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May 31 2013

Beautiful Women Eat for Free at Fast Food Restaurant

They say there's no such thing as a free meal but, if you're beautiful, you can eat for free at this Brazilian chain of fast food restaurants

It may sound like an offensive concept at first, but it's actually quite the opposite. The restaurant Spoleto told every female customer she didn't have to pay for her meal as long as she could affirmatively answer the question, "Are you beautiful?"

The customers were handed mirrors by cashiers who hoped every woman would admit to her beauty — serving as a self-esteem booster for the day. The gimmick was the restaurant's way of celebrating International Women's Day on March 8, but the ad that accompanied it was only recently posted to YouTube. Read more...

More about Advertising, Restaurants, Women, Commercials, and Watercooler

August 16 2012

Food Network’s ‘On the Road’ App Dishes Restaurant Tips for Trips

A new mobile app from Food Network will go head-to-head with other restaurant-discovery services starting Thursday.

The "On the Road" app allows people to find food venues featured on Food Network shows, or eateries recommended and owned by its slew of chefs such as Bobby Flay and Guy Fieri.

The app for iPhone and iPad, which has a badge-centric reward system akin to Foursquare or GetGlue, ultimately helps users plan food outings for their road trips or decide on nearby places to eat where they currently reside.

"We've been seeing demand on the website for this for years," Bob Madden, Food Network's GM and SVP of digital food category, told Mashable during a demo. "It's a fun way…
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More About: Food, apps, food-network, mobile apps, restaurants, travel

August 10 2012

iPad Wait List App Will Text You When Your Table Is Ready

Name: NoWait

Quick Pitch: Restaurant wait list that replaces pagers and eliminates lines.

Genius Idea: iPad app lets the restaurant notify their guests when their table is ready -- via text message.

Restaurant wait lists can be unorganized and frustrating – guests are often waiting for their pager to buzz or name to be shouted long after their expected wait time.

Instead of shouting names or tracking wait lists on paper, NoWait lets restaurants send a text message to their guests when their table is ready.

The innovative app eliminates pagers and lines, and allows guests to wait where they want until their table is ready.

“In today’s information age, everyone…
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More About: bizspark, restaurants

January 11 2012

Dine With a Stranger: GrubWithUs Launches First Mobile App

More than 30,000 people have signed up to dine with strangers through GrubWithUs. Now they can do so on the go.

The social dining network is launching an iOS app on Wednesday that can be used to browse and book its dining experiences. It’s the startup’s first mobile app.

GrubWithUs hosts dining experiences in seven cities. Its employees name the theme (i.e. “New to New York”) and negotiate a fixed menu with the restaurant, and anybody who wants to attend can sign up and pay through the website (or now the mobile app). Everyone who signs on simply shows up and eats without worrying about splitting the check. GrubWithUs also has a “create your own meal” feature that lets users name a location, theme and price-point, but it isn’t yet available for mobile.

So why does making GrubWithUs mobile make it better?

“You can pull up your reservation on the go,” co-founder Daishin Sugano says. “You can also chat with fellow diners, something that is kind of hidden on the website.”

The app also introduces a new GrubWithUs feature for keeping track of favorite diners’ meal plans. When users star a profile, they’ll get an alert when that person signs up for a meal. It might sound slightly creepy, but it doesn’t reveal any more information than is already publicly visible on the GrubWithUs website — it’s just making it more convenient to access. Sugano says he sees the feature being used to connect with people who share mutual friends, interests or alma maters.

“You can find someone who you want to eat with,” he says, “and you can actually eat with them.”

Image courtesy of Flickr, Frederic Poirot

More About: grubwithus, restaurants

December 10 2010

For Restaurants, Social Media Is About More Than Just Marketing

Jenny An is a Chicago-based writer with a focus on popular culture, food and travel. Her work has appeared in Time Out Chicago and VenusZine.

Social media certainly has its benefits for those who love dining and drinking. From free drinks for Foursquare checkins, to Twitter notifications about happy hours, to Facebook messages about free food, there’s always something tasty happening online.

But the social web offers a lot more than just discounts and deals when it comes to drinking and dining. Restaurants and bars are giving social media users a backstage pass to the food and the people who make it. Chefs and restaurateurs are using social media to reveal how their dishes are made, generate familiarity with chefs and provide a means for diners to share feedback.

Revealing How Dishes Are Made

While customers go to lower end restaurants looking for value and discounts, higher-end restaurants think that “discounts cheapen the experience,” says Tom O’Keefe, a Boston-based restaurant tweeter and social media-focused marketer.

You can blame it on the rise of celebrity chefs or the success of The Food Network and shows like Top Chef, but now more than ever, people want to live vicariously through others who cook. Many restaurants, including Chicago’s Piccolo Sogno and The Bristol, are posting videos to YouTube or Vimeo of new dishes being prepared. “The general idea is to pull the curtain back,” says Phillip Walters of The Bristol. “Allow people at home to feel more involved and engaged with that you are trying to deliver.”

But social media does a lot more than just satisfy curiosities. It makes Twitter followers or Facebook fans remember their last visit. Stu Mitchell, marketing director for Blue 13, a Rock and Roll spot in Chicago, says this act of reminding customers about their last visit “prompt[s] them to want to return, to keep us fresh in the minds of those who have yet to visit, but have been planning on it.”

But the behind-the-scenes social media technique sways more toward high-end than fast food restaurants. A behind-the-scenes glimpse of the origins of the McNugget (hint: it’s birthed from pink goop) led to Internet-wide horror and repulsion.

“A local Taco Bell is going to connect and build community in a very different way versus a Michelin-rated restaurant that brings passionate foodies together,” says Lorrie Thomas, CEO of Web Marketing Therapy.

Getting to Know the Chefs

Instead of attracting customers with deals, many restaurants strive to use social media for a tailored, personal experience. “People love to go into a restaurant or bar and know the owner or the chef,” O’Keefe says. Think of it as instantly becoming a regular.

That’s why chefs like Joanne Chang of Boston’s Myers and Chang and Flour Bakery personally tweet photos of the kitchen staff at work. “If you’re in a PR firm, you’re not going to get the same feel,” O’Keefe says. “It’s her and you know that it’s her.”

Grant Achatz, the man behind Chicago’s Alinea — named best restaurant in America in 2006 by Gourmet — also does his own tweeting. “Who would you rather hear from?” he asks. “Me directly or some weird person I paid to represent me?” When Achatz is not in the restaurant, he continues to tweet — from where he’s eating in Chicago to where he’s visiting in Japan. It lets people get to know him better and maintains a base, he says. “I’m not a celebrity, but I have a following.”

Achatz’s approach to helping his audience learn more about him is spot on. “Who we are” is the primary message of any effective marketing campaign, says Syeed Mansur, CEO of Sentrana, a firm that uses mathematical models to determine the most effective marketing strategies for companies.

Opening Communication Between Diners and Chefs

The restaurant experience has traditionally always been divided between front of house and back of house. Customers sat in the dining room and enjoyed their meals, completely disconnected from the people preparing the meals. The success of open kitchen designs, the farm-to-table movement, and books like Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential, show that diners want a deeper connection to the food that’s being prepared for them.

Not only does social media let customers view what’s behind that “Employees Only” door, but it gives customers access to the people behind it. Twitter allows Tony Priolo, chef of Piccolo Sogno, to connect with customers before they even come to the restaurant. And diners plugged in with social media receive special treatment. “If we tweeted with them beforehand I’ll usually come out of the kitchen and thank them for tweeting with us or send over something special,” he says.

Achatz likes to hear complaints from customers and says he actually responds. Sometimes he’ll refund a meal, but more importantly, “the more we know about who is coming into our restaurant, the better we’ll be able to fulfill our obligation to do what will make them feel happy,” he says. A couple had flown into Chicago from New York to eat at his restaurant and expected not only excellent food but also excellent service. The wife was escorted to the bathroom the first time she got up, but not the second. Achatz thinks the front of house staff just assumed she knew the way and could help herself. But the husband indignantly tweeted about the incident and then Achatz knew that his customers had different assumptions of service. The restaurant has tweaked its service accordingly since then.

“When people know, like and trust us, they buy,” Thomas says. “Pushing propaganda will freak people out.”

While restaurants are unable to quantify the exact monetary impact of their social media campaigns, the responses they receive assure them that somebody is listening. “We hear enough feedback to know that we’re reaching people and that they enjoy it,” says Amy Mills Tunnicliffe of 17th Street Bar and Grill in southern Illinois.

Before social media, it was difficult for the average person (even a person spending $200 for dinner) to have access to that ornery bartender or three-starred Michelin chef, but now, dishing complaints or compliments has become as easy as a tweet or a Facebook post.

How have you used social media to enhance — or complain about — a dining experience? Do you follow your favorite chefs or restaurants? Share your thoughts in the comments.

More Foodie Resources from Mashable:

- 10 iPhone Apps for Wine Enthusiasts
- 3 New Recipe Apps for the iPad [PICS]
- 10 iPhone Apps for the Global Foodie
- 7 Services That Will Suggest Things You Like
- HOW TO: Find Good Food Online

More About: business, facebook, Food, foodies, hospitality, restaurants, small business, social media, twitter

For more Social Media coverage:

November 16 2009

3 Social Media Lessons From the Restaurant World

eatChris Allison is a social media strategist at NeboWeb, where he helps clients make the most of the social web. You can follow him on Twitter as the voice behind @Neboweb.

In the midst of all the noise surrounding social media marketing and emerging technologies, we sometimes get caught up in the grandeur of the transition and forget how this all actually works. When you start looking around, it’s easy to think that what makes a campaign successful is some strange, quirky factor. It’s true, there’s a lot of potential to use these tools for trying out new things and creating out-of-the-box experiences, but that’s not the point. The bottom line is that social media offers an opportunity to bring something useful to your customers. To learn how to do it, look no further than the world of food chains, mobile vendors, and top of the line restaurants.

Below are three lessons from the world of food that will help you better utilize social media to bring value to your customers.

1. Play to your strengths

When it comes to convenience, no one does it like fast food. People don’t eat fast food because it’s hot and delicious — though that helps — people eat fast food because it’s cheap, the food comes out quick, and there’s almost always a place to get it nearby. It’s convenient in all respects. With that in mind, anything a fast food company can do to become more convenient is worth considering. This is an important concept to remember when setting out on your social media campaign, and a lesson well learned from a few top fast food brands: play to your strengths.


With the iPhone now claiming 18% of the mobile market, it makes sense to customize a tool for this growing market. Fast food leaders Chipotle and Pizza Hut have both implemented applications for ordering through the iPhone, and we can expect more of the industry to follow suit. Why? Because, while making an iPhone application may not be groundbreaking, these particular applications play to the strength of the fast food industry — convenience. With all of the options laid out before them, there’s perhaps no better way to create another level of convenience than taking the ordering process mobile. It’s simple, but effective.

What are your strengths? Whether it’s quality, convenience, your image, or low prices, social media provides ways to simply and effectively play to your strengths.

2. Solve Old Problems

Playing to your strengths is a straightforward and reliable approach, but sometimes there’s a great opportunity hidden behind your weakness. One of the ways companies have been so successful with social media is by using this new avenue to solve old problems. Perhaps no one has created such an uproar on this front than a group of now-famous food trucks.

You see, if you’re a food truck, there’s one problem that historically has haunted your customers: they don’t know where you are! Children relish the mystery that surrounds the ice cream man’s appearances, but I think we adults are more in favor of reliable grub. But, we’re also in favor of tasty grub, and it can often be found inside a moving food truck. What to do?


Thanks to Twitter, food trucks like the Big Gay Ice Cream Truck (BGICT) and Kogi’s BBQ are solving this age-old problem with a simple solution. They tweet their location. Wow! Simple? Yes. Problem solved? Yes. Massive following? Yes!

If there’s one thing you can take away from these quirky food trucks it’s not do something crazy and you’ll get attention. It’s solve an old problem and you’ll win customers. It’s not that personality hasn’t played a part in their success, but the fundamental innovation that has driven their momentum is the old problem now solved.

3. Answer The Big Question

If you’re thinking about diving into social media for the first time, you might be thinking on a more fundamental level than solving big problems or playing to your strengths. Social media is, well, social. It’s about talking. There are a lot of things you could be saying, but an excellent tactic is to answer the big question. If you say nothing else, answer the big question.

What’s the big question? It depends on your business, but one of my favorite examples comes from one of my old stomping grounds, Madden’s Casual Gourmet, a hidden gem and my favorite hometown establishment. Madden’s personal and friendly e-mails regularly answer their customers’ biggest question: what’s on the menu? Because the chef has something new every weekend, this is an incredibly useful reminder. Plus, it’s a great entry point for their marketing message. E-mail isn’t the latest way to use social media, but, if used properly, it’s still an effective tool to get people talking. Madden’s proves that it’s not which tool you use that matters, but which questions you answer.


All of these companies have had success with their efforts because they were able to create something useful for their customers. When you begin crafting your social campaign, keep these strategies in mind. If you’re able to enhance your strengths, solve a problem, or answer a big question, you’re probably headed down the right track.

More business resources from Mashable:

- Why Social Media Is Vital to Corporate Social Responsibility
- HOW TO: Measure Social Media ROI
- 5 Important Web Video Lessons for Small Business Owners
- Top 5 Must-Read Social Media Books
- HOW TO: Use Twitter Hashtags for Business

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, kjohansen

Reviews: Twitter, iStockphoto

Tags: business, iphone, Lists, restaurants, social media, twitter

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