There was a time when opening a restaurant and making it a success relied on word of mouth, perhaps a few well-placed reviews in high-profile outlets, and, of course, excellent food. Today, opening and promoting a restaurant is a whole new ballgame. Social media has revolutionized how restaurants engage with customers, gain a following, and get their stories in front of the masses.
No one may know this better than restaurateur Stephen Schrutt. As the founder and CEO of the Hunger Thirst Group and an expert in the food and beverage industry with over 30 years of experience, Schrutt has opened and operated a bevy of wildly-popular restaurants and bars. Some of his projects, such as No Vacancy and Dirty Laundry, a laundromat-themed speakeasy, have amassed strong social media followings. His newest restaurant, Good Fortune, has just opened its doors and is poised to do just as well as his other ventures.
Schrutt’s dining concepts disrupt the food and beverage industry due to their innovative design elements and unforgettable experiences. Taking these experiences to social media has only strengthened Schrutt’s footprint in the industry, as he openly targets Gen Z with his dining concepts and his marketing.
“Gen Z is focused on trends and experiences. The social media savvy generation lives for concepts that are unique and memorable in all ways,” Schrutt told Food Institute.
Opening a Restaurant in 2022
Schrutt and Hunger Thirst Group have tapped into the need for social media in today’s marketing landscape. Social media marketing comes with many perks — it’s affordable, easy to use, and can help businesses quickly reach a much broader audience. The use of social media is only limited by one’s creativity, evidenced by the hundreds of videos, posts, and pictures that go viral every year. Today’s savvy consumers rely on social media to give them information on the newest and hottest places to go, where to find great food, and places or experiences their friends may have enjoyed.
Opening a restaurant without a social media presence could spell certain disaster in some markets. This is especially true for heavily populated areas with high competition, such as Tampa and St. Petersburg, FL., where Schrutt’s establishments are located.
“With TikTok and Instagram reels becoming extremely popular, review-style videos showcase the customer’s exact experience through their lens, giving their audience insights into your concept,” says Schrutt. “This gives others a firsthand look into your dining concept and could either drive immense traffic to your location, or make people decide they don’t want to go.”
Savvy Social Media Marketing
Utilizing the variety of platforms available for marketing can help a restaurateur reach a far and more diverse audience. For instance, TikTok may work well for short videos about events in one’s restaurant or behind-the-scenes tidbits, but Instagram may be better for pictures of menu items or stories.
The key to social media’s sticking power seems to be engagement and brand building, two factors that Schrutt has emphasized across all of his restaurant profiles. Each social media profile for his restaurants boasts a large, engaged follower base. The Hunger Thirst Group website features merchandise specifically tailored to each restaurant’s unique vibe and to the target market that the restaurant serves.
Good social media marketing involves not only creative ideas, but equally creative execution, as well. Each restaurant in Hunger Thirst Group’s stable is individually marketed based on its theming; the images accompanying the posts on various platforms are high quality and eye-catching. Schrutt and his team have gone in with a solid marketing plan, and it shows, but he’s also big on selling what he shows.
“Gen Z is known to document everything, and their experience quickly becomes everyone else’s experience through social media,” Schrutt explains. “If something doesn’t align, or is falsely promoted, they will be the first to call it out.”
By melding fresh ideas with spot-on social media utilization, Schrutt’s stable of restaurants has thrived. His newest venture, Good Fortune, is an Asian-infused restaurant that offers a 12-seat sushi bar, a cocktail bar and lounge, and even a private karaoke room. The modern, innovative design of the space and the Instagrammable decor is already making waves online — just as Schrutt intended.
Social media marketing is an absolute must for any business just getting started in 2022, but especially so for restaurants that rely on good reviews about their food, aesthetics, and overall atmosphere. A great social media presence can increase sales, help a brand solidify its foothold within their local community, and even propel a business into a viral sensation. It’s a new marketing world for restauranteurs, and those who get a handle on how to best use social media are sure to reap the benefits.
Opinions expressed by Influencer Daily contributors are their own.