The other week, I sat next to a restaurant operator on the third day of a marquis restaurant conference.
“What are you hearing so far?” I asked him.
“If I hear the term ‘social media’ one more time, I think my head will explode,” he shot back.
So, what’s with all of the talk about social media? Think about it this way: every restaurant executive knows how important it is to “go where the customers are” when launching new stores. The same concept holds true on the Internet. A recent study by BIA/Kelsey found that 97% of customers use the Internet when researching local buying decisions. This means that virtually everyone is going online to find the next great restaurant.
Websites like Google, Facebook, and Citysearch are more than just social media websites; they are the very data sources where customers are researching nearby restaurants online. And there are more than 250 other websites (and now mobile apps) where your restaurant needs to be in order to win new customers. In the new world in which the Internet is the #1 decision tool for deciding where to eat, this is crucial to business.
So, how can you manage this complex world without your head exploding? Fear not. Wherever there is complexity, wherever there is a broken system in need of a better way, look for entrepreneurs; we will be there. There are several start ups in New York City that are working hard to make it easy to manage your online presence beyond your website. Take, for example, Single Platform* (www.singleplatform.com): a dead-simple, yet revolutionary approach to “manage your digital presence and gain new customers.” Single Platform helps single unit operators and big chains manage all of the complexity of the Internet on, you guessed it, a single platform.
What if you could go one step further and make every social media website into a point-of-sale for your restaurant? What if you could tap the Internet to generate new customers and increase same store sales? What if you could do so without increasing your overhead or your marketing budget? You can.
One of the greatest benefits of online ordering is that it transposes your point-of-sale from behind the counter onto the computer screen, and into the hands of your customers. With online ordering, your customers can select their closest store, custom build their order, prepay with a credit card or gift card, and schedule their own pickup time. And, they can go at their own pace, without waiting on hold or struggling to communicate order details to a busy employee. Combine the ease, speed, and accuracy of online ordering with the ubiquity of social media and you have a true winning combination.
OLO is honored to team up with GrubHub and give restaurant chains an easy way to join the #1 online ordering platform in the United States. Call OLO toll-free at 1 877 466 6260, email sales|at|olo.com, or simply get started at www.olo.com. And while you are at it, watch the new OLO video at www.olo.com/video
In Fall 2005, we held our first annual contest to find the country’s most promising young entrepreneurs. Over the past five years our readers have searched the country and, through our Web site, made thousands of nominations. You can learn about—and vote for—this year’s finalists by following the link below. Here are some standouts from the first four years.
2008 NATHANIEL STEVENS, YODLE In 2005, Stevens took a leave of absence from Wharton to create a venture that would simplify online ads for local businesses. Now, after building Yodle into a $20 million, 306-employee lead-generation dynamo, and landing more than $25 million in venture capital, Stevens, 26, is stepping down as Yodle’s president to complete his degree. He continues to be a shareholder and board member of the Manhattan-based company.
2007 SARAH SCHUPP, UNIVERSITY PARENT MEDIA University Parent Media, in Boulder, Colo., has become a profitable 12-person, $1 million company. It produces print and online guides for parents visiting their kids at college and now has more than 100 schools under contract. About 80% of sales come from local advertising; colleges can also pay to customize the guides. A consortium of colleges recently tapped Schupp, 27, to help set up a professional development association for parent relations directors. She plans to expand her company overseas next year.
2006 NOAH GLASS, GOMOBO Hungry diners no longer have to wait in line: Manhattan-based GoMobo lets registered users preorder and prepay for take-out food online or via text message at nearly 5,000 restaurants. Noah Glass, 28, the 10-person company’s founder and CEO, raised $7 million in venture capital last fall. GoMobo offers apps for the iPhone (AAPL) and BlackBerry, (RIMM) and has adapted its system for chains such as Subway, Dunkin’ Donuts, and Burger King (BKC).
2005 MARK ZUCKERBERG, FACEBOOK When we first profiled the co-founder and CEO of what is now the world’s largest social networking site, he advised other young entrepreneurs: “Do what you think is right, not what other people tell you is right. People have strong opinions about the way to do stuff. It’s really good to listen and learn from the world, but when you’re making something, it’s coming from you.” At the time of the interview, the site had 6 million registered users. It now has more than 300 million. In a Sept. 15 blog post, Zuckerberg, 25, wrote that Facebook had become cash-flow-positive in the most recent quarter.
For more elements of the special report, including our overview on our annual roundup of young entrepreneurs, a feature on selling to universities, and a video interview with a standout alum, visit the related items box at the upper right side of this sidebar.
Leiber is Small Business editor for BusinessWeek.com .
Watch GoMobo’s <10 minute videos on interactive restaurant marketing, including online ordering, mobile ordering, store-finder mobile applications, and online CRM. If you like what you see, please subscribe and spread the word.
GoMobo lets restaurant customers order ahead via a website or through a text message, works with a number of national QSR (quick-service restaurant) chains and their affiliates including Burger King, Subway, Dunkin’ Donuts, Papa John’s, Quiznos and Krispy Kreme, as well as many independent restaurants. Its “skip the line” premise is a great example of how retailers can use mobile to provide value and utility to their consumers.
“GoMobo Agency API” makes it easy to tie digital assets to their remote ordering platform, meaning a consumer can click to buy directly from an ad. Then there’s the “GoMobo CRM” solution, which provides an incredibly (almost creepily) robust profile of a restaurant’s consumers — from type of phone to number of Facebook friends…