This week I did a bit of reliving my youth. On Tuesday I went to see one of my favorite bands from my twenty-something days, Primus! We had time before the show and went to Poole’s Diner to grab a few drinks a something to eat. Now I’ve eaten at the original Poole’s Lunch Diner and the Vertigo that took over the space back in the 90s. I loved the Vertigo for their food, atmosphere and even spent several New Year’s Eve celebrations there.
I’m a big nostalgia freak and have to admit I miss some of my old Raleigh downtown hangouts. Back then downtown was not trendy, in fact it was a dump. And I don’t say that to be mean, just being honest. There were not many places to go. You did have a great community though. You knew all the people that owned the place, tended bar and cooked. But I’m older now, don’t live downtown anymore and eating out usually involves a kids meal these days. I entered Poole’s with memories of some of the great dishes that Vertigo served and wondering what the new version of Poole’s would be like.
A few things struck me as I entered Poole’s. The funky artwork was gone. Vertigo had some really cool paintings from local artists. The menu is on chalkboards in order to allow for frequent changes. I’m not a fan of having to get up and read a menu from the wall but I understand and appreciate the uniqueness. Anyway I tweeted that I was at Poole’s and missed the Vertigo but had not had the food yet, keeping an open mind.
A few minutes after my food arrived the Poole’s Twitter account @poolesdiner asked me how my meal was, specifically naming the dishes that I had ordered. Talk about real time personalization! I was impressed. They were listening to what I said and saw an opportunity to turn a skeptic into a fan. I noticed the chef sitting on the other side of the bar and working on a laptop. I assume it was Ashley Christensen, the owner, who was tweeting with me. She must have recognized me from my avatar photo and then matched my order accordingly.
I thanked them for asking and even told them the mac and cheese was the best I’ve ever had. They eventually sent over a cookie platter for desert on the house. Now I was really impressed. I had posted a few photos on Instragram and tagged the location to show them some love. The food was excellent and the service was good. I’ve seen many restaurants tweet away about specials they are having or respond to requests for reservations. But this was my first experience where the conversation was spontaneous.
Here are my takeaways from this experience:
- Dedication to the channel. If you are going to engage with customers in the hospitality or service industry, you have to be monitoring your brand name and be prepared to respond when the customer is at your facility. That requires someone dedicated to watching the stream, alerts and being able to respond to them when they are physically present, not when they have left or the next day.
- Customization is key. The fact that they asked me how my specific dish was really impressed me and made their follow up to my initial tweet relevant.
- Real time conversation. Twitter allows us to quickly communicate to others in a short period of time, by seizing the opportunity to ask me how my food was a few minutes after it arrived they were able to get a real reaction.
- Rewards pay big dividends. By giving me a complimentary desert they showed class and appreciation for me being a patron. I’m more inclined to recommend Poole’s and possible give it a glowing review on Yelp!
The only recommendation I would give Poole’s and Ashley is that she should have come over and introduced herself. That would have been the icing on the cake. A personal relationship stemming from a single tweet in less than an hour is a great way to make a fan for life and possibly a friend. All in all I congratulate Poole’s on their social media strategy and engagement.