Many restaurant owners are adding LinkedIn to their social media strategy. Going beyond the familiar Facebook marketing possibilities, restaurants find LinkedIn offers a great way to get the word out and build customer loyalty.
The primary purpose of LinkedIn is professional networking, so the site is a powerful tool for restaurants where professionals meet for lunch. It also works well for those businesses that cater for corporate events.
The marketing director at Miltons Pizza & Pasta, Steve Hooker, used LinkedIn to increase business in the dining rooms at two locations in Raleigh, North Carolina. He also boosted awareness of the catering arm of the company.
Since he began using LinkedIn a few months ago, Hooker has made 1,600 local connections for Miltons, and received more than 90 recommendations.
The restaurant has stronger customer relationships and more business, especially from corporate-catering clients.
Planning your LinkedIn strategy
Some restaurants create a company page. Others use a personal page to foster a better connection with their customers. An effective way to do that is to create a LinkedIn account for someone the customers recognize as the face of the business. The long-time manager who greets every customer at the door is a good candidate, or the catering manager who makes most of the business contacts.
Many restaurant owners have successfully integrated their social media marketing. They tailor Facebook posts for the social customer and focus LinkedIn on the customer's professional life.
LinkedIn recommends that businesses integrate Twitter accounts with LinkedIn pages for better exposure. The LinkedIn Learning Center explains how to select which tweets to show on your LinkedIn page so you can customize the messages the business shares.
Make connections with potential customers
Hooker found that LinkedIn was valuable for connecting with potential new clients and reconnecting with past clients. He sends connection requests to all of his business contacts and customers who have a LinkedIn account. He continually checks LinkedIn for people who have recently created an account.
“When I meet someone at a Chamber of Commerce meeting or other event, I make sure to send a connection request when I get home,” said Hooker.
Hooker also uses LinkedIn to help get his foot in the door at companies he would like to do business with. He checks LinkedIn profiles for employees who are decision makers. For instance, he looks for someone in charge of corporate catering to see if there are any shared connections.
“If they know someone that I know well that has used Milton’s for catering, I ask the mutual friend to introduce me and give a personal recommendation for catering,” Hooker said.
After a catering job, Hooker makes connections with employees at the company. In the request, he reminds them about the meal the restaurant provided and invites them to come to the restaurant for dinner.
Hooker recommends using the zip-code-search feature when you're looking for employees at large companies with multiple locations.
Solicit recommendations from customers
Restaurants can use LinkedIn to collect recommendations for their dining and catering services. When Hooker began using LinkedIn, he sent recommendation requests to 30 or 40 corporate and dining customers each day. In return, he received about five recommendations every day.
By continuing this effort, he quickly amassed an impressive collection of reviews. After he finishes a catering job or meets a regular dining room customer, he follows up with a request for a LinkedIn recommendation.
Restaurants can inform their customers with updates that their LinkedIn connections can see. Hooker posts LinkedIn updates about lunchtime specials, contests and catering services.
He also uses his updates to share information about his customers that he thinks might spark the interest of other professional contacts. He mentions a corporate customer who got a promotion or a business that expanded into a new building.
Hooker plans to keep using LinkedIn and encourages other restaurant owners to do the same.
“I have gotten to know people better who I knew casually before, and people have come out of the woodwork to recommend Miltons on LinkedIn,” said Hooker. “LinkedIn has been a great way for us to connect with other people and other businesses.”
Jennifer Gregory is a journalist with more than 17 years professional writing experience. Jennifer blogs for Contently.
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