I interviewed Urbanspoon's Conrad Saam, who shared his social video marketing tips for restaurants, cafes, and the rest of the food service industry.
Conrad Saam is the Vice President & Director of Marketing for Urbanspoon, the online restaurant directory, reviews, and reservations site and mobile app (for both consumers and restaurants) based out of Seattle. Urbanspoon's chief competitor is the much larger OpenTable, whom they're positioning themselves against in the market around building better social technologies. Check out the videos reviews below on their iOS app, and their newer Android app.
Video Opportunities and Challenges in the Food & Beverage Service Industry
The restaurant and café industry sits right in the middle of three of the hottest trends in technology today: Social, mobile and local. "However, most companies today in the restaurant and café industry are doing a poor job with marketing, and are almost non-existent with doing video," said Conrad. He said the reason for that is they continue to make the mistaken assumption that doing online video must be very cost-prohibitive.
"Most small businesses in the restaurant and food service industry aren't going to want to hire a professional company to do their video, but that doesn't mean they don't have lots of opportunities for low-cost and no-cost video," said Conrad. "You can do successful video online that engages with your customers, even with an iPhone or other very basic device.”
Social Video Marketing Tips for Restaurants & Food Service
Conrad shared with me his insider advice for what kinds of videos he recommends for the restaurant/café/food/beverage service industry, which I included in my own recent presentation at a Chicago "foodie" conference, along with some additional ideas of my own ideas below.
You don't need to go big, but…
…You should have at least one good quality video of your establishment and your food. That way you always have some footage that you can use for your subsequent "cheap" videos.
Make it look appetizing
If your food and your establishment does not look appetizing with the quality of your video, it could actually end up turning people off. For that reason I recommend hiring a professional photographer who can take high-quality, well-lit photos of all or most of your menu items in one setting, along with some good restaurant shots of patrons. Look for local photography companies or professionals that specialize in the food service industry with a gallery you can view online, such as the folks at dinerphotos.com (Be sure to get waivers from the people in the shots, though!)
Customers are interested to have an insider's view of the restaurant. They want to see what goes on in the kitchen and other places than where they're eating at a restaurant. "They want to see the gritty stuff, what's real, you can use video to make that happen," says Conrad.
What's one of your most popular items on the menu? Doing a video in the kitchen showing how it can be made at home is highly appealing, and takes nothing away from people who want to come to your restaurant. "You could do a once-a-week video of a chef preparing a great dish. This is an excellent way to showcase your food," says Conrad.
Feature your staff
Feature your chef, your bartender/brewmaster, the people who are out on the floor, the people who work the register, the people who do deliveries – everyone! Let them share their own work stories and personal stories on camera, and with the patrons they like and who like them back.
Feature your customers
Who are your regular and most passionate customers? Who do you know has interesting stories to tell?
Offer customers to post their video reviews online, which they can in turn post on your Facebook page and/or their own YouTube channel. I've even seen restaurant owners create a video showing an online review they received, and themselves talking about it.
Tell your personal story
People want to get to know the owner or owners, see their passion and hear their personal story. You can also talk about how you're involved with your local community.
Do a video contest where you encourage video submissions on any fun topic related to your food and restaurant theme, where everyone who participates gets a coupon, and the top prizes include more of your food.
Have a challenge
Instead of doing it yourself, have an independent web video personality or personalities do something creative with video content that you can sponsor.
Share your message
If you are a socially conscious or environmentally conscious business (such as eating organic), or perhaps you are involved with some economic sustainability programs there's a great opportunity for sharing those messages in video.
Do you have an opinion you'd like to share? Does your personality match the theme of your your food and/or beverage establishment. Are you a fun place? Casual? Elegant? Ethnic? People watching your video will be much more likely to remember it if you have at least one person with a memorable personality that shines through in your video.
Do you do deliveries to particular areas that have interesting things going on in them? Where are the local business and organizations there that you can do cross-marketing with? Any upcoming events you're sponsoring or otherwise participating in? I strongly recommend building an event calendar around your video content so you know what to shoot in advance that has maximum buzz potential, and coordinate with other local businesses to see what you can all collaborate on (and do a potential budget share).
Many businesses are also involved in some kind of charity work, so it's a great opportunity to showcase videos of your establishment doing any charity work or other ways you give back to the local community.
Showcase your feedback
Ask people in a video, what would they like to see on the menu? What suggestions do they have? Encourage them to submit their own feedback in video as well. Especially important: Be just as willing and open to featuring negative feedback as well, and offer a considerate response. (Calling them out by name is a great way to make it seem personal and with real customer service.)
Food and beverages at any social hangout can is a great bartering tool for college and high school students (and even some of the older generation), who can create enjoyable videos they'll share with their friends and spread like wildfire.