Chefs, Restaurateurs? … meet Twitter

Before I begin I’d like to give a shout out and a big thanks to a friend of mine and Saint Louis’ own Evan Benn. for helping me understand editing in only a way a six year old would understand it…which is apparently the way I needed it, on a spoon. That’s all I can say for now as I’ve now gone over 900 words…sorry Evan.

A week or so ago I gushed about how well established Saint Louis’s Twitter community is, then bemoaned New England’s Twitter scene …but I was hopeful. It turns out I had no idea just how awful the New England Twitterverse really was. In fairness I need to do more digging in the more metropolitan areas like Boston, Portland, Hartford and Providence before I call it a total loss. That being said, since I did that story I have been searching to find chefs that are using Twitter as it should be used: effectively and engagingly. So far I have found exactly four. I know there must be more out there. Right?

Here’s all you have to do to become Twitter savvy:

Sign Up
Yes, that’s right: Get a Twitter account. Don’t be “that guy.” You know the one. He’s the same guy who refuses to espouse WiFi because “dial-up works just fine,” and the same guy who still has a clamshell flip-phone. Don’t be him. Embrace the technology and social media because it’s quick, painless, (mostly) free and – most important – here to stay. Come on, genius, you can tourné a carrot, you have all the skill you need to open and use a Twitter account.

Being a New Englander, I understand we can be stubborn and resistant to change. But when someone asks on Twitter about the special you’re running that night, take a second out of your prep work and answer them. When your cooks ask questions, you spend minutes if not hours a day answering them. Cooks don’t make you money but the customer does, so take a few moments and communicate. You don’t have to respond to every tweet; don’t feel like you have to. It’s a learning process, but once you get into the rhythm you’ll find Twitter to be invaluable.

Twitter is not a popularity contest, unless of course you’re an actor or politician. Twitter is a succinct means to communicate with people and places that interest you, like other chefs or restaurants. It’s a means to entertain, gather and disseminate information. Not following people is like choosing to be blind to what’s going on around you. Go ahead, follow all the famous restaurants and chefs you want to, but then follow your local chefs and maybe some regulars. This will create a mutual feeling of loyalty because you are showing that you actually care about your patrons.

Twitter Is Not a Billboard
Twitter is like having a face-to-face conversation with each and every follower. You wouldn’t walk up to a customer or friend and say, “Cookies are three for $1!” and then not say anything else. Now don’t go getting all squirrelly on me, there are exceptions. For example, aside from dialogue with customers Doug Sohn of @hotdougs in Chicago uses Twitter to post his weekly specials…once a week. People want to be talked to and not “at” so keep the hawking to a bare minimum. If you want to introduce something you feel your customers might be interested in, introduce it as a special. Answer price questions only when asked. Remember Twitter is a relationship builder and you are a friend, not a huckster.

Do Not Let Someone Tweet For You
Nobody knows your business or your passion for that business like you do. If you had a Ferrari and absolutely loved driving it, would you let me drive it for you when you didn’t have time? That’s what @SocialKitchenNH  and other companies like it would have you do, and on top of them driving your Ferrari they’ll also ask you to give them gas money.

These companies have restaurants pay them to shill without any customer interaction. They get new clients partly because people are scared or unfamiliar with Twitter. They would lead you to believe they are experts in this field and only they have the expertise to run your Twitter account. In my opinion they’re frauds pushing the next Y2K scam, but this time with no expiration date.

You won’t be able to fix every problem you find on Twitter just by responding. I mean, some people would complain if you hung them with brand new rope. But being the voice of reason and showing you care enough to respond is sometimes all a customer wants. They want you to be accessible. “Sorry you didn’t enjoy your app @JoeBobbleHead Please come back so we can give you the experience you deserve. We appreciate the opportunity to earn your business.”

When people you follow have something informative or entertaining to tweet…re-tweet it! Known as a “RT” in the Twitterverse, it’s a simple way to pass on someone else’s comment to your followers with the touch of a button.  You’re not a clown after all and nobody is expecting you to be the only entertainment source.

The Bottom Line
Twitter is as easy as falling out of a boat. It’s a tool you can use a little or a lot. Either way your relationship with your customers will foster respect and loyalty because you’re not only feeding their bellies, but their hearts as well. Twitter may not make you the next @Mariobatali , but it will sure as hell help you and your restaurant by expanding your name, brand and your reputation by knowing your customers’ needs and how to service them.