Restaurants are a tough business.
We helped Old School grow their real world business, with digital strategies, and here's what we learned:
Running a restaurant means having to deal with a lot of variables.
As we can't deal with all of them we found two and used them to our advantage - location and community.
How? Through Meetups
Why? Meetups need a venue and are specific to each area. By hosting one you get to engage with a local community that has some common interests.
Old School is located just outside the heart of the downtown core, but close enough to major subway and bus lines.
Making it a great spot for Toronto's meetups to be hosted.
Your local business can be in a big city or a small town and leverage this same technique. So we'll lay it out step by step how we approached hosting meetups.
The first step is obviously to visit Meetup.com or the local equivalent.
The second step is finding communities in your target.
We used the radius selection option in the 'Groups' tab to target organizers from 2-10 Miles away. Sorted by 'Newest', checking daily.
From there we see all the new meetup groups, and we can start using ctrl + left click to open multiple groups at once in different tabs. We want to be efficient in our outreach, as it is cold but at the same time you are given a lot of data on each organizer.
Those little red markers titled 'New' are a great sign. These places either need a venue, guidance, etc. So I'll reach out to a bunch, and usually have a pretty good response rate.
Here's an example of my simple and effective opening message to start a conversation:
"Hi [first name], My name is Kevin and I manage community development for Old School in Toronto (800 Dundas St W). I wanted to reach out and ask about possibly having some of your meetups at OS? It's free to host your event, we have amazing food and if you want a specialized menu or even for us to set up an entire room - it's no problem :) Would love to discuss this more if you're interested - I can send over pictures as well and/or a little package we have for a more detailed dive."
Here you can just some of the responses we've gotten
This way, I can grab their email and follow up with pictures and the organizer package OS is offering. I also make sure to attached HQ pictures of the restaurant and each room (if multiple)
Big selling point - kickbacks.
It's our job to make sure organizers keep spending money and hosting meetups, so upon discussion with Old School, they offer 10% of the total spend back to the organizer.
3 meetups a month x $500 ~/meetup = 1500 x 10% = 150.
Right back in the pocket of the organizer.
What's been a crucial success point is the recurring meetups. 3/4 a month, of different types. Spread out over different days, makes a huge difference. Winter hours means OS is closed Monday and Tuesday, so that gives us 3-4 days to book meetups.
Meetups we've booked (to name a few)
We've booked others over the last 6-8 months, but some didn't stick.
It's important to sit down with each organizer and understand how we could help them. It wasn't only a matter of being a host venue, there is an element of community development that needs to be done to make it a lucrative ecosystem.
This is a restaurants best friend, and the most important social platform. Forget the native Facebook platform, Snapchat, etc - Instagram is where it's at, for now at least.
When we took over the Instagram it had a 6k-7k follower-following ratio. Not something we like or that looks good, so we spent the first month or so working the following number down. Instagram has a 180 person unfollow limit - so be watchful if doing this on your end.
Hashtags are Instagram's currency, so use it. Our team uses Slack, so I can ping myself and keep saved, hashtags for different posts. I even have it saved with the 5 dots, so when inserted into the first comment - it collapses nicely.
. . . . . #toronto #canada #igers #blogto #torontofoodie #tastetoronto #torontofood #tasteintravel #onthetable #eater #brunch #brunchlife #torontoeats #yum #food #foodie #foodpics #tasty #torontodateideas #torontolife #foodieto #foodtoronto #torontoblogger #yyz #torontoevents
Copy in your descriptions are important, so make sure to spread out sentences with emojis, periods. Tell a story using linear progression (tech term for ya head top). See each post as a potential paid ad that you may use. Not to mention, the amount of content that will come from your community.
We tend to use copy like 'join us for brunch + dinner', 'Toronto's best brunch + coffee' - I like the minimal look and usage of the '+' sign. I also break up each sentence with accompanying emoji, giving some life to the post and timeline when people scroll.
If the budget is large, than feel free to spend on ads and promo - but realize that you can do a lot with a little. Test on a small scale, see how metrics stack up over time. A/B/C/D/E test if you have too.
Our budget is $200 per month, which on Instagram is more than enough depending on the scale of promo. We like to test out different post types: videos, graphics, food shots and community content. Each one will get promoted at some point, to see how it does and to keep OS on the timelines of Torontonians.
Keep switching up the marketing and ads. We never settle for good metrics, as they can always be better. Running an ad for a video which got over 30K views in a few days, is just a small piece of what can be done with a small ad budget.
Instagram is a great tool, which is useful for the fact it gives you direct contact with your customer base and feedback is present.
Do not underestimate the power of the mind. We eat with our eyes first, so we keep a constant flow of HQ food shots.
One thing OS was doing prior to Creators Never Die was giving 10% off your meal with a tag on Instagram. Great way to get customer and content. I have a daily influx of food shots from OS, which I can use in posts.
Posting is done 1-2 times a day, with ads usually running in succession. We also aren't shy with the Stories using the feature generously.
Depending on the cost of food at the restaurant you're doing this for, you can afford to offer free meals. You'd be surprised the cost of a plate going for $21 is only $7 to make. Reach out to relevant food accounts that you've done your research on. Toronto is a large city, so there are a plethora of food related accounts to choose from.
Make sure you check metrics, engagement and their response. You can DM and set up a few a month or more - you'll see good results and gain easy exposure.
Variance is good on a timeline, and for OS that meant interactive posts and designs that are both eye catching and fitting of the aesthetic.
Canva is the tool used for all OS designs, allowing us to launch templates in minutes. I can create 10 different graphics in about an hour, maybe less - giving us at least a week or two of content.
WIFI is huge for any establishment where patrons are sitting down, or taking some time out of their day. Most coffee shops are seen as co-working spaces, so internet needs to be on point.
Old School sits in an area with a good mix of those who work remotely and those who don't. However, it's even more important to retain the customers that come in who use the WiFi. Retargeting these customers and potential new ones are a big play that can pay off over time.
At the time, OS was using their Rogers modem to allow guests to sign in - giving them no ideas of who was using their WIFI, and how to reach them. We implemented a pre-flashed router from HotSpotSystem. They have the hardware + web portal which makes setting up the captive portal super easy.
What we're able to do is:
We then take the emails and import them to MailerLite which is a great email marketing solution. It's free up to a certain number of users, and their support are really cool so just message them if you need more free subs to add.
This is something we just started doing, so we can't measure results yet, only having sent 3-4 email campaigns at this point. But as you can see the numbers are pretty good.
The goal of this is to take new customers who sign into the WIFI each month, add them to MailerLite and continue the cadence.
Each newsletter offers a discount, what's coming up next and a variation of content from the one before. There is so much content I could include, that it's a blessing and curse to have to decide. We'll keep it moving, and hopefully build a large list with active members that gives OS a digital community that most restaurants don't have.