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NYC Res-Tech Group: How Social Media Can Bring Your Restaurant to the Next Level

Taiyaki-NYC

Social Media and Restaurants? According to our panelists an inseparable unit.

Once a month we support the New York City-based Restaurant-Tech Group for their exciting meetups. Our mission: to join the brightest and boldest innovators from both – the Restaurant and the Tech world together.

For our September meetup we had an exciting list of speakers; four  different NYC restaurant and hospitality experts, who gave us interesting insights on how to successfully use social media and understand customer data. They revealed their techniques to fuel demand, build a community, and understand their customer’s needs.

While some restaurant owners are having a hard time adapting to digital solutions, others have understood how to effectively use them for business growth. One of these experts include Jimmy Chen. At the age of 23, he is the co-founder of Taiyaki NYC – the first and only ice-cream store in New York to sell the traditional Japanese Taiyaki, a fish-shaped waffle cone.

The colorful Taiyaki NYC ice-cream – a blend of two cultures: Japanese Taiyaki and American soft serve

Living in Chinatown the three founders of Taiyaki; Jimmy Chen, Tom Yang, and Ricky Yang witnessed the ice-cream boom that took over their district. “We knew that we were able to create a unique product”, Jimmy said during our panel.

Today, only a year after its opening, Taiyaki NYC has managed to build a loyal community of ice-cream fans around their brand. How did they do this? Social Media. Their 50K Instagram followers base supports this. The founders have understood the impact of social platforms. Instead of considering Facebook and Instagram as a ‘nice to have’, Taiyaki NYC has integrated social media as a core element of their operations strategy.

Jimmy (left), Ricky (middle), and Tom (right) – the talents behind Taiyaki NYC

Even before the official store opening, Jimmy and his team invested a lot of time into their online presence: They organized a pre-event to which they invited the most influential New York-based bloggers. The effort proved a great return: On the opening day, they were greeted with a four hour queue, each customer eager to try their produce as seen online.

The young team grew up in the golden age of social media. “That’s just how our generation lives”, Jimmy said.

“We eat with our cameras first”.{Jimmy Chen, Taiyaki NYC}

However, social media is not only about creating demand for a product. What is often forgotten is that social platforms can deliver valuable and usually free customer data insight. The Social Media Manager at Taiyaki, Tom is constantly checking all their social channels for good and bad reviews. Ever since their opening in September 2016 the founders have developed processes in which they can efficiently manage customer feedback. “We make changes too,” Jimmy said, “it would be stupid not to listen to these comments and improve our business in the way that our customers are feeling”.

Next to the typical social media channels, rating and review platforms play an important role. A good example for this is Yelp. Yong Zhao, CEO of Junzi Kitchen, a fast casual concept currently gaining momentum in NYC also participated in the panel.

Yong Zhao Junzi Kitchen

CEO Yong Zhao in front of Junzi Kitchen

According to Yong, the challenge (and advantage) lies in correctly interpreting customer data, and decoding the “hidden meaning”. An average rating of three stars can mean many things: “If a restaurant gets a lot of ones and a lot of fives, but the average is three, that means their service is bad because people don’t give a three-star rating for bad service. They give ones. But if people don’t like the food or the food is mediocre they give an average of three to four.”

Our panelists revealed that social media represents an important and valuable tool to help fuel demand, build a community and thus understand customer’s needs and accelerate the growth of a business.

While good reviews confirm strengths, the bad ones give an idea of what can be improved to optimize guest experience. Social media however, comes with a warning sign and it remains important not to misconstrue ratings rather to find the true meaning behind a customer’s feedback.