By on

Child at restaurant

Every restaurant or food service business has to face the reality of peaks and valleys in customer flow. For those with low overhead and high capacity, facing dead or slow periods is mostly an opportunity to tackle other tasks such as food prep, sanitation, deliveries, etc.

On the other hand, smaller venues that might face high overhead due to geographical location must seek ways to maximize every cover, every minute of the day, and find ways to spread out demand across all business hours. Managing peaks and valleys is key for the survival of most smaller dining venues.

(Check out: “Requesting Online Reviews but Having Trouble Collecting E-mail Addresses? Here are 4 Secrets Restaurateurs Use”)

Early adopters in the food industry have found a tremendous ally in social apps, location-based apps, online review sites, and other online engagement tools that equip restaurants to have real-time interaction with their most loyal customers as well as transient traffic with access to apps that display deals in close proximity to their physical location.

If you, too, are facing challenges when it comes to a constant flow of patrons, then allow us to share with you some of the most innovative social media marketing and engagement tools available to help you boost your traffic and bring back to life the dreaded dead business hours.

OpenTable Makes Your Availability Known

If you are the new kid in town in a restaurant-heavy district, there is much to be said about OpenTable as a resource to direct patrons to your venue. As the new kid on the block, everyone’s busy hours might just be your dead times for lack of visibility.

By making your availability visible to OpenTable users, you stand a great opportunity to connect with diners looking for a place that has a table with no wait. Since the program makes booking easy and provides rewards for engagement, positioning yourself as a program participant will certainly help increase your daily cover count. Additionally, OpenTable’s cross-collaboration with Yelp will set the stage for increased review volume for your venue. (Check out: “5 Ways OpenTable Can Help Your Restaurant”)

UrbanSpoon Helps You Connect with Those in a Rush

While UrbanSpoon does not allow you to push location-based offers or promos, the app and restaurant reviews site is a fantastic tool for diners looking for a dining venue in close proximity. UrbanSpoon can help you by connecting you to their 30 million unique monthly visitors that value two of the key features of the app. The first is the proximity guide that points diners to the nearest restaurant; and second and most popular is a randomizer tool called “Discover” that lets users “shake” their phone and provides a random listing in close proximity.

While this leaves much of the traffic coming your way in the hands of Lady Luck, it is without a doubt a great way to get connected to new customers during low or dead periods.

Groupon Nearby

In 2013, Groupon introduced a search tab for mobile apps designed to connect shoppers with time-sensitive or rolling deals in close proximity to their physical location. While Groupon deals cannot be turned on and off at will, they can be time-sensitive, allowing you to post a special pricing option specifically designed to bring traffic in during your dead periods.

The “Nearby” feature – in tandem with relevant deals that are time sensitive, delivered via an app that is easy to use and almost seamless to redeem – makes Groupon a great tool for securing new customers and engaging them with the vision of developing a long-term relationship based on superior customer satisfaction.

The Free Foursquare Special

When it comes to location-based, mobile-customer engagement, Foursquare is without a doubt a favorite. Foursquare for business allows a merchant to load a deal or special at absolutely no cost to the merchant as long as the deal offers something of value to the user in exchange for a check-in.

Foursquare is particularly attractive to millennials, and you can use it to turn on at a scheduled time or immediately after submission once the special has been approved by Foursquare. Specials can be strategically designed to bring traffic into your business during dead hours by placing time delimiters as a condition for the special. (Check out: “How to Leverage the Foursquare Tastes Feature for Your Restaurant”)

Additionally, Foursquare provides you with printable, customizable collateral to support your special as well as training flyers to make the customer experience of cashing in on a special seamless and positive, setting the stage for a great customer review.

Is Your Restaurant Close to a College Town? Consider Swarm by Foursquare

Swarm is the interactive app of Foursquare designed to allow users to be located by friends and locate friends nearby. Encouraging the use of Swarm through offline collateral can be a great strategy to bring customers in during slow periods.

Swarm shows which of your friends are “right here” (within 500 feet), “nearby” (within 5 miles), “in the area” (within 20 miles), or “far, far away.”

In addition, it displays discounts and specials nearby. Imagine what it means for socially-minded young customers to find a great deal in your venue and be able to locate their friends nearby to congregate at your location for a good time at a good price. This is the perfect way to cater to young adults on a budget.

Of course, there are many other social tools and review sites that offer ways to help you market your restaurant and maximize your sales. The ones compiled above were selected for their simplicity and ability to bring customers in the door when you need them the most. Combining deals, social engagement, and reputation management strategies will in the long run have significant impact on the growth, survival, and profitability of your dining venue.  More customers in the door, when served well, means more positive online reviews and more opportunities for potential customers to be pointed in your direction.

Kevin Kent

Kevin is the Director of Finance and Operations at ReviewTrackers. Every day he finds creative ways to solve business owners' problems and identifies key issues to help them achieve top results.


  1. Kyle

    Great, I will never use the map again. Or I will buy it just as a souvenir next time.

  2. Jay Bird

    i think its helpful…if it helps if you are stuck in some traffic or time limited, if you want to suprise someone and get him for a good meal