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Secrets of restaurant marketing with Foursquare: Questions for AJ Bombers

4 min read


If you’re in the restaurant industry and you’ve heard of Foursquare, then there’s a strong chance you’ve heard of AJ Bombers. The restaurant and bar’s innovative Foursquare marketing efforts have been covered by The Wall Street Journal and various other newspapers, trade pubs and blogs. But what I’ve found fascinating is how Foursquare — the surging location-based service — uses the AJ Bombers story in its own presentations and collateral.

So if you’re trying to figure out how to best leverage Foursquare, Twitter and other social campaigns for your restaurant — what better place to start than with everyone’s favorite case study?

The man behind the Foursquare success story is Joe Sorge — owner of AJ Bombers Bar and Restaurant, Swig and Water Buffalo. Joe, who is also president of Strategic Concepts and the co-author of TwitterWorks, answered some questions about what it takes to make social media work for your restaurant.

You’ve been innovating with location-based tools for some time now. What got you started on Foursquare and how did that evolve?

Our use of Foursquare started when our guests at the restaurant who were regular Twitter users started showing an interest in it. As a user of social media tools myself, I got addicted, loved the gaming aspect and set out to learn what features users loved the most. It turned out it was the badges!

We’ve heard that promoted menu items rose 30% since you started on Foursquare. What exactly does that mean and how do you build on it?

That number is a very important one for venues that utilize Foursquare. That 30% represents the increase in sales of a particular menu item that our guests ranted and raved about inside our Foursquare venue page in the “tips-and-to-dos” area. We learned that if we encouraged guests to submit new tips and to-do’s that they would not only do so, but do so with enthusiasm for the restaurant in general.

Do you use traditional marketing channels in addition to your social activity? If so, how do you integrate those efforts?

I do not! Just so hard to justify spending money to interrupt people with an advertisement.

Who handles your social media presence? Is it a team effort or does it sit with one employee?

SM responsibilities are handled by me. Although we do allow our staff to participate on their own.

I recently saw a customer trying to explain to a Starbucks barista why they get a Foursquare mayor discount. How do you train your staff to understand and work with the variety of innovative tools you employ?

Typically in back-of-the-house postings and in teaching them how to [use] the tools themselves.

What has been the best performing Foursquare “special” for those that interact with AJ Bombers in social spaces?

For “checking in” I give away something simple. Something that every guest might get anyway. At AJ Bombers it was a free Pnut Bomb, which was really just to get guests to ask “what’s a pnut bomb?” Dethroning the mayor is where I built the reward. At AJ Bombers, the mayor gets a Free Burger ($5 value). At Swig, the mayor gets a Free Wine Tasting ($25 value) and at Water Buffalo, the mayor gets a free #wbtastetweet ($50 value).

But again, it was the “free dessert” incentive that drove the tips and to-do’s, and most guests never even asked for that dessert.

Lastly — I’m really giving away some secrets now — our wireless signal, its name?  Don’t forget to check in on Foursquare. Works like a charm!

What’s next for you?

Just finished a book on social media and how it grew a restaurant, a pizza truck, and thousands of relationships — it’s called #TwitterWorks.

Image via foursquare