Food For Thought – The loss of social connection

Photo credit: restaurant-hospitality.com

Photo credit: restaurant-hospitality.com

In every generational era, there is resistance to the modern technologies that are evolving. Way back in the 80′s and 90′s as screens began to integrate into everyday life, we were constantly reading about how video games and TV time were rotting the brains of the children. Those children are now adults with careers, responsibilities, and families of their own. Say what you will about the state of society right now, but I seem to think we turned out alright.

This push-back against technology never ends, and we’re seeing it rear its curmudgeonly head again as social media and smart phones have made their place in our day-to-day living. It seems that the restaurant industry as a whole is often stuck in a time warp, clinging on to the “good ol days” and not being open-minded enough to keep up with the trends.

There were recent articles going around about a New York restaurant comparing recorded footage from 2004 to 2014 to investigate their service complaints. They wrote about their findings on Craigslist. They discovered that their service complaints increased because of smart phone usage in the restaurant – food getting cold because people took three minutes on average to take food photos, or people asking servers for group photos, and what not. You can read the link for the whole spiel. Basically it’s just a rant on people using technology. I call bull shit on the three minutes to take food photos (I do it just about every day and it takes less than 30 seconds).

Instead of writing a rebuttal to their customers complaints on shitty service and telling them to leave the phones at home, they should have realized that being technologically connected is how the majority of us live now. It’s only progressing – we’re not going backward. Do people complain about washing machines and hope to go back to cleaning their clothes in the river and beating shirts against rocks? No, because it’s a lot easier to just toss them in and let the machine do the work for you.

It’s the same with the internet and social media. If you’re looking for directions to a restaurant, it’s easier to pull out your iphone, pull up their website or Facebook page and Google Maps your way there rather than calling the host and getting directions from someone who potentially can’t give directions out of wet paper bag.

It’s easier to look through a restaurants’ Facebook, Pinterest, or Instagram page to see food photos and menu examples rather than playing dish roulette while you’re sitting there taking 10 minutes to decide on what you’re actually going to eat – wasting more of the servers’ time. Or feeling that pressure to just make a decision so you choose something disappointing because the menu wasn’t really accurate in the first place.

Restaurants – your websites and social media pages serve a purpose. They are not unimportant aspects to your business that you can just push to the side. It has become apparent from a lot of Fort Collins restaurants that they think otherwise, from inactive social media accounts, to websites with outdated menus, or the most increasing trend – new restaurants not even bothering with putting a website together in the first place.

You don’t believe me? I’ll be happy to send over the emails and social media messages from readers who feel differently and complaint to me about it. I’ll be happy to tell you how many times readers ask me about a new menu and I have to say, “I don’t know, I haven’t been in yet and they have nothing online to look at.” Here’s a recent example for you:

Restaurants in our community seem to be using FaceBook less and less…. Every time I browse the FaceBook pages of my favorite local establishments, there are no new, updated pictures (except for the occasional boring alcohol pics), updates or replies to comments. Is FaceBook just phasing out, or are the restaurant managers just lazy???

Listen, I know that it takes time, time that many restaurant owners say they don’t have. Believe me, I know how much time social media takes, because it’s my job too. But it’s like working out, you make the time to do it or eventually find yourself morbidly obese and saying that you’ll get back to working out “some day.” There’s also a plethora of marketing businesses here in town who can do it for you if it’s that much of a time crunch.

Social media and smart phone connectivity are business allies, not enemies. Encouraging people to stop taking food photos means that you’re asking them to stop sharing their dining experience with the hundreds (or thousands) of people not sitting at the table with them. By neglecting your social accounts, you’re encouraging people to forget that you exist when deciding on which restaurant to dine at.

“What about eating at that sandwich shop around the block?”

“Oh yeah! I totally forgot about that place!”

This happens more often than you realize. Out of sight, out of mind. Word of mouth has changed in the age of social media.

There are a handful of local restaurants who are doing a fantastic job with keeping the city up-to-date on menu changes, specials, and other exciting dining experiences. Here’s a short list of some places that come to mind:

  • The Silver Grill – they do a FABULOUS job on updating their facebook page with new menu items and specials.
  • Harbinger Coffee – Jonathan has one product – black coffee, but it is done exceptionally well. He’s able to connect on Twitter and keep customers in the loop on what’s going on with his schedule and roast rotation despite a very limited menu.
  • The Goodness Truck – If you want fun examples of what to do with Instagram, check them out. They have menu photos and quick videos of slicing up veggies or smoking meats inside the truck.
  • Pateros Creek Brewing – If you don’t think Meetup has any impact on your restaurant or brewery, think again. I belong to a handful of Meetup groups and I can solidly say that Pateros is where most of us love to meet up at. Comfortable space, beer on hand, and food trucks out front. It’s perfect.
  • Next Door Food and Drink – Not many restaurants around here have their own blogs, but they do (and I only know this because they’re a Four Course Marketing client). Restaurant blogs are a great way to get more info out to customers.
  • Fish Restaurant – Want to see an online menu done right? Then check out theirs! They have fantastic photos next to each and every menu item.

 

So Fort Collins restaurants – step it up. Stop thinking social connection is unimportant. Stop requesting that we not take food photos to share with our networks. Start getting your websites together BEFORE you open the doors to your new restaurant. And start remembering that social connection has gone digital.

 

 

 

 

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  • Silver Grill Cafe

    Thanks for the shout out! We truly know the value of social media and keeping your customer and potential customers in the loop. We get feedback all the time!! “We saw the new special on your FB page” It’s extremely rewarding and we see big results, plus it’s virtually free! (Besides time!) We also update our website with events and specials all the time! Full menu is available tool!
    Thanks again!!!
    —-SILVER GRILL CAFE

  • http://barefootmeg.multiply.com barefootmeg

    My husband got lunch at a Russian restaurant near his work this past week. He goes there fairly regularly and the folks are getting to know him. As the guy brought out his food this time he added, “Please write about us on Yelp!” It was kind of cute. The guy knows how much my husband loves the food there and he wants that good review.

    (The only problem is that I’m the Yelper in the family, not Rob, and I’ve never been to the restaurant.)

  • Ltaz

    I agree 100%!!! I typically won’t go try a restaurant until I’ve been able to look at them online, and take a glance at the menu. I hate going to a restaurant and feeling surprised or overwhelmed at the menu — It takes way more time for me to order if I haven’t been able to at least take a peek at the menu to get an idea before sitting down. I don’t rely solely on Yelp, but it is a good starting point on a “toss-up” decision on where to go.

    If you’re going to just have a Facebook page, it needs maintained with menus/hours/updates, etc that are easily accessible. Otherwise, an actual website. It might be a lot of time and work, but in this day and age, I would imagine that it costs you business to not have those things, rather than the “encourage people to come through the mystery” or whatever the reason might be.