If you dined at any number of Kansas City-area restaurants in mid- to late January, you likely saw special menus or signage proclaiming Jan. 17-26 as Kansas City Restaurant Week.
Foodies and casual diners alike know that KC is one of the best-kept secrets. (The Zagat Survey has called Kansas City the No. 1 dining bargain of all the major cities it reviews.) The simple mission of Restaurant Week? Spotlight Kansas City as one of the country’s premier dining destinations, support the local culinary community, and give donations to local charities.
Two founding sponsors created Kansas City Restaurant Week: the Greater Kansas City Restaurant Association and the Kansas City Convention & Visitors Association. They were joined by native Kansas Citian Derek Gale, Harvesters and other area organizations, as well as online restaurant reservations partner OpenTable. This year, 10 percent of sales for each meal ordered were donated to a combination of three local charities: Harvesters — The Community Food Network, the KC Regional Destination Development Foundation and the Greater KC Restaurant Association Educational Foundation. In 2013, more than $175,000 was raised for these three charities. KC Restaurant Week diners ordered from special prix-fixe menus at participating restaurants. Multi-course lunches were $15, and dinners were $33.
If you paid attention to social media during Restaurant Week, it was suggested that you use the hashtag #KCRW2014 along with your Foursquare or Facebook checkin, or when tagging your photo-worthy meals on Instagram.
You see, social media is a BIG part of Restaurant Week, and the folks behind the scenes that drive the social media efforts continue to impress. Mobile is an integral part of the Restaurant Week experience — you can download the KCRW Mobile App, search for restaurants by name/location/cuisine and go on to make an advance reservation using Open Table. It’s all rather seamless and encourages multiple restaurant visits during the celebration.
Whenever I dined out, I noticed near-capacity crowds, and local restauranteurs couldn’t have been more pleased. A real win-win.
So, how successful was the event from a social media perspective? As it turns out, very. According to Travis Joyal, a principal at the celebration’s agency of record, Page Communications, social media use continued to grow and engage on multiple levels.
“The contests, the hashtag (#KCRW2014) and content received huge responses,” Joyal said. “The level of media generated grew as well. We were extremely pleased, and the numbers continue to roll in.”
A few highlights:
• Page views to the KCRW website numbered 780,913 for the 10-day event, a 72 percent increase from 2013.
• Many restaurants’ pages garnered more than 7,000 page views. One restaurant logged a massive 11,238 page views. (These numbers represent clicks on the member page, not clicks on menus.)
• Mobile app downloads hit an all-time high: 17,783 (up 413 percent from Day 1 in 2012)
The restaurants themselves are citing social media as a huge component of KCRW and recognizing its importance in the overall PR and marketing strategy of the event. “In social media, we have seen so many people mentioning Restaurant Week as the driving factor to visit Cooper’s Hawk,” said Melanie Pierce, manager of marketing communications, Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurant. “Restaurant Week is something we definitely want to do every year!”
The social success can be attributed to several things, which may merit consideration in your organization (where appropriate):
• Cause marketing works. People will support something they believe in. Harvesters is a Kansas City fixture and people will get behind a charity that directly and positively impacts our city’s hungry citizens.
• People like sharing their experiences with others. By nature, eating out is a social event, as evidenced by the myriad Foursquare and Facebook check-ins and Instagram uploads. (For you retail-facing businesses out there — shopping can be very social, too! Have you ever seen photos or videos of people’s “hauls?” California teen Bethany Mota has “hauling” figured out. Read more about the young millionaire here.)
• Find and use an effective hashtag. The use of a well-publicized hashtag (#KCRW2014) made it easy for people to follow along and engage with others about restaurants, menus, reviews, chefs, etc. Hashtags work well with Twitter, Instagram and even Facebook.
• A clear, easy-to-use mobile app was available. It was a simple process for Kansas Citians to download the app, search for and find participating restaurants, and make an advance reservation. There was no need to call the restaurant ahead of time — everything could be accomplished via mobile, which is where it’s at! (See our previous column on the topic.)
• Paid advertising on social platforms works. The KCRW team used Facebook Promoted (“Boosted”) Posts and Page ads as well as Twitter Promoted Tweets to gain maximum exposure to a targeted online audience. TARGET > PAY > ADJUST
The numbers are still rolling in, but #KCRW2014 was record-breaking on many fronts. Congratulations to the organizers and to all participating restaurants. I’m already looking forward to next year’s socially savvy deliciousness!