Food News

Behind Restaurant Tweets, Part One

You're having a great dinner at a restaurant and you decide to share it with your friends on Twitter. Next thing you know, you receive a response from the restaurant's Twitter account. It's not an uncommon experience these days, but have you ever wondered who sits on the other side? Is it a full-time "twitterer"? A group of people? The chef?

Short Order decided two find out who's behind the tweets at two restaurants with pretty active  accounts -- Sugarcane Raw Bar and Bourbon Steak Miami -- and ask them about their Twitter functions. No, their full-time job is not tweeting. Let's just say they're good at multi-tasking.

First, we spoke with Stephen Mills, the person behind the tweets at Bourbon Steak Miami. Here's what he had to say about how he became the Twitter person, the benefits of using Twitter and how he handles all those tweets.

New Times: How did you get the job of manning the Twitter account?

Stephen Mills: According to the Mina Group, each restaurant, and there are 17, must have a person responsible for tweeting to the community. This fell on me. It's typically the person that works during the daytime hours so that when people are at their computers we can get them thinking about what they're doing for dinner.

What's your job at the restaurant?

I do group and events sales.

What was the goal in using Twitter?

It started out as a way to just promote the restaurant. We used some contests. We've done a few of those and those have been pretty successful.

What's your strategy in dealing with Tweets? Do you respond to all of them?

We reply directly to every person who mentions Bourbon Steak. We're using Hoot Suite. If it's a positive mention we retweet it and let our followers know. It's been a very beneficial tool. It kind of filters all the tweets that come in. You can separate it into different columns so you can monitor the conversation.

How do you typically deal with customer complaints on Twitter?

It typically goes to the general manager and he deals with that person directly. If I only have the Twitter handle, I go directly to them and get their contact information and ask if they'd be comfortable with the manager contacting them.

Aside from complaints, do you relay other Twitter messages to the staff?

I work pretty closely with the general manager...we have a corporate person that monitors our Tweets and makes sure that we're Tweeting enough.

So corporate gives you set guidelines? 

It's three-fold: tweet about things going on in the restaurant, culinary trends and things going on in the area like a new restaurant opening and make sure that diners that follow us are informed. There's no number that you have to tweet, but it's more that we tweet often. We don't want to inundate our followers with nonsense.

Like I said, it started as a way to promote the restaurant and it's turned into a way that we can communicate directly with our clientele. Everybody knows email is great but spam is not.

Do people come in and introduce themselves by their Twitter handle?

That does happen. I wouldn't say a lot but we have a dozen or so people that we have basically begun a relationship with primarily because of Twitter. We are putting our Twitter handle on a lot of our emails and menus so people know that we are on Twitter.

Have you gotten any weird requests over Twitter?

Not really to be honest. It's really been great. We did get a really awesome, unique opportunity to create a dinner for a group of people who wanted to come in and do a tasting menu. Our Cobaya dinner was spawned from one of those relationships.

Do you enjoy it?

Yeah, I think it's fun. I think it's a really fun way, very grassroots, to communicate with the community. I can say 'chef's got a fresh halibut and it will be on the menu tonight.' I think people appreciate that.

To keep up with Bourbon Steak's tweets, follow @BOURBONSTEAKMIA. Tomorrow we talk to Joanna Cisowska, the person behind the tweets at Sugarcane Raw Bar and Grill. For other Miami restaurants on Twitter, check out this list.

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Paula Niño
Contact: Paula Niño

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