Running a restaurant is never easy, but with the help of good friends and neighbors it can be a little easier! This week, Yelp SeatMe hosted its first local community event, “Put More Butts in Seats in 2016,” at West of Pecos in the Mission district of San Francisco. We invited over 30 restaurateurs in the local community to join us for a panel discussion and bring their top questions and concerns with them. The panel included Anjan Mitra of Dosa, Trish Tracey of Myriad Gastro Pub and Tyler MacNiven of West of Pecos (who also happens to be a very gracious host).
The goal of the event was to bring together fellow restaurateurs and get answers to the #1 question we hear: “How do I keep my restaurant filled and customers coming back for more?” The wealth of insights and ideas the panel provided was priceless. Here are some of the key takeaways.
Take Charge of Your Online Brand
“You have to be responsible for your own brand and marketing. Opentable has convinced us that we need them but we don’t,” said Mitra of Dosa. And it’s true—online discoverability has a big impact on the success of your business and you are the owner of that. The majority of diners will find your restaurant online, therefore, it is incredibly important that your restaurant be really easy to find. How to start? Be present everywhere! Start with a great website then go from there—set up social media accounts and be active. Use as many photos and videos as you can. And take advantage of some of Facebook’s tools, such as boosting posts. This is something Mitra has tested and seen great results with. And what about Yelp? According to Tracey of Myriad Gastro Pub,”I used to say I hated Yelp and then I opened a restaurant. Now I love Yelp. When I first opened, I responded to every review, good or bad, and it helped tremendously.”
Adapt To Remain Relevant
The market for new restaurant technology continues to grow and most of it is designed to help you. The technology that all of the panelists agreed they felt unsure about but also felt is here to stay? Online ordering—think Eat24. “We have to learn how to use this to our benefit and play on the same field as them,” stated Mitra. While there are some downsides to signing up with a company that provides online ordering, such as a reputation of low or no-tipping to bogging down your kitchen during busy hours, there are some upsides. “I’ve found online ordering can help boost sales during off-hours and reach customers in different areas of town that don’t typically go to my locations to dine, “ said Mitra. That said, it’s important for restaurants who are full-service to find the right online ordering system that fits their brand and to be sure their kitchen can handle the influx of orders during the times they’ve signed up for.
Leverage Your Community
Get involved with your local community and meet your neighbors. They often have great advice you can learn from and they can be a fantastic reference. What if a diner comes in but there are no tables available for over two hours? If you have a good relationship with that restaurant, they’re likely to refer the diner to try your place down the street. Additionally, you can grow and expand your community by joining a local association such as the Golden Gate Restaurant Association and connect with concierges at hotels!
Hospitality, Hospitality, Hospitality
“Often you remember the food but, more so, you remember the experience,” stated MacNiven of West of Pecos, when asked about what he feels keeps his restaurant filled. He hasn’t invested much in online marketing or PR but, what he invests in is what he calls ‘playful professionalism.’ “When I worked in my parent’s restaurant it was in a small town and they knew all of their customers by their first name. I try to bring that to my restaurant, starting with the hostess.” At the end of the day, the way you make your guests feel is ultimately what keeps them coming back for more and turns them into your biggest fans.