As more than 700 foodservice executives began to gather for FSTEC, the Foodservice Technology Conference & Showcase, restaurant operators and academics started a debate on the opportunities, challenges and future of social media tools and practices.
A point not up for debate was whether social media is here to stay.
“Social media will become a normal part of business,” said Todd Michaud, vice president of IT at Focus Brands, the parent to Schlotzsky’s, Moe’s Southwest Grill and Carvel, among others. “It will be integrated with CRM [customer relationship management], it will have to be tracked, and the procedures will be placed into standard business practices.”
Michaud said that technology divisions at restaurant companies will start to work hand-in-hand with marketing teams, public relations groups and even operations to find the best returns from social media efforts.
“It will be core to social media in the very near future,” he said.
Michaud was one panelist opening FSTEC with a discussion on “Social Media and Foodservice: The 411,” sponsored by PAR Technology. Joining him on stage at the Long Beach Convention Center were Pearl Brewer, professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas; Natasa Christodoulidou, assistant professor at California State University in Dominguez Hills, Calif.; Dan Cormany, a graduate student at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas; and Mahmet Erdem, assistant professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
FSTEC will continue through Wednesday and is celebrating its 15th anniversary. See the conference agenda at www.fstec.com, and follow NRN editor blogs and coverage at NRN.com and Show News by NRN. More than 700 attendees are expected at FSTEC this year, including more than 400 restaurant operators. Seminars and educational sessions will cover mobile and online ordering as well as bleeding edge technologies designed to spur growth.
Sunday afternoon, the opening panelists agreed that the practice of social media will remain even if, or more likely when, the tools used will shift, consolidate or splinter into niche markets.
“We are just beginning to see what the tools are,” Brewer said, referring to Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn as the most common. “There will be lots of change in this space.”
Because the tools used to communicate socially will no doubt change, restaurant companies looking to engage customers via social media need to first develop goals surrounding branding, public relations, customer service and advertising. The specific efforts, whether tweeting, building Facebook pages or creating YouTube videos, will then follow.
“The tools aren’t important,” Michaud said. “Your goals should be found first.”
Panelist tips for best social media practices:
- The key to being heard is to listen.
- Gain respect online by being attentive to customers.
- The message is more important than the tool.
- Try small so that you fail small.
Click here  to see a video on the “social media revolution” presented to FSTEC attendees.
Contact Sarah E. Lockyer at [email protected]