Case Study: Restaurant Chain Builds Loyalty With Check-In Discounts
Scott Wise is the president and CEO of A Pots & Pans Production, a management company that runs seven restaurants, including Scotty’s Brewhouse, Scotty’s Lakehouse, and Thr3e Wise Men Brewing Co, in Indiana. He says businesses need to approach online media like they would a cocktail party, and that it’s better to take notes and learn from what other people are saying than to “go in screaming, drinking, and trying to enter everyone’s conversation.”
All of your restaurants are incredibly connected via location-based services and social media. How did that come about?
It all started because I was just a tech geek. I like technology and I like new toys. I usually like to get a new toy and just play with it. So, that’s kind of when it was born. I always think of myself as the prototypical consumer that I’m gearing towards. I don’t feel like my interests are too far out of whack from anybody else’s. I use that theory whether it’s with food, atmosphere, service, or marketing with technology.
With that being said, I think what I saw [with online advertising], I saw a lot earlier than everybody else. I’ll use the newspaper for example. I don’t get the Indianapolis Star delivered to my door anymore. I don’t get any newspapers delivered to my door because a long time ago I started getting it all online. If I wanted to see what the score of the game was from the night before, or if I wanted to see the stories, I would just go online. Then the newspapers became savvier and they started sending their top stories in an e-blast. So, every morning I’d get an email with all the top stories and things I wanted to read. By seeing that, I thought, “Why am I advertising in the newspaper when I don’t feel like I’m any different than anyone else? Why would I want to advertise in a medium that I don’t even pick up?” I’m sure 7 out of 10 Americans think the same. That’s kind of where it started.
Why would I want to advertise in a medium that I don’t even pick up? I’m sure 7 out of 10 Americans think the same.
Because I recognized that, I just started turning everything towards the [online] direction. It’s funny to say nowadays because Myspace is not the cool thing anymore, but before Facebook let everybody in, I used Myspace to [advertise]. Everything I’m doing on Facebook, I did on MySpace first. Once they opened the doors to Facebook, then I jumped on that. So, that’s kind of how it continued to progress, even with Twitter.
I joined Twitter back in November of 2008 and I had a feeling it was going to be big; I just didn’t know how it was going to be used. When I’m telling a new user how to get involved [with advertising on Twitter], I tell them it’s like going into a cocktail party. You don’t go in screaming, drinking, and trying to enter everyone’s conversation. You stand against the wall, take notes, watch what’s going on, and then you can slowly enter the conversation. So, that’s kind of how it began.
How have you been able to use location-based apps like Foursquare and Gowalla at your restaurants?
I think those are all important. You have to use all the platforms, you can’t just focus on one or the other. I mean, Foursquare or any kind of geo-location tagging.
With Foursquare, I always explain it by comparing it to Twitter. For Twitter, I’d be guessing that 5 percent of the people that follow me live out of state, or maybe 100 miles from my closest location. At the end of the day, this is all about driving consumers into my restaurants. So with Foursquare, the beauty of it is that you know [the users] are coming in. They are checking in at your restaurants. So, I think location services are great because you know [users] are inside your four walls.
There are little tricks you can do, too. When someone checks in on Foursquare, our location tag shoots up and we put our Twitter inside the address. The beauty of that is that it falls into my mention feed [on Twitter], and I then can respond right to them and say, “Hey, how is everything tonight?” or “Thanks for coming in.” So, there are things you can use to enhance the whole process.
When I’m telling a new user how to get involved [with advertising on Twitter], I tell them it’s like going into a cocktail party. You don’t go in screaming, drinking, and trying to enter everyone’s conversation.
I think it’s just up to the retailer to use the Foursquare application to do what it’s meant for. In my opinion, what it’s meant for, from a retailer standpoint, is to encourage that loyalty and continued check-in by offering a discount or something for checking in.
What kind of Foursquare discounts have you offered at Scotty’s Brewhouse?
I never try to discount on Fridays or Saturdays. So, Monday through Thursday we offer 10% off at lunch if you check-in. Then on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday at night we give a discount on carryout. We do $5 off of $20+ orders.
What mistakes you see other restaurants making when it comes to utilizing social media and hyperlocal sites?
I’d say one of the mistakes is just not following through with it. I explain it like being on a diet, working out, or quitting smoking. It’s really easy to start, but the hard part is keeping up with it. Even for me with 9,000 followers [on Twitter], sometimes I feel like I’m talking to outer space. It’s nice when I run into somebody and they’ll be like, “Oh, your stuff is so funny” or “I love reading your things.” So, I think stick-to-itiveness is important. It’s probably the most important piece of it. Then I think its engagement, talking back with people, and understanding that stuff.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.