Updated: Jun 21, 2020
As restaurant owners, we are part of a community and so we must build a sense of community.
McMillan & Chavis (1986) define the sense of community as "a feeling that members have of belonging, a feeling that members matter to one another and to the group, and a shared faith that members' needs will be met through their commitment to be together."
This is absolutely true for us restaurants because one of our goals is not only to be recognized as a food establishment but a company that cares and serves for the community.
As restaurant owners, one of the most significant ways to create a sense of community is to act as a connector.
We have this advantage that we belong to multiple communities and this makes it more manageable for us to connect with our customers. We can connect the customers to us and to our brand.
You need to connect the customers to you as the restaurant owner and to your brand and we can do this by taking the following steps into action:
👌 Be active on local Facebook Groups
One of the things that you need to do as a restaurant owner is to be active on local Facebook Groups where people are sharing.
They share when there's a family in need, they share if something's coming up in the town that you need to be aware of, which is an opportunity for you to get involved. We had somebody in the neighborhood, their house burned down and people are putting meals together and take to that family.
That is a great opportunity for you to connect your customers and to your brand. People will check you out, who is this person. They will come to your profile. It takes a little bit of time but they will get to know you.
You are going to be surprised at how many people reach out to me on our local Facebook groups, directly on my profile, letting me know that there's a family in need or there's a family that just had a baby and if we would be willing to donate some meals.
That is tremendous goodwill and you know what, they take photos, they take videos of the donation we made a lot of times. They share them back on those Facebook groups.
Sowing goodwill is priceless and that is one of our obsessions.
👌 Show your face
It is important to show your face. If you want people to connect to your brand, you need to show your face.
Create some videos talk about different dishes, it does not need to be formal, just casual. Talk about one of the dishes you have, why is it special, why you create it? Why should people try it?
You can also give it away and say things like, "Comment below and we'll choose a winner and you can enjoy this dish with your family for free".
People always want to connect with a face. That is why a lot of cosmetics or hair companies spend millions of dollars choosing different celebrities to represent their brand, to be the face of their brand because that matters.
And you know what, you don't need to spend millions of dollars, you can just put yourself in front of the camera. Smile pretty and tell a story, just be authentic and just imagine you are talking to a person.
That has been one of the secrets why we don't get as many online negative reviews, not because we don't screw up. Because just like anybody else we do also screw up. It is just that because we put our faces a lot out, my husband and I, in different food production events that we've done, people feel as though they know us, they like us and they trust us.
And they send us direct Facebook messages with images of a screwed up dish that has happened to them. They knew that I personally respond to every single message especially the screwed up ones and I make sure to make things right.
They don't see the need to go and bash our brand on Yelp or something like that.
Remember that, it is critical to show your face and make it easy for people in your community to connect with you and your brand.
👌 Show your people's faces
It is also very important to show our people's faces. People do business with someone they like and trust.
So why does it matter for our customers to feel like they know our people? Because if you are a restaurant owner just like me, you wouldn't want to be in slave inside your own restaurant.
We are not at the restaurant all the time, and we really don't want to be there because we want to work on the business and not in the business. So we are not there as much, and our customers must also feel connected to our people.
Again it goes back to the same principle when we can build rapport.
Before people come in to our restaurant, they will already recognize the staff member that we shared a story of like, for example, posting on Facebook page, "Hey this is Emily, this is her favorite dish, she's hoping to become a nurse, she's worked at our restaurant since 2015, say hello to her next time you see her", or by sharing a team member's birthday is coming up, things like that.
When the community feels like they know our people, it builds rapport. And next time, when there's an issue, if the customer feels that there is rapport, then they are more likely to bring it to our attention privately instead of going to Yelp and blast us.
Have you ever thought of why people go on and off Yelp or any of the review sites and they just bash a restaurant, and not caring about the implications of this one star that they are giving?
And as restaurant owners, it's easy for us to get defensive, "give us a chance, why you did not get it to our attention?", without realizing that we failed the customers because we did not build rapport.
And yes it is important to build rapport, our people in the store should be spending time getting to know our customers.
Creating a sense of community is certainly one of the noblest things that we can do for our community as restaurant owners.
We must value the people of our community because they make up our customers. Without them, we can never find success in our business.