Tag Archives: restaurant

OpenTable Comes to the iPad

OpenTable, the provider of real-time (and free!) online restaurant reservations has released a version for the iPad. Developed in close collaboration with Sequence, the OpenTable iPad app incorporates all of the unique features iPhone users are used to. It also puts even more information at your fingertips. The large screen on the iPad means that you can see more details than ever, making it easier to find that perfect location for your dinner.

For those of you without an Apple device to use this great app on, OpenTable also has an extensive web interface to guide you in your search. There are more than 13,000 top restaurants using OpenTable’s Restaurant Management Software to help make it simple for you to get your reservations made.

OpenTable has saved my butt a few times. Imagine having people want to get together for dinner at the last minute. That makes it tough to get a table at many restaurants. OpenTable makes it a breeze. You can search for the perfect place that has a menu to accommodate everyone’s taste, and confirm a table at the time you choose.

The app is also handy if you’re visiting a city you’re not used to. How the heck are you supposed to just know where the local hotspots are located? Use OpenTable as a guide to finding the best place for a great meal.

We Don't Want To Play: When Businesses Say "No" To Social Media Tools

This guest post was crafted by by B. Imei Hsu (@HipsForHire) after a recent experience with me.

Recently, I was hired to perform belly dance at a nice restaurant in Seattle. The hirer assured me the restaurant’s food was delicious, the previous show had good attendance and walk-in traffic, and the owner was on-board with having live entertainment at his establishment to increase his business. The week previous to the performance, I saw the hirer’s invitation to her community to patronize the business and advertise me as their dancer, and I also put a couple of “in kind” tweets and Facebook profile updates to let friends and fans know about this one-time performance slot.

Was it any surprise that a mid-size restaurant with excellent food and really nice staff and ownership was nearly empty on the night of my performance?

If I were a younger, less experienced dancer, I could beat myself up and say that people didn’t come because I wasn’t a “banner name” dancer. But restaurants around the city of Seattle with world-class and award-winning dancers have been crying about low attendance for months. Several venues even closed their businesses to live entertainment, claiming that the economy forced them to do so.

Chris came to see my show, cooed over the delicious food, and then attempted to give the hirer a few tips on how to help the owners enter the 21st century when it comes to promoting a restaurant. Considering that the restaurant is not new, we were both dumbfounded as to why this restaurant, and so many others we have encountered in the Seattle area, are resistant to using Social Media to build a consistent following of loyal patrons.

The three suggestions Chris gave to the hirer were:

  1. Get on Foursquare, and empower people to play for you. With Foursquare, the power of one satisfied customer reverberates through his or her community, creating more customers faster than you can get a coupon to their front door.
  2. Start a Twitter account for the restaurant, and create Tweetups that allow people to do what they love: eat great food and meet new people. I recently used Twtvite to create a one-time event involving world food and Tweetups, and thanks to friends and interest, we had a sizeable gathering for a last-minute idea.
  3. Start a Facebook Fanpage for the show with the name of the restaurant in the Fanpage title. You can add more aps as it grows, send out group ads, or attach a paid ad for special events. Better yet, you can target your audience to local people, so the fans represent people who are truly interested in your events and have a higher likelihood of attending.

These are straightforward suggestions. But as Chris was sharing this information, I couldn’t help but feel for the hirer. She’s in the same position I am in with other establishments, only I’m convinced that if these things were done, they’d stand a better chance of success than without it. As for this hirer, she declined the suggestions for her own reasons, but thanked us for them. As a friend, I support her autonomy, but frankly I still puzzle over what looks a sure-fire way to send customers looking elsewhere for a place to eat.

Ultimately, the problem does not lie with the hirers and schedulers of events at restaurants. It’s the owners who remain unconvinced. They have as yet to see why they should spend hours doing any of these actions foreign to their usual practices, or pay someone else to do it for them. As the “n00b of Social Media” still within her 365-1/4 days of her first year of immersion, I can tell you, it does feel like you’re learning a new language and culture. Anyone new to using these tools would be looking at investing hours of unpaid time learning the ropes, managing multiple accounts, and chasing important local connections before getting the kind of attention that translates into increased repeat business.

Compound that with the complexity and challenge of cultural gaps that exist when the restaurant carries workers, owners, and practices of another ethnic group and/or business ethos. If managers and owners are unfamiliar with digital advertisement and Social Media, the way it often shows up is a simple website that looks like it was designed by someone’s 11-year old son or daughter as a school project, or a static website that was purchased once and never updated since its inception.

The picture is not completely dismal. A few months ago, I was invited to a wine tasting event hosted by Seattle wine darling Barb (@SeattleWineGal). While Chris Pirillo tweeted some of the most unusual descriptions of wine on my left, Annie (@BlackPearlSea) of Black Pearl Restaurant (and resident Chinese proverb goddess on Twitter) introduced herself on my right. Finally, I met someone who is actually working with a restaurant to help them do what I fail to see so many others do. Annie could probably tell you a lot more of the industry from the inside, but it was encouraging to see someone do this successfully. Imagine my delight when she hosted a Black Pearl tweetup, with the likes of Seattle Wine Gal and Chris Pirillo at the same table. That’s powerful!

Another opportunity to start live entertainment in a restaurant has come across my radar? What do you think I’m going to do? If I’ve learned anything, I’m going to see who’s in charge of their Social Media and marketing. If they are resistant to using the tools that will get them noticed, I’m going to pass. My time is better spent with a business who is willing to play with the new rules. Besides, the bump on my forehead from thumping it against my desk in the previous scenarios doesn’t need any to be there anymore.

Can you think of other reasons why restaurants might not want to try Social Media tools to increase their business? Do you know of a business near you that you would be sad to see fold in an unstable economy? Share with us your thoughts.

What is the Best Burger in Town?


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The last few screencasts we’ve uploaded from Joseph have been hits with our community. We love his fresh and unique style, and his personality. This time, he chose to go a different route, and talk about food instead of technology. Food is good… especially if it’s burgers and fries. Most Geeks I know love to head to the local fast food joint to bring home a sack of goodness. I have to agree with Joseph, though. There’s nothing quite like an In-n-Out burger!

In-N-Out Burger is all about burgers. You won’t find any type of chicken on their menu. They offer burgers, fries, soda and milkshakes. That’s it… that’s the menu. They do one thing, and they do it exceptionally well. These things are so delicious that I could eat them a few times a week!

I am a fan of Venn Diagrams, and I love the way Joseph incorporated one into this screencast. As you can see, there aren’t many intersections between jocks and Geeks. However, all of us love a good burger experience.

Joseph would love to see other restaurants try to do this same thing: perfect one dish, serve nothing else, and be done with it. The one place where this wouldn’t work, though, is with Chinese takeout. You need choices when you’re grabbing some Chinese food!

It’s brilliant the way that there is no line at an In-N-Out Burger joint. They serve burgers and fries. You know what you’re going to order before you ever walk in the door, so you aren’t making others wait while you decide. This, my friends, is nothing short of amazing.

Joseph – thanks for another fun and excellent screencast. We’re looking forward to see what you come up with next.

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Rock Bottom Brewery Review

I posted this to my Yelp account, but since many of my readers aren’t following me there, I thought it’d be just as wise to cross-post the review on my blog. Yes, I was THAT dissatisfied with the Rock Bottom Brewery at 550 106th Ave NE in Bellevue, WA 98004

The food is “okay” if you’re looking to fill your stomach.

However, their service (if you could call it that) was extremely questionable. We arrived in the late evening, expecting they’d know about our small group – considering one of us had reached out to their banquet manager a week or so before. Everybody [there] was clueless.

No matter, when a couple of us we found an area upstairs in which to gather, our waitress (who, I later discovered, had been there ALL day) seemed to be put off by the fact that we’d be bringing 20 potential-tip-weilding customers her direction.

So, she took our drink order. When one of us asked for a blended margarita, the waitress’s EXACT response is: “We don’t have a blender here.” To this, my friend replied: “Yes, you do – I was here the other day, and I had one.” Caught in a mistruth, our waitress floundered: “We don’t have one upstairs.”

You’ve. Got. To. Be. Kidding. Me.

So, instead of just taking the order and making the journey downstairs to fulfill her customer’s order, the waitress initially communicated a would-be unquestionable “fact.”

Indeed, after a brief period of silence, my friend just suggested she (herself) would go downstairs and get one.

WTF?

Now, I admit that the “Spicy Spinach Cheese Dip” dip was quite remarkable – but even that wasn’t enough to nudge me past a single-star review. I certainly hope management is trolling Yelp, and that they happened to catch my tweet out to 77,000 people when the waitress first pulled her stunt.

I did NOT stiff the waitress, mind you. I figured this review on Yelp was enough. I won’t be returning to Rock Bottom, because that’s apparently who they hire to wait tables.