Founder of Interactive Hospitality
Interactive Hospitality is an online marketing agency for bars, restaurants and hotels. Barry started working with bars and restaurants in 2004 when he founded Barkeeper.ie, an online management toolkit used by more than 800 Irish businesses to help manage their hospitality operations and was voted Ireland’s “Best Business to Business Website” at the 2007 Digital Media Awards. This was followed by the founding of Barkeeper.co.uk for the UK market, ManageYourBar.com for the US market as well as TheBarBlogger.com, a free online resource that helps bars attract more clients using social media.More than 2500 businesses have used his services to achieve higher results and establish the procedures necessary for an efficient operation. He advises owner operated businesses as well as multi-unit chains how to leverage online marketing and social channels to attract and keep a loyal community of customers without the reliance on traditional advertising costs.
The following is an interview we did with Barry about beer, bars, and social media marketing.
SHM:What do you see as the most common mistakes bar & restaurants make in regards to their website?
Barry: One common mistake is forgetting that a website only needs opening times, contact information and a menu. Everything else is just fluff. Another sin is a website built in archaic flash technology that cannot be viewed on a mobile device, or one that starts blasting music every time you open the site.
SHM: What is your favorite marketing campaign for a restaurant or bar you have helped implement or seen?
Barry: We’re working with a restaurant at the moment, Schmidt’s, that has a fanatical customer base who order their famous German sausages from all over the U.S. It was the customers themselves who began taking pictures of the Bahama Mama sausages when they arrived and posting them on the Facebook Wall. That gave us the idea to include a card in every package that says “Sending your Bahama Mamas packing from Columbus, OH all the way to ___________”, encouraging customers to take a photo and share it on Facebook. .
SHM:What is your favorite blog post you have written?
Barry: My favorite blog post was “The most disgusting thing you can be given in a bar” because it really struck a nerve. In fact, I still shudder when I think about it.
SHM: What are your thoughts on restaurants and bars participating in sites like Groupon and Living Social?
Barry: I would normally only recommend their usage by new bars and restaurants looking to reach an audience of customers who have never heard of them. Most bars and restaurants are unprepared for the influx of customers. Staff are often unhappy they are not receiving the same tips, and reports show poor retention of new customers. Bars and restaurants often make the mistake of promoting the offer to their current customer base, who would be coming in anyway without the deal. This means they are suddenly losing revenue that was there before the deal.
SHM: What restaurant or bar do you feel is doing a great job in terms of how it uses social media?
Barry: Adoption rates are increasing as more and more bar owners realize the poor return on traditional advertising and the obvious benefits of building a community around their bar online. Although we don’t work with them directly, we love what Joe Sorge does with A.J. Bombers in Milwaukee. I think he can be credited with showing just what social media can do when put in the right hands.
Barry: Magners Irish Cider, which is becoming more widely available in the U.S. now. It’s a great summer drink.
SHM: Marketing aside, do you have a favorite bar or restaurant?
Barry: I love The Rossi in Columbus, OH. It is an old art deco neighborhood bar with great food and intimate surroundings.
SHM: What in your opinion are the ingredients to “wow” service?
Barry: Value, at any price point (with a little sprinkle of salt and pepper).
SHM: What is your take on the effectiveness of mobile marketing for bars or restaurants?
Barry: Like anything, it depends on the business and needs to be tested. If two bars on the same street try something, it might work for one and not the other. With so many new technologies coming along, everything needs to be tested.
SHM: Where are you currently Mayor of on foursquare and have they given you any perks?
Barry: Actually, I haven’t been lucky enough to claim a mayorship, which is strange considering the amount of promotion I do. Somehow, I’ve never been able to snag the title from other loyal Foursquare users.
SHM: One of your recent blog posts was titled – 5 reasons Social Media may never work for your bar or restaurant – What are a couple of those reasons?
Barry: Social media won’t work for a bar or restaurant if their business isn’t social. Social media builds an online community, but how can that be possible if you don’t have one offline? It also won’t work if you seek short term gains. It takes time to build a community, but there is a profitable return if you are in it for the long haul.