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Foursquare for Restaurants and Bars

Originally posted on my DeepDishCreative.com blog, but geared more for tourism and hospitality. Read Foursquare for Tourism here >>

Location Based AppsChances are you’ve heard of location-based smart phone applications like Foursquare, Yelp, GoWalla, and MyTown, etc. Even if you don’t use a smart phone, know that your customers are.

Haven’t heard of it? Foursquare is a smart phone app that defines itself as:

    “Foursquare aims to encourage people to explore their neighborhoods and then reward people for doing so. We do this by combining our friend-finder and social city guide elements with game mechanics – our users earn points, win mayorships and unlock badges for trying new places and revisiting old favorites.”

Why should restaurants and bars care about location apps?

Restaurant and bar participation drives traffic through the door, creates loyalty, and facilitates word-of-mouth marketing. And like the big social media channels like Twitter and Facebook – its FREE to use. Luckily Foursquare doesn’t require the constant maintenance that the aforementioned efforts do, but you do want to peek in to see who’s talking about you, who’s spending time/money with you, and who’s taking you up on your offers.

Provided that Foursquare is active in your area (most of the U.S. is now covered), users can tap into their smart phones and sniff out information about the specific area they are standing in – at the very moment they are ready to go. They can check Nearby Tips for information on various businesses (like a map and proximity) as well as tips left by other Foursquare users. The Tips tab for each venue is open to all Foursquare users, meaning, anyone can look – from anywhere in the world (yes they can cheat).

The more popular the business, the likelihood of more tips. The Tips feature is one area folks running a restaurant or bar can reap vital info about their own establishment – and their competition’s.

Find out what customers and guests really think
Unlike Yelp!, Foursquare is not a review web site, per se. There are no star ratings, and tipsters cannot go on and on about any establishment. Users tend to offer actual tips (surprise!) about what’s good about a place and what can be avoided. Plain and simple.

Due to its gaming nature, and competitive aspect of collecting assorted badges and “mayor” status, Foursquare users seem be religious about leaving tips on the venues they patronize.

Here’s some of the Tips from Foursquare players here in Burlington, Vermont:

  • August First Bakery: Try the Hungarian sweet roll or visit each Friday evening for Flatbread Fridays!
  • Courtyard Burlington Harbor Hotel: Hit the bar, look for Frank, he can haz brain teasers
  • Wings over Burlington: Get the combos for the best value. Hangar 2 should feed between 3-5 people
  • Church Street Marketplace: Read the signs about dog access on Church Street. They are written in English and dog.

How you can actively participate with your customers

Get found
First of all, make sure your venue is being found on Foursquare. If you find that a user has already created your ‘location’, you should flip through the tabs and make sure all the pertinent information is correct, like your street address.

Offer a special
Signing up for a Foursquare special offer is easy. It took me less than one minute (not including verification time from Foursquare, of course). A Special Offer will pop up on a users phone when they log into Foursquare and are in your area. When you set up a special offer, Foursquare will notify any user at your bar/restaurant about it and instruct them on how to unlock that offer. Even if the user is in the general neighborhood, the app will let them know that you’re giving special treatment to users and they should come on over.

    To set up your special offer:

  1. sign into (or create) your personal Foursquare account here Foursquare.com Or you can do it from your smart phone by visiting the iTunes app store and searching for “foursquare”
  2. sign into (or create) your venue’s Foursquare account here Foursquare.com/businesses
  3. have your user URL handy. It will look something like “http://foursquare.com/user/123456″
  4. have your venue URL handy. It will look something like “http://foursquare.com/venue/123456″
  5. Enter the appropriate info and verbiage for your special. Foursquare will have to validate the offer, so be patient.

Inc. Magazine has a nice article about making money with Foursquare and luring in new customers while encouraging loyalty. Read it here >>

Promote your Foursquare-ness
Add the Foursquare widget (check out PlaceWidget >>) to your website. Tweet about your participation and thank/praise your mayors and other checkers-in. Add a little shout on your sidewalk chalkboard, or indoor casual menu. It might not occur to users or new users that you are on board with this fun activity – unless you tell them.

Take care of your ‘mayors’
A participant that has ‘mayor’ status at an establishment does so by having the most frequent check-ins. Don’t know who your mayor is? Look on your phone! Shower them with little somethings, Twitter attention, and extra special attention when they are on site. Tweeting about your Foursquare participation will also further your social media reach and “cool factor”.

Track your activity
Foursquare offers a simple analytics page to see how/when participants are checking in. Find out where they are coming from and going off to after spending time with you. See a glimpse of traffic cycles and how your special offers affect that traffic.

How you and your members can benefit from Foursquare

Not sure how to get started, or get the most out of location apps? Chris Brogan (@ChrisBrogan), President of New Marketing Labs, recently posted a short but informative article for American Express’ OPEN Forum. Chris elaborates on the importance of jumping into the mobile app world and embracing the social tools many of them feature. In short, the article covers:

  1. GET a smart phone, already
  2. Creating good content to be more easily found online
  3. The importance of listening for feedback
  4. Generating buzz by having contests for your mobile audience

Read the full OPEN Forum article here >>


Here is an informative video featuring Jean Shirk, a PR manager for the San Francisco Symphony. Jean takes us on a tour of how she uses Foursquare, and how BART has partnered with the app to provide useful information for its riders and surrounding community.

Have a Foursquare success story or comment? Share it with us below!

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Posted by TwitterForRestaurants on 20th February 2010

6 Responses to “Foursquare for Restaurants and Bars”

  1. Good job! This is a great dissection of Foursquare and how it can be used by various businesses.

  2. TwitterForRestaurants says:

    Thanks Scott, I’m an avid user myself.

  3. [...] posts about Foursquare for business Foursquare for Restaurants and Bars Foursquare for Tourism SHARETHIS.addEntry({ title: "Case Study: Foursquare and local business", [...]

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  5. My client is curious about the back end logistics of offering Foursquare specials – how do you verify who your mayor is? How do you know if the mayor or other users have already redeemed their free drink or food item, etc? I haven”t been able to find any info or tips on this. Any thoughts?

  6. TwitterForRestaurants says:

    You can verify who your current mayor is anytime either on the website or on your phone app. You can check statistics on the website, logged in as the business – not a personal foursquare account. Check the Foursquare business page for how to access.

    Not sure if there’s a way to track who’s redeemed what on the app itself, but tracking with a modifier on your POS system would seem like the best answer, as you would a coupon or other discount.

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