My Take Away From Eat, Drink, Be Social

I recently attended  Eat, Drink, Be Social, a symposium featuring local and national thought leaders in the restaurant and social media industries, in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  Hosted by Tyson Goodridge of DIALOGUE, this event covered my two greatest interests… food and social media. I heard so many good points during this symposium but here are some highlights that I took away with me:

Geolocation Glitches

First let’s rewind a bit to the social the night before hosted by DIALOGUE and Awareness, Inc. held at Dante Restaurant in Cambridge. Attendees were allowed to meet and mingle with the event’s speakers. At the social I had the chance to chat with Dennis Crowley, Co-Founder of Foursquare, a very nice guy who was doing a great job of fielding everyone’s Foursquare questions. At one point, he did clarify that  application glitches may be due to deadspots in your network or errors in the maps it is linking to. He explained that there are many pieces to the geolocation puzzle and that Foursquare is always working to improve the coordination of these pieces.

What Restaurants Think of Social Media

Fast forward to the first two panels of the symposium, a literal all-stars of the Boston restaurant scene with moderators and panelists from Zagat, Boston Globe, Yelp Boston, CitySearch, Boston Magazine, @eatboston and Cook’s Illustrated and restaurateurs Barbara Lynch (Menton), Jody Adams (Rialto and Top Chef Masters), Mary Catherine Deibel (Upstairs on the Square) and Jon Olinto of b.good. With these first two panels, my take away was that restaurants are well aware of the added pressure that rating sites bring and their emphasis on hospitality as well as food quality. The panelists said they are open to the feedback while Leighann Farrelly of Yelp Boston asked attendees to think about the words you use in your comments because they do effect livelihoods. I also found it interesting that Jon Olinto of b.good said that he was most responsive to feedback via e-mail and, in some cases, has even gone to customer homes to correct wrongs.

No Matter the Platform, It’s About the Customer

Props to Justin Levy of New Marketing Labs and Caminito Argentinean Restaurant who literally got off the red eye after one hour’s sleep to talk to us. He told the story of how he started helping his friend and eventually became co-owner of his restaurant. He reminded us that no matter what the platform, meeting the customers’ needs is what is most important and that is why his establishment has been successful.

Merchants and Existing Behaviors

The next panel was moderated by geolocation fanatic Mike Schneider (Allen & Gerritsen) and featured Dennis Crowley of Foursquare and Alexa Andrzejewski, founder of FoodSpotting. Dennis told us that Foursquare will be releasing its 2.0 version this summer and how they are trying to focus on working with merchants to offer specials and heightened awareness of the application. He brought with him hot-off-the-press window stickers that said “Check In Here” (see pic above) and “Foursquare Special Here.” He also spoke of trying to bridge the gap between enthusiastic mayors and establishments who have never heard of Foursquare. Alexa pointed out that FoodSpotting basically took an existing behavior and made it a little more formal and fun. I confess, I’m jealous she beat me to it. #foodporn

Tips For Restaurants

The last panel featured Jeff Cutler and Mike Langford of NomX3 ( an online show where they eat lunch and share their experience) who had great advice for restaurants to be more social media and customer friendly; offer free Wi-Fi, make sure all your URLs are visible during a customer’s visit, and (for higher end establishments) reach out in some way to make your restaurant seem more accessible. Oh, and the biggie, make sure your site is not in Flash, otherwise potential customers trying to view your information or menu on the iPhone will not be able to read it. << In my opinion, this advice goes out to everyone, not just restaurants.

Overall Impression

My overall impression… new applications and platforms in social media are trying to bridge the gap and work with merchants who have been around for decades. It is starting to happen and it will be interesting to see how it progresses and ultimately benefits you and me, the customer. Thanks to Tyson Goodridge and DIALOGUE for a great event!

My “Hot” Hotel Tip

Okay, not food or social media related but here’s something I learned from booking my hotel for this trip. For some reason I was totally striking out on Priceline.com (sorry Bill Shatner) so I hopped on over to Hotwire.com. I’d never used this site before but I liked that you could specify amenities. I had a specific hotel in Cambridge that I was hoping for, the Royal Sonesta since it was home to Dante. I noticed that Royal Sonesta had a spa service so I clicked “4 stars” and “spa” and voila! I got the hotel I wanted for 50% off the day before. Wait, what’s that sound? Oh, it’s me patting myself on the back : )

Sarah Wallace is a research analyst, blogger and podcaster. To learn more about her, click on the tabs above.

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10 Responses

  1. I *love* Hotwire! Been using it for years. When I get a deal like that there, I always smirk in the hotel elevator — because I know that I most likely got a way better deal than the people standing near me. 🙂

    Nice to see you at the event!

  2. Yes, it is a good feeling. Nice to see you again as well!

  3. Thanks for sharing these tips. Wish I had gone.

    I understand the pressure that Yelp adds to a restaurant. It becomes even more important then for them to get a handle on how all this works and work with these systems to attract diners.

  4. Thanks for the comment Carl. Yes, I hope that restaurants take comments to heart. If 100 Yelp users complain about your service then that’s a sign…

  5. Thanks for the great writeup Sarah! Awareness was thrilled to be a part of it and having the chance to meet and chat with Dennis Crowley from Foursquare and Alexa from Foodspotting was definitely a high point of my night!

    oh, and of course hanging out with you!

    And, I too, am patting you on the back for scoring that sweet deal on the room!!

  6. Yes, the room was a good deal and again I’m sorry you had to see me in my coke-bottle glasses ; )

  7. Great coverage and wrap up, Sarah! Glad to see you took so much away from the event. Cheers!

  8. Thanks for your nice comment Leighann, enjoyed your contribution!

  9. Enjoyed your post – there are a number of pretty cool case studies emerging in this area, especially interesting are those that “bridge the gap” as you say. For example, my company, which provides social marketing apps for retailers and brands, just worked with Red Mango in Boston to run a ‘viral’ coupon campaign on Twitter – see http://bit.ly/ayD95q. Having the right creative/offer, multi-channel promotion, social platform and point of sales processes are all critical to make these programs work. But when they are aligned the results can be pretty impressive.

    Allen

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