Restaurants Compete With Major Chains Through Facebook

Smaller chain restaurants may not be able to compete with major chains in terms of volume, but they do have a vital way of bringing in business and keeping customers happy: Facebook. A story in Nation’s Restaurant News illustrates how restaurants are reaching out to customers through social media.

The story details how regional chains Lenny’s Sub Shop and Toppers Pizza have used Facebook and other forms of social media to grow their businesses. They have one advantage over larger companies such as Subway and Pizza Hut: fans per unit. Nation’s Restaurant News cites statistics from No Limit Media Consulting, showing that Lenny’s Facebook page had more than 84,000 likes for its chain of 147 locations — roughly 578 fans per unit. Subway, by comparison, may have 15 million likes, but they’re also more spread out, with 469 fans per location. Toppers recorded 1,228 fans per location.

Brent Alvord, president of Memphis-based Lenny’s, talked about the importance of creating a connection with customers through social media. He noted that the company only spends about $50,000 on social media marketing, but it works:

If you provide a fantastic experience in the restaurant and have a great rapport with customers, social media is an extension of that relationship. It brings them into a common arena where we’ll be able to continue ongoing communication with them. We also track friends of fans, and if you total all of them up, it’s more than 19 million people. Creating exposure with 19 million people is significant.

Both brands discussed the need for true engagement, as making fans feel as if they are a part of the experience will keep them coming back to the page and the restaurant. Toppers has run contests on Facebook, such as allowing fans to design pizza box art. This gets not only fans involved, but their friends, as users would share designs. Lenny’s has also facilitated contests that allow fans input on new sandwiches.

Readers: What smaller chains and restaurants are best at engaging via Facebook?

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