Shore up F&B with social-media muscle
 
Shore up F&B with social-media muscle
08 AUGUST 2012 6:24 AM

Social media can help struggling F&B outlets find their market.

We all know the once flashy fantasy of a complete social-media revolution not only is an irrelevant way of current thought, but also that the revolution is already here and in full swing. Social media, along with other members of its ecommerce family, have transformed the way we live and how we conduct business on a daily basis.

 

Brandon M. Springer-McConnell

According to Erik Qualman’s book “Socialnomics: How social media transforms the way we live and do business,” 78% of people trust peer recommendations while only 14% trust corporate advertisements. In transforming our operational strategic plans it is now a must to capitalize on your hotel’s social scope and its crucial role in driving revenue and raising guest satisfaction.

 

Social media in all forms, from Twitter to Facebook and Yelp, has provided a platform unforeseen even just a short decade ago. For food-and-beverage units housed within a hotel, this could not have come at a better time as multiple managers of hotel units have shared their observation of a decline in this already shaky revenue generator.

Marketing with social media
Expanding your marketing bubble to include social media is great in theory if you have someone who understands the social lexicon of “liking” a status, “pinning” your location to inform others where you are, and of course, the always coveted “retweeting” of a post. On a side note, I would say that if you are not familiar with any or all of these basic level terms, you are not the one to be piloting such a social program.

Recently, a friend of mine checked into a hotel and the front-desk agent asked if he was on Twitter. The bartender at the hotel, the agent told him, posted nightly specials exclusively to follower’s of the hotel’s Twitter account. By 3 p.m., my friend received half off appetizers and a draft beer special delivered to his phone. By the end of his four-day visit, not only had he chosen to eat inside the hotel’s restaurant every night, but also he invited his colleagues to join him. The hotel figured out how to use social media to drive both revenue and guest satisfaction.

A number of hotels have their own Facebook page, while many top hoteliers are also using Twitter to market their business. The two giants have even partnered with a free application that syncs your tweets to Facebook and vice versa. This allows you to post seasonal menus, nightly specials, chef biographies, unit location, directions, hours of operation, photos and much more with just a single click.

As many of us are finding, transparency is now a key driver of guest satisfaction within the F&B segment. In fact, millions of dollars each year are spent designing multiple media applications that are being used in our field to supply this transparency to our guests. One such application can track exactly where the food has traveled when dining in a farm-to-table concept, while another is set up to not only list wine choices on a tablet provided at your table, but once a specific wine is selected, the guest is “flown” (via the tablet) to the vineyard that has supplied the bottle and experience a tour of the winery, the grape selection process, and even the current temperature of the location.

Many celebrity chefs also jumped on to the social-media bandwagon. At any given time, you can find out what one Iron Chef is currently serving at his own restaurant in Ohio, while another famous network chef promotes his global empire, all while adding videos from inside some of the world’s top kitchens for anyone to see simply by following these chefs on their Twitter accounts.

Attracting guests to your F&B outlet
While there are numerous fun and inventive ways to use social media, at the end of the day, we are all in the business of running profitable outlets and making money. This brings us back to the early question of attracting guests to your unit.

The idea of revenue generation by using social media is not new. Learning how to leverage your social scope comes down to one simple thing: Know your market.

For example, if you are a local boutique hotel, start by partnering with your rooms team to identify where your guests are coming from to visit you. If many are traveling within the hotel’s region, you are in luck because you should already have a pulse on your market. If you feel you do not have this pulse, identifying local “foodie blogs” or everyday cooking groups through a simple web search can become a valuable tool for you to achieve this goal, especially if you’re struggling.

The scope is not that different for our larger properties. While some locations struggle with a following a brand standard item list for their menus or the lack of freedom to purchase certain items because of a stricter financial budget, many larger branded hotels have one significant edge that smaller local establishments do not—broad name recognition and access to corporate social-media accounts that have an already established base of followers. The simple tip here is to leverage social media to communicate what separates you on a local perspective versus the outlet the guest had just seen the night before.

Overall, social media has provided an unparalleled look to the everyday lives of our clientele. Understanding the old phrase “word-of-mouth advertising” now comes through a short tweet or Facebook post, and truly illustrates where we have to focus our resources moving forward. It is important to remember you still must deliver great food and a tremendous experience when they walk through your door, but if you get left behind in this revolution, there might not be anyone left for you to serve.

Brandon M. Springer-McConnell – CFBE, CHT currently works with TMI Hospitality, who holds a hotel portfolio of close to 200 properties and growing. He heads up Learning & Development while working with the training department and it’s respective Director on course materials and future strategic learning opportunities. He was also a Disney Trainer and has worked with multiple national companies in leadership role.

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