Are you using Twitter to promote your restaurant?
If the answer is yes, you are in a small but growing number of restaurants who are using the micro-blogging site to build their businesses.
If the answer is no, the follow-up question is: Why not?
The 140-character messages are perfect for letting your customers know what's happening at your place. Let them know it's karaoke night, that you have hot bagels coming out of the oven, that you just got in some tuna that was swimming this morning and you're grilling it up tonight.
If you don't have anything that's happening immediately, promote your regular fare. As bathing suit season approaches, remind people that you have a great selection of low-fat, low-carb items. When the thermometer hits triple digits tweet (that's what they call a Twitter message) that you're watching one of your associates pour a refreshing pina colada smoothie. At night when it cools off send out the word that the patio is packed and starting to rock!
You don't have to drag out the laptop or go back to the office. There are several simple applications that let you tweet from you cell phone or you can put the messages up via a text message.
Want to make your message visual? Snap a cell phone picture of that tall, cool smoothie with the condensation forming on the cup or of that succulent tuna steak with the perfect diamond grill marks and send it to a service like TwitPic. Your tweet will have a link to your picture. They'll be feasting with their eyes as they run to your location.
In order to receive your marketing message, a potential customer has to opt in. In Twitter-speak, they have to follow you. You can gain followers in any number of ways. Put your Twitter address on your business cards, your guest checks, your takeout menus, anything that a guest might take out of the restaurant. Get your staff to promote it; throw a pizza party if you get to 1,000 followers. And when someone follows you, follow them back.
When you start to get a following, don't go crazy tweeting dozens of times a day. If you do many more than three or four your message will get lost. And it least one a day should be about pop culture ("Can you believe that Kris won on Idol?") or sports ("Did you see the show that Kobe put on last night?") or something else that isn't a marketing message.
This is a very new marketing method and the results are as yet unknown. But the price is right. Twitter is absolutely free. All it will cost you is a few minutes to get an account established and a few minutes a day to send your messages. Then start building followers and see what happens.
If you've had any success or challenges using Twitter to market, let us know in the comments.