Dining out is a social activity. When out at a restaurant, people discuss not only the meal, but the day’s events as well. The food, conversation, and ambiance all combine to form a lasting impression on the participants.

Twitter, therefore, is a natural social media space for restaurants to engage in. You can use it to showcase your food, and also to monitor your customers’ reactions. Here are five Twitter tips to get people interested in your restaurant before their first visit, and to keep them engaged afterward.

Share the Latest News

Twitter is a great place to share things as they happen. Consider what your customers would like to know about your restaurant and start tweeting about that. Tweet about timely information, like your daily specials, or the soup of the day. Take it a step further by uploading photos of your best menu items to Twitter.

Restaurants can also be a hub of community activity. Use Twitter to get the news out about your local events. A couple of tweets throughout the day reminding people that you’re hosting a special wine tasting, or that you’ve got a happy hour special, could give people enough of a reason to pay you a visit.

Offer Exclusive Daily Deals

Offer daily deals, exclusively to your Twitter followers, to give your casual customers a push to come in more often. For example, offer a free appetizer to the first person who mentions your promotional tweet, or a discount to everyone who retweets your daily special.

Throw a Contest

Extend the concept of promoting your restaurant on Twitter by throwing a contest, or using Twitter as a piece in a bigger contest campaign. For example, try a weekly gift certificate draw for your Twitter followers. Ask followers a skill-testing question to enter them into the draw, and encourage retweeting for additional entries. You can organize entries by asking your followers to include a hashtag with each contest tweet.

Create Group and Tweetup Specials

If your restaurant has space for large groups, you can incentivize your Twitter followers to gather a group to get a discount. For example, try tweeting something like, “Any group of 10 or more will get 15% off its food order by mentioning this tweet after 5pm.”

A lot of Twitter enthusiasts welcome the idea of meeting fellow tweeters in person. A good idea to get people through the door is to organize an event for a good cause. Align your business with a charity that you’d like to contribute to, and organize a tweetup around it. Consider selling tickets to the event, or donate a percentage of your profits for the night to the charity. Tweetups can be a fun and feel-good way to get people to check out your restaurant.

Deal with Customer Feedback

One of the most important things you’ll do with your Twitter account is to deal with customer feedback, and it’s not always going to be positive. Though Twitter can be a casual social network, you should still deal with customer complaints as though the person is standing right in front of you. Keep it professional, and try to be as helpful as possible.

On the positive side, you also want your customers to know that you’re listening, and that you appreciate their feedback. Be sure to thank as many tweeters as possible, and send direct messages where more personal responses are warranted. It’s also a good idea to retweet the occasional stellar Twitter review of your restaurant, especially if your follower has shared a delectable photo.

Have you had success using Twitter for your restaurant? Please share your experiences in the comments below.

[Image credits: John Walker, bookchen, Groupon, Xavier Encinas, Dominic Alves, vistamommy]