A few years ago, I and a group of friends that met through social media formed an Orange County-based networking group called ConnectOC. The group’s goal was to create opportunities for local businesspeople to meet others in a comfortable environment, free of cost.
A local Hilton hotel hosted our first two events complimentary, and we were also able to get numerous donations from businesses for goodie bags and silent auctions, which allowed us to raise thousands of dollars for local charities.
While busy-ness has limited us to just one event a year the past two years, social media events definitely give both individuals and businesses an opportunity to reach others in the community.
On November 8, we hosted an end-of-the-year holiday event at Il Fornaio in Irvine. The Italian restaurant generously offered their front patio, appetizers and wine 100% for free. Naturally, the unpredictable southern California weather brought rain that evening, but nevertheless, 100 people still came out to the event and the overall vibe remained incredibly positive the entire night.
Irvine restaurant manager, Marcello Apollonio, highlighted that Il Fornaio strives to build a community with each location that they have a restaurant, and they saw hosting ConnectOC as being part of that mission.
Il Fornaio is committed to providing the most authentic Italian experience, outside of Italy, in a friendly and professional atmosphere. They create a new regional menu every month, also import new ingredients and wines regularly.
The restaurant makes sure the staff remains educated on the current food and drinks offerings, and they do the same with guests by offering cooking classes on regional food that is only found in specific areas in Italy; it is literally a restaurant school.
Marcello emphasized that Il Fornaio in Irvine is grateful to the community for the success it has obtained in the last 21 years since it opened. After that many years, it becomes clear that a large part of the restaurant’s success relies on their active relationship with the community: they listen to their guests, businesses and organizations needs and try to find a balance that it is a key to all relationships.
This is a great lesson to which all restaurants can adhere: By listening to your community and maintaining a pro-active role, any venue can keep revitalizing themselves and remain atop the mind of locals.
Another key factor that makes Il Fornaio successful at this is their acknowledgement of new media being the new norm; a new way to reach out to the younger community; and a means to communicate all they do, and how they can tend to the needs of their consumers. It will continue to grow and be very influential, especially with new guests.
Rather than maintain a static social media presence, heir Facebook page has almost 10,000 fans, and by clicking the “artisan cocktail club” link, Facebook fans can access a coupon for a $3 cocktail. The cocktail options rotate each month, allowing diners to get an exclusive peek to a different beverage on an ongoing basis. This is a great way to bring people back into the restaurant, and be able to try something new each time.
Their restaurant blog also showcases a variety of the brand’s events; menus; recipes and more. It also features an event calendar, allowing guests to monitor upcoming happenings in their community, and menus are also posted regularly as well.
When asked what the restaurant’s objectives were for hosting ConnectOC, and if they were met, Marcello noted, “I was present and was able to see the success of the event and definitively was pleased to see everyone networking. I was able to speak with quite few guests and felt they were happy to be there, and enjoyed the facility, the food the service and each other. At that point I thought: ‘This was my objective, and I am happy about it.’ When guests are happy and are put in the position to obtain their objectives, we obtain ours.”