Top Restaurant Marketing Lessons From OpenTable, Railtown Catering, and Pacific Solutions Contracting At Tangoo Talks Ep.6

By on April 18, 2018

Tangoo Talks is run by the restaurant community for the community and revolves around successful restaurateurs serving up expert advice on how to make your restaurant more popular.

In Episode 6 we looked at the present and the future: what is happening to the industry today, the digitally-savvy diners, what trends are starting to emerge, war stories and much more.

We linked up an all-star hospitality industry professionals panel included:

To kick off the night, the Tangoo CEO Paul Davidescu presented the latest marketing trends that have been sweeping the food and restaurant industry.

Panel Learnings:

  • Customer Service Today = Speed + Mobile
  • Influencer Marketing has its perks and challenges. It has a huge upside if done correctly
  • Showcasing your brand through visual media and utilizing data are key channels to invest in
  • Capturing Corporate Clients is about having the right lead generation systems in place and being accommodating with the organizers
  • Merging offline marketing and digital marketing takes a little bit of creativity and hard work. It really pays off

Tangoo Talks E6

Customer Service Today = Speed + Mobile

Marli: The customers want everything immediately.

They want to know the menu, they want to know the price, they want to be able to order online.

We opened online orders a year and a half ago and it's probably over 50 percent of the business right now. - Marli Anderson, Sales and Event Marketing Manager, @Railtowncaters Click To Tweet

Because otherwise, you wait in line.

We try really hard to keep it under 7 minutes, but people want it immediately – which makes sense.

Brandon: In the last couple of years that we’ve been building restaurants, we’ve seen a significant decrease of full sit-down restaurants as opposed to quick service restaurants.

People are always on the go a bit more and it’s, “I want to grab something to be in and out and grab something and I don’t have time to sit down for a full lunch.”

Whereas some of the dining places they still want to have that element of being full service but be able to have the option of quick service.

Ian: Mobile, mobile, mobile.

You got this insanely powerful device in the palm of your hand.

At OpenTable we are focusing on becoming a mobile-first company. It’s not the desktop side of OpenTable that is the first thing that diners think of, it’s the app.

When I started with Opentable five years ago, I would pull up data for restaurants to look at and see what is really happening in their business.

I would pull it up and see 20% of your diners are coming from mobile devices.

What does that mean?

It means your customers are making quick decisions.

Now, it’s over 50% North America wide. That’s pretty crazy in only five years.



Tangoo Talks E6 - Marli

Influencer Marketing has its perks and challenges. It has a huge upside if done correctly.

Marli: We do get a lot of influencers that want to collaborate or host private curated events. 

There is a value to saying yes because it spreads the word about your business.

People are looking at your product, they’re looking at your brand and they’re getting acquainted whereas they may not have before.

For instance, Jillian Harris from the Bachelorette wanted to do a Vegan all white sweets party. It was something that we normally wouldn’t do because we don’t often carry those ingredients.

It can be sometimes a challenge when working with influencers because they are looking for something curated for their Instagram look and may not necessarily match up with your brand.

But we figured it out and we made it happen for her and it was a success.

Showcasing your brand through visual media and utilizing data are key channels to invest in.

Brandon: Ours is all 100 percent visual. So it’s looking at a great space and connecting with it.

It’s about capturing people. People want to see what it looks like, not read about it.

For example, we created a brand video for our website and the traction just blew every other thing out of the water that we’ve done.

Every person that comes in to meet with me for a proposal says, “oh I watched your video!”

It lets them kind of connect with us and know what our morals are, what our goals and values are. Immediately they’ll go, “I trust this person,” a lot more rather than us just coming in super cold. 

Ian: It is all about the data.

What would your business be like if you had more people having more information, more of the time?

So when you have a chef who can look on their phone and see which tables are coming in that have allergies and prepare for that. Things change.

That was not happening five years ago.

That’s one of the major changes that we’ve done is from that product perspective. Now everything is in the Cloud, it enables data collection to be so much more robust.

We actually hired the Chief Technology Officer from E Harmony to help with all the data that we collect.

One of the things that’s available for the restaurants using Guests Centre is if I was to go in and ask a restaurant manager or an owner or a chef today, “what’s the average turn time for a table of two on a Thursday night?”

They’re going to tell me about an hour and a half to two hours, right?

One of the two: an hour and a half or two hours.

They are basing that answer on instinct. They don’t actually know as a fact, just an estimation. 

But you can run a turn time report through your system to find what your actual turn times for online walk in and phone reservations for online reservations, phone reservations and walk-in guests.

 You can actually track that in real data.

You can then set up your system to take reservations every two hours based on real data.

Now imagine if I get seated a table, my server’s name is Joe, then I finished up my meal and then get an email that asks how was your experience.

This happens over and over and over and over again. A manager can go in and see a dashboard of all the reviews by server and what the scores were.

Imagine being able to see your server’s rating is a 4.4 and another server’s rating is at a 3.8. What would you do with that information as a restaurant operator?

That’s gold to be able to do that, especially when you’re talking about being restaurants and who’s going to get what sections, VIPs, and who’s working the Friday nights.

You can also discover how many servers you need. 

Data is going to be key to invest in.

Tangoo Talks E6 - Ian

Capturing Corporate Clients is about having the right lead generation systems in place and being accommodating with the organizers.

Ian: With OpenTable we have a private dining program.

If you scroll down our website, there is a carousel for different dining options near you. One of them is private dining venues.

Restaurants that have nice private rooms, they’ll sign up for this kind of add-on feature that allows them to highlight their private dining spaces.

When the event organizers come to town or they’re planning for a conference a  few months out, they can take a look at some of these private dining spaces and send a lead generation form to the contacts.

Marli: I worked with corporate in a variety of ways.  I do have events for corporations, like the closing ceremony for the TED Conference we did a 2,500 person outdoor fully catered bar set up.

When you’re working with organizers, what they expect is perfection.

So the person who’s organizing with me, everything that I’m doing is on their back. If I make any mistakes, that person now looks bad to the head of TED, which is really bad. I have to be perfect.

I’ve also worked with a lot of corporate admin assistants who are ordering Railtown Café, through Foodora, when they need it immediately to feed people or they’ve called a month in advance and have organized a special lunch delivery personalized for each executive.

It all comes back who’s ordering.

You need to represent them to their boss and it needs to be like that from top to bottom from the second they first call. You have to accommodate everything that they need from the start to the billing.

It has to be like, ‘”I’m your buddy, I’m doing this with you. I’m doing this for you. And you’re going to get Kudos for it,” is basically the way we look at it.
Tangoo Talks E6 - attendees

Merging offline marketing and digital marketing takes a little bit of creativity and hard work. It really pays off. 

Marli: When we first started, I would ask our Chefs to make mini cookies for me. I would walk around the neighborhood and build relationships with the offices and business around us. I would pass by people and say, “come for lunch and bring your friends to Railtown Cafe.”

Our cafe would be filled and end up feeding 400 to 500 people a day. I guess they liked those cookies.

If you ever have an opportunity to give a potential customer food, you should do it. Giving people food is the number one best way to reach someone.

Keeping data of your customers is a big part of it too.

For quick lunch or to-go orders, we would have the person’s name in the system. I would be able to pull up someone’s profile and see their past orders.

So when they can come back and be like, “oh I built my salad last time, what was it?” And I can be like, “oh that’s right, it’s right here. Do you want it again?” It’s really helpful. 

Ian: It is about creating WOW moments.

When I worked for Glowbal Group as a Manager, if someone couldn’t get into Italian Kitchen, I remember serving the Italian Kitchen menu in Coast.

We would call over, order what the customer wanted, re-plate it and serve it.

Restaurants just don't do that enough. They don't show that level of effort to be hungry for your business and do whatever it takes. That's the stuff you've got to do. - Ian McTavish, Senior Restaurant Relations Manager, @OpenTable Click To Tweet

The business that thrives always says yes when every other say no. If you go above and beyond, you will be more successful.

You have to seize the opportunities.

If you know that if someone comes into your restaurant and they order the most expensive bottle of wine, do you want him to come back?

Hell yeah.

You want it back every damn week because they’re going to order the same bottle of wine.

You’ve got to make a note of it on their profile, on your reservation system. If you’re not tracking that information, then you’ve lost an opportunity.

You’ve got to always be able to see these opportunities to go above and beyond to make memories for people.

Brandon: I just think it’s people.

Word of mouth is always going to be the best form of getting people there.

When you see things on the Internet, it makes you kind of want to go there. But as soon as your friend or co-worker says that you're more likely actually going to go there. - Brandon Nobbs, Co-founder and CEO, @pscontracting Click To Tweet

Tangoo Talks Episode 6 had an awesome panel that shared some of the lessons they’ve learned and gave their suggestions on what channels to invest more resources in 2018.

To be featured as a future panelist or sponsor, contact See you at Tangoo Talks Episode 7 in June 2018!