How Great Restaurants Build Opening Day Buzz With Social Media
Social media has become an essential part of creating momentum leading up to the proverbial ribbon cutting of a business. We spoke about opening day marketing with Johnny Auer, one of the men behind the social media plan for Nellcôte — one of the hottest restaurants in Chicago.
Auer is the founder and President of jamco creative, a company focused on branding companies through social media. He’s worked with some other foodie favorites in Chicago, including Girl & The Goat, GT Fish & Oyster, and The Bedford.
Learning from Nellcôte’s example of developing a story piece-by-piece as you come closer to your opening day, you can share with your budding community and keep the momentum going even after your business opens.
Building Buzz When There Is No Building
Auer and his partner Blake Royer (Creative Director at jamco) built buzz for Nellcôte as the restaurant was literally building out its physical space. He tried to put out as much content as possible three or four months before the opening. As the restaurant’s staff selected kitchen appliances, chairs, and aprons, they posted pictures to the Facebook page showing their selections. Auer’s rule of thumb for posting was that each post should have a story behind it. The posts weren’t just about chair or aprons; they were telling a story about the coming together of a restaurant.
One of the unique stories that he shared was about the dried lavender wall in Nellcôte, which was built by Chicago garden design subcontractor group verdura. Nellcôte’s Facebook Timeline shared when the team received the lavender delivery and the finished installation.
Spreading the Word as the Opening Date Approaches
If you cruise the Nellcôte Timeline back to July 14, 2011, you can see the raw space, the design inspiration, and the local press that the restaurant is started to receive. You can even see Nellcôte’s contractor eyeing the flooring to be installed and a sketch of the Chicago-made uniforms that were inspired by The Rolling Stones.
After the kitchen was built, Auer’s daily posts kept potential patrons in the loop on new dishes that the chefs were working on. If the mouthwatering photos weren’t enough, you could get the whole story behind the Escargot and Polenta dish — the chefs milled the polenta themselves from Illinois corn.
And after those food teaser posts, Nellcôte announced that it had begun taking reservations. There was also a three-minute teaser video that showed the progress leading up to the grand opening — set to Rolling Stones music, of course.
Reflecting the Place’s Personality With Social Media
Auer works closely with the chef and staff at Nellcôte, so he knows exactly how to reflect the restaurant’s personality. “We’re an extension of the restaurant and the experience; that’s the most important thing for us,” said Auer.
He keeps Chef Jared Van Camp in the loop by tagging him in stories that he should be aware of, and talks with the restaurant staff regularly to make sure they are aware of what’s going on with the restaurant’s social media efforts.
By showing future customers that Nellcôte is more than just a place to grab a bite, Auer fostered a community that encouraged people to engage with Nellcôte through the opening and beyond.
Responding to Criticism
With an open and engaged community, there will be criticism. Auer sees criticism as an opportunity put out a fire by engaging rather than ignoring the negativity. Auer always alerts a manager of what’s going on and works out a response to the customer.
Can You Do It Yourself?
The first thing that Auer asks clients who approach him for help is: “Why can’t you do it in-house?” For some restaurants, they simply don’t have the time to put into social media before they open, and even after. Others want help with the strategy on more of a consulting basis. After a business decides how much time it can put into publicizing its grand opening and how much help its need, its can get to work developing its voice and creating excitement about its business.