austria. Sheine is a professional writer whose passion is digital media, technology and blogging. She also used to do some photography in her college days. Sheine is also a single mother and decided to transfer to California and discover her future there.

How Restaurants Can Use Google+

The Importance of Social Media for the Hospitality Industry

It is important for the hospitality industry to utilize social media to its highest potential. According to Hospitality.net in March 2013, 50% of bookings within the industry came through the social media sites, with 70% of people in the United States being driven by social media to make purchases. This is great news for restaurant owners.

Be one of those that people love and recommend

Engage and Share Your Menu

Google+ is a place to engage with your customers. Encourage discussions about your restaurant by starting them or join into current conversations to add more quality to the discussion. This doesn’t mean plug your restaurant everywhere! There are times when offering your expertise and knowledge is enough and then users can choose to click on your name and find out more.

This is also a great place to share your menu. It allows people to choose their meals before even visiting your restaurant. They may even choose your place to eat because they can check the menu and prices beforehand. To engage take menu suggestions from customers and share your ideas, maybe even setting up a survey or competition to increase reach.

Circle Other Businesses in Your Area

Networking is a great way to improve your profits and Google+ offers an exceptionally easy way to do that through circles. You can circle anyone you want and they don’t have to circle you back (but some will!). Circle the businesses in your area, especially those that can link to you in some way. For example, circle the movie theater that is across the road from your restaurant or the nightclub down the road. It is also worth circling businesses nationally and internationally that are linked to the hospitality industry, including other chefs, food magazines and television shows about food.

When you do circle, that isn’t the end of your efforts. +1 the posts from others and leave comments. This expands your reach with your circles’ circles. Others will find out about you and check out your page. You will also show that you support the businesses in the area and they may do the same thing in return.

Be active and interact with your circles for social media to work

Be Active!

Whenever you set up a social media profile it is essential that you are active on it. It’s called social media for a reason! If you have a stagnant page, people will not circle you and it will not help your business in any way. Engaging, communicating and interacting with others within your industry are important.

Too many businesses set up pages for them to disappear into obscurity. Don’t let your restaurant page do that. Interact with the other hospitality businesses in the area and connect to TV shows and food magazines to build your relationships and reach.

This post was contributed by Alexandria Ingham. Alex is a freelance writer with experience in technology, internet marketing and Steve Wynn resorts.

How to Handle Negative Restaurant Reviews

The culinary industry thrives on word-of-mouth. It takes more than a restaurant’s advertising campaign to bring customers in, as hearing about a great little burger joint from a friend of a friend goes a long way in bringing in business.

As the name implies, the service industry relies on its ability to deliver. When people hear about great service they flock to experience it for themselves. In contrast, when people find out that there is much to be desired in the food or service they are less likely to ever go in the first place.

How to handle negative restaurant reviews

The truth of our modern digital age is that information can be spread very rapidly. As a result, negative information is spread just as rapidly because of the technology we have at our hands. Knowing how to handle negative reviews online is extremely important.

In the past, a bad restaurant review would be printed in a circulated newspaper, giving you little opportunity to respond. In fact, the traditional way to address a review was to invite the food critic to return. Now, with numerous sites like Yelp and Urbanspoon not only can customers post their experiences, but the restaurants can also respond to those reviews.

As a restaurant owner you have very limited control over what someone says online, but you do have control over how you handle bad publicity. Fortunately, this builds positive rapport with restaurant goers that has the potential to turn any negative attention into an opportunity to strengthen credibility within the hospitality industry.

Take a deep breath

The natural response to being attacked is to quickly defend yourself. The problem here is that a quick response means you did not spend a lot of time thinking it through. Before you respond to any criticism, stop, take a deep breath, and walk away. Give yourself a day to think it through and sleep on it. When you have had sufficient time to flush out your angry adrenaline, then you can come back to dealing with the criticism.

Accept the criticism for what it is

Whether a critique is good or bad, accept it for the opportunity that it presents to grow and develop. A gleaming customer review points out where the strengths are in your experience. If they loved the way their steak was cooked then you know you’ve got a chef doing something right in your kitchen, if they liked the service, then you probably have a waiter or waitress that could teach the other members of the staff a few things.

The common belief when reading a negative review is that it is exaggerated. While it is certainly true that people have a tendency to blow things out of proportion, don’t immediately dismiss a negative review because you think it may have been exaggerated. Instead, carefully consider what was said. Did they complain about a particular server, was the restaurant too noisy, or maybe their dinnerware was dirty.

Ask the server in question if they remember the customer and the incident. Maybe you can turn down the music in your dining room. And dirty dishes might be an indicator that a dishwasher, man or machine, may be in need of some attention.

Be cool and respond

After you have had some time to handle the problem on your end, now is the time to respond to the criticism. Most reviewing sites offer a way for the business to respond, either by posting to the same review board or by personally contacting the people posting reviews.

Don’t open a response with an attack. Be apologetic, thank the person for coming and offer your sincere wishes to address the concern and improve their experience if they choose to return. If the situation is about to escalate into an internet nuclear war, then just walk away. Getting involved in a confrontation almost always ends up with your business looking like the bad guy. Be polite, apologize, and let it go.

Don’t just focus on the negative

You might find that handling bad reviews can be a little time consuming. Although, if you spend all your time dealing with complaints this is a sure sign that something in your business plan needs to be seriously evaluated. Even if you try and address the situation and offer amends, some people just want to vent their anger, and others can never be appeased.

It’s easy to be distracted by negative comments and reviews, but don’t let that monopolize your time. If a customer leaves a good review, thank them for the experience and for taking the time to write the review.

By taking the time to relax and address concerns with a clear head, you’ll show that your business is not only professional, but cares about its customers as well.

This article was contributed by Cassie Corbett. Cassie is a writer and culinary enthusiast with the cookware suppliers at World Kitchen.

Instagram Launches Photo Indexing, Photos of You

Instagram has established itself as a piece of a vast digital mosaic that businesses and companies have used to gain insight on how trends emerge. Since acquiring the infamous photo-sharing app in early 2012, Facebook has adapted one of their key tagging tools to Instagram called “Photos of You.”

Until now, the only way you could tag a friend or your favorite restaurant was to add their handle in the comments section. Now, you’re able to tag friends and venues by hovering over the photo itself, much like Facebook.

These photos will then be indexed in its very own profile section on the tagged individual’s profile, allowing anyone to be able to see photos they have been tagged in by simply searching their name. As a result, a convenient listening tool for brands has emerged, creating the ability for businesses to track how they are seen by an online community.

To businesses in the hospitality industry, this means additional real estate for loyal fans to represent the company’s image.

Restaurants will be able to collect real-time data from the photos that are tagged at their venue. They’ll see what dishes are more popular than others, as well as what their customers find favorable in the ambiance or interior decor. What guests find thoughtful or unobtrusive in a hotel suite will now be more accessible to owners to implement solutions.

Instagram will also feature an easy way to untag photos of yourself to mitigate any apprehension from users, leaving only the best photos intact. This adds a level of storytelling that will create meaningful associations between brands and their influencers.

Photos of You streamlines the ability to see photos tagged by anyone in the format of a collage instead of notifications. Additionally, photos taken of you by a friend will not only be seen on their Instagram feed, but now in yours as well. This eliminates the gaps in your activity that otherwise wouldn’t be seen by your followers.

There is great potential for user-generated traffic that will reveal what kinds of photos are tagged. These in turn can be used to pioneer better campaigns that focus on specific demographics and themes. Combined with other Instagram marketing strategies or a social media marketing platform for Instagram, brands can use analytics to leverage Instagram as a business tool.

Will this tagging feature impact the way you use Instagram? Tell us how!

7 Important Tips for Restaurant Owners

Starting and maintaining a restaurant business is no easy task. There are many factors that come into play. The success rate of restaurants is much lower when compared to other industries. The risk involved turns many people off from opening one of their own. The amount of capital to open a physical location requires investors and involves a lot of red tape. If done right though, a restaurant business can become quite a profitable venture. It’s important to know what you’re getting into.

1) Get a Website

The Yellow Pages are dead. People no longer thumb through a thousand page book to find local businesses. Creating an internet presence is paramount to your restaurants success. Some best practices when creating a website for your restaurant:

2) Include Your Menu

Your customers first and foremost want to know what food you serve. Include a text based menu that lists everything you serve. Don’t just throw up a .pdf file of your menu. Search engines can’t read that and it often looks bad on mobile devices.

  • Hire a search marketing firm. Having a strong presence on Google is like having a free billboard on the world’s busiest highway. The value of being found for free on the internet cannot be overstated.
  • Have a responsive website – because most everyone has a smartphone these days it’s wise to have a website that scales on mobile devices, allowing visitors to peruse your restaurant and jump from page to page without having to “pinch and zoom”.
  • State the essentials – include a page that lists the restaurant location and hours. In fact, it would be smart to list them in the header of the website or even on the homepage. Include holiday hours as well.

There are also several advertising channels that are effective for restaurants. Google AdWords has a simple to use interface. And local services like Yelp provide great mobile packages that cater to consumers on the go.

3) Establish A Relationship With an Online Vendor

There are several websites that provide online equipment and supplies ordering like Instawares - an online restaurant equipment and supplies company that carries everything you need to get started with opening your own restaurant. Having a relationship with your vendor allows you to easily order supplies and equipment when you run out. Often times, these companies will setup a workflow where they’ll recognize when you’re out of stock and detect seasonal patterns in your ordering I.E. – if you’re in a summer tourist-town and are only open during those months a reliable restaurant equipment company will call you in the beginning of summer and check if you’re freezers and refrigerators are working properly. There are several items that require more frequent replacement than others, chief amongst them being dinnerware. Finding a reliable source to buy flatware and dinnerware online eases your nerves as glassware and table items are dropped and broken.

4) Listen (and talk back) to Your Customers

This can be said of any industry but with restaurants it’s extremely important to listen to what the market wants. Restaurants tend to be “word of mouth” businesses that carry on the goodwill of its current customers. Thanks to new channels like social networks, online review sites, and restaurant blogs, it’s easier (and cheaper) than ever to listen to what people are saying about your restaurant. These channels include:

  • Facebook – having a Facebook page for your restaurant is a no-brainer. It’s easy to setup and can be accessed and “liked” by anyone who uses the service. Tie it to your website as well and share updates via your newsfeed. A solid strategy is to blog frequently and mention those posts on your Facebook page. Your effectively killing two birds with one stone by publishing on the web and within Facebook.
  • Twitter – while many see this as the mouthpiece for teenage girls and celebrities it’s actually a very effective way for you to communicate with your customers. Hashtags and “mentions” are the backbone of Twitter and your restaurant can greatly benefit from proper use of them. If someone lodges a complaint then it’s your duty to address this. Twitter allows you to respond to angry customers in public which shows that you care about what people think about your restaurant.
  • Pinterest – this is a must for foodies. Restaurants seem to be a natural fit for this image-based social network. And because of its open API many times when people take pictures of their food at restaurants it’s cross published to their other networks like Facebook and Twitter.

Take these criticisms that appear on social networks and work them into your overall marketing/business strategy. While many see social networks as a vehicle for “promotion” they are most effectively used for communication.

5) Keep Track of Your Customers

This can be done through a number of methods. Back in the day (and probably still) restaurants would do giveaways where customers would drop their business cards in a jar out front for a chance to win a free meal. The restaurants would then collect the email information on the cards and add them to a mailing list, offering catering and corporate party information. While this tactic may still work it’s important to identify more effective ways to collect their information. Building a customer database is important and what you do with that information is even more vital. Email marketing is easier and more effective than ever. You should be segmenting lists and creating different personas based on open rates in response to specific promotions.

Set Yourself Apart

Although it’s tempting to offer everything you can possibly cook it’s wise to specialize in one area. If people want variety they will go to a generic restaurant like Applebees or Outback steakhouse where they can get everything from spicy oriental chicken to a porterhouse steak. Be good at one thing and stick to it. Think about the most famous restaurants where you live: their often packed to the gills on weekend nights. Going out to eat is an experience and you need to sell your restaurant as such. You don’t see lines stretching around the block for Olive Garden. What you do see lines for is “Joe’s Steamhouse Lounge” – a restaurant that may specialize in seafood.

6) Service, Service, Service

Speaking of customer complaints. Most unpleasant experiences related to restaurants stem not from undercooked food or cheap wine, but customer service. There are several ways to ensure a quality customer experience:

  • Hire a good wait staff – do background checks, ask for references and have potential hires sit down with another member of your staff (more perspectives the better). Thoroughly vetting your staff ensures that you won’t be hiring an rotten eggs.
  • You get what (who) you pay for – this old adage applies to restaurants as well. What do you expect if you’re paying your staff $4/hour?
  • Know your demographic – if you’re opening a sports=themed restaurant it may be wise to hire more women as waiters, considering that most of your clientele will be men. Likewise if you’re opening a quirky organic breakfast place you may want to aim for a more eclectic waitstaff.

7) Do Competitive Research

Go out and see what your competitors are doing. Eat at other restaurants and take notes. Notice what others are doing right and try to emulate that in your restaurant. Also take notice of things they’re doing wrong and try not to repeat it. Restaurant owners are some of the most creative, business minded people in the world. Creating an experience that’s original and different will have people appreciate your restaurant and keep coming back for more. There’s also something to be learned from restaurant chains as well. There’s several reasons why they’ve grown to such national (and in some cases international) prominence. I.E.- Cracker Barrel. They have a schtick right? When you walk in there’s an old-timey gift shop filled with knick knacks and rocking chairs. They serve “home-cooked” meals. They’re marketing and knick knack store are meant to give people a familiar comfort.

Target The Right Demographic

Understanding where the wallets are is important if you want to last in the restaurant business. If you’re catering towards a lower-income demographic then you want your marketing to reflect that. In most cases though, you want to target consumers with the most money to spend. This way you can spend more on making your restaurant great and offering the best foods and service. If you’re going after an older crowd you must realize that that’s a well which will eventually run dry. Young up-and-comers is the holy grail of demographics because this crowd will form eating habits that they’ll carry over to their social circles and family. That’s why understanding modern marketing principles is necessary to capture this demographic. Young, affluent consumers are extremely savvy thanks to modern technologies like smartphones, iPads, and other connected devices.

This post was contributed by Clayton Curtis. Clayton works for Instawares, a restaurant equipment and cooking supplies company.