Adria Tennor Blotta, a theater actress and a restaurant-owner, understands what it takes to be successful on Twitter. She has been in the hospitality industry for quite a long time. She started serving root beer floats at A&W, made her way to NYC’s River Cafe, met her husband at Campanille and they eventually opened Bar Brix. Her life in the industry prepared her for the social media storm that has taken over. She understands that avenues like Twitter are more than just a bully pulpit and require a personal touch. Her efforts got Barbrix on our list of Top 100 Restaurants on Twitter. Most importantly Barbrix has a loyal Twitter following. Adria took the time to chat with us about her experiences and just what makes Barbrix so successful on Twitter.
FriendsEat: What was your first reaction when you heard of Twitter?
Adria Tennor Blotta: I was curious. I love the name. I love the idea of brief updates. Just enough to pique one’s interest, and if you need to know more, there’s always google….
FE: Did you initially think that Twitter was something your restaurant could put to use?
ATB: Absolutely. It’s perfect. It’s like delivering little clips and sound bytes (as Chef Don likes to call them) about the menu – enough to get people to pay attention, stop surfing the net and get down to barbrix to check out the latest tasty thing.
FE: When did your restaurant start using Twitter?
ATB: We started using it while we were still under construction. Our opening was delayed by two and a half years because of a parking snafu. My husband and I were both unemployed, but we used the time wisely. I built our website with the help of the guys at the Apple Store who helped me place the “follow us on Twitter” button on our homepage and in our emails. Then, I started a twitter account and we started to gather followers. We did a couple tastings at our friends’ Silver Lake Wine (also big Twitterers!) and our follow list started to grow.
FE: Can you share with us the first Tweet? Was it hard composing the first Tweet?
ATB: “hanging drywall” was our first tweet apparently, according to the backwards scroll I just did for 1/2 hour. I don’t think that one was too hard to come up with!
FE: How important is Twitter in your restaurant business?
DT: It’s very important. My husband has owned restaurants in the past and never used any kind of social media to promote them. I’m an actress and a writer so I’ve used Twitter to promote my work and could see it’s benefits in reaching our customers. It’s expensive to pay a publicist and we just don’t have the budget for that. Twitter allows us to do our own PR and stay in touch with our customers. Not everyone likes to give out their email address, but people do feel comfortable following a business on Twitter because they can connect when they want to. Now when business seems a little slow, my husband urges my to get on the computer and “”Twitter!”" He does all our wine buying so often he chooses a new wine he’s excited about and we post about it. People LOVE drinking the wine that the owner and proprietor is touting. Twitter helps us reach out to our customers and make them feel a sense of community and belonging, not so anonymous and unknown.
Twitter also helps us document our specials and the evolution of our menu. We can look back at our twitter feed to see what specials we were running last year, and when those heirloom tomatoes came into season.
FE: Has Twitter significantly contributed to the restaurant? How?
ATB: We always tweet about the newest dish or the newest prosecco cocktail, and people will literally drag themselves out of the comfort and warmth of their houses and apartments to come try something they saw on their twitter feed 20 minutes ago. If the description and the picture are good, it can really boost our sales, which also boosts the waitresses tips – everyone profits…literally.
FE: Your restaurant is very active on Twitter, how much time do you devote daily to this task?
ATB: I would say an hour or two every day. My husband probably doesn’t believe it takes that long, but it does. I’m a writer so I tend to be a little snobby about the crafting of my tweets. I don’t want them to sound lame or boring, but also don’t want them to sound too cheerleader-y. It’s a fine line.
FE: How is the interaction with other people on Twitter?
ATB: It’s great. We have a few followers that always RT us – there is a Happy Hour Tour that likes to promote our Happy Hour as well. There’s a few Silver Lake twitterers who like to RT our specials to their followers. People will also ask questions that I try to to answer. Or people will show us love by tweeting about their yummy dinner they just had.
Once after we had just opened, I recognized a guest from his Twitter avatar. It was pretty hilarious, and of course he had to tweet about it.
FE: What advice would you give to a restaurant that is just starting to use Twitter?
ATB: I would think of myself as a prospective customer and ask myself, “What would I want to know about this place?” And then tweet about that. The tweets don’t have to be earth shattering either. I think sometimes simple is better. That’s how we came up with Claudio’s wine pick and people love that.
FE: Was there any memorable Twitter-related incident that will go down with the history of the restaurant?
ATB: Well, I described a funny incident in which I recognized a patron from his twitter profile pic, but what was even funnier was his tweet about the incident calling out our cinnamon air freshener in our mens room:
gregg “Just got recognized by @barbrix from my Twitter profile. btw, the cinnamon scent from their men’s room pairs well with the niman pork belly.”
FE: Have you ever experienced anything negative from Twitter? How did you handle it?
ATB: We’ve had people voice a complaint on Twitter, which I feel isn’t the best or most effective way to make one’s “beef” known, but I guess some people aren’t comfortable having to face the person to whom they are complaining. We pay attention to these complaints, however there isn’t a lot we can do about addressing the issue once someone has walked out the door. We just take the note and if it is something we can do differently, we do it. I have to say though, usually if someone is using Twitter to publicly call us out on something with which they were unhappy, it’s usually something we don’t have a lot of control over. It just seems to work that way.
FE: What is your opinion on the validity of Twitter as an effective tool in marketing the restaurant?
ATB: We are sold on it! And if my husband who made so much fun of and poo-pooed social networking and media is sold on it, it is a viable and important tool!
FE: How do you fit tweeting into a restaurant’s already busy schedule?
ATB: I’m on the computer a lot during the day so I just make a point of taking a moment to update our tweet. We have a meeting every night with our staff before we open and Chef Don (@chefdond) brings the new dishes for everyone to see and taste so I make sure I get a good picture of everything and then tweet them before we open at 6pm I also try to get in a tweet around 9pm to remind people of our late night happy hour that starts at 10p.
FE: Do you see Twitter as a long-term component in your restaurant’s activities?
FE: What do you find are the most effective tweets?
ATB: New dishes, new cocktails. Tweets accompanied by a picture are great. Stimulate as many of the senses as possible!
FE: Do you see any changes or modifications in the future as to the Tweet content of your restaurant?
ATB: We had a couple of guys working for us who have gone on to open their own handmade sausage business (@GringhausLA). We are now using their sausages on our menu and tweeting about them and @-ing them. So I have this vision as we grow and more and more people come through our “”boot camp”" here then go off and do their own amazing things that our tweets will be more and more filled with those @s!!
The neighborhood of Silver Lake really supports its own, so that sense of community and @ing each other just comes naturally.
FE: What strategies should restaurants utilize when Tweeting?
ATB: I think Twitter makes it easy with the 140 character rule. Make it sharp and to the point!
FE: How active do you get in order to increase your number of followers on Twitter? Does it even matter?
ATB: I haven’t made a huge campaign to acquire followers. I have to be honest, I get a little turned off when I feel like someone is just following us so that they can gain a follower for themselves and not because they care about anything we’re tweeting about. If there’s someone I’m interested in, I seek them out, but I don’t spend a lot of time searching for people to follow. I collect followers the way I collect friends. Carefully.
FE: Have you studied the profile or demographic of your Twitter followers?
ATB: I haven’t. When we get a new follower, I usually check out their profile to see if it’s someone I should follow, but I haven’t done a scientific study of who they are. I just don’t have time! And I’m not sure what I would do with that info. I think we know who are customer base is and what they want to eat and drink and how much they want to pay for it. Honestly, we made our restaurant the kind of place that we’d like to go, so we feel like we know pretty well what it should be.
FE: Has there been an unexpected result from using twitter?
ATB: I guess we didn’t realize how immediately we would see results from our tweets. Sometimes I’ll tweet about a new dish and someone will arrive fifteen minutes later to try it!
FE: If your restaurant can get a celebrity to Tweet about it, whom would you choose?
ATB: Well, @helloross tweeted about us and we were pretty psyched about that. When my husband and I were trying to open.
FE: Do you think Twitter is instrumental to the success of the restaurant business in general?
ATB: I do. I think it’s a platform that a LOT of people pay attention to and it’s not something to ignore.
FE: Do you use other social networking sites other than Twitter to promote your restaurant?
ATB: Yes, we use Facebook, which is great for posting pictures and video from our cooking classes. We also post to a site called Foodspotting which links to our Twitter act. We also use Foursquare a little for check-ins.
Barbrix, a restaurant and wine bar named by Los Angeles Magazine as one of the Ten Best New Restaurants in Los Angeles in 2009, offers more than just wines and cheese. They have all sorts of menu that changes daily; from appetizer, to salad, to main entrée to dessert. The ambience is dark that adds mood to the guests. It has a very large bar at the center, which serves various wines from across the world.
Barbrix is located at 2442 Hyperion Avenue in Los Angeles. 323-662-2442