Can Social Media Turn Dining and Dashing Into a Positive Thing?

The new Sacramento based app Requested wants to make dining and dashing at local restaurants a positive thing. By using the Requested App you can make a reservation, enjoy your meal, pay, add a tip and leave the restaurant — all without waiting for the bill. You can literally dine and dash! 

Re-training ourselves that it's OK to leave without getting the bill may be a bit of a challenge. As Requested's co-founder Sonny Mayugba puts it:

It's something we've all been told our whole lives is totally wrong!

Sonny spoke with me about this and other challenges Requested has faced while launching their new app. He explains how they are using social to not only promote Requested, but educate consumers and gather feedback for improving their user experience.

Launching a New App

Left to Right: Carlos Sola-Llonch, Senior Software Developer; Randy Balzarano, National Sales Director; Coco Barnum, Founder; Sonny Mayugba, Founder; Katie Stein, Merchant Ambassador; Jon Shumate, Founder; Carlos Rivera, Founder

According to Sonny, Requested looks very different than it did six months ago when they launched in March of 2015. They've made numerous improvements, many of which are based on feedback and suggestions provided to them via their social media pages. 

Currently Requested has a Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube page. Most of their time, efforts and ad dollars go towards Facebook, but that will change as the company grows.

The marketing team has three main audiences:

  1. Potential App Users  Download the app to their phone. 
  2. Current App Users – Use Requested to book a reservation. 
  3. Restaurants – Join Requested to take advantage of their reservation system, cross promotions and convenience.

Crafting the perfect messaging for each can be a challenge, and making sure Requested brings value to each of them is even harder. 

Sonny: We are a marketplace, and it is very complicated to make sure that you're actually creating value in the center — where the restaurant is finding value as well as the consumer. 

Getting Engagement Through Social

Currently Requested uses social to reach out to users rather than restaurants. The thing that sets Requested apart from their competitors (such as Open Table and Reserve) is that Requested only offers reservations to 100% locally owned and independently operated restaurants with three to four stars. Therefore, they approach restaurants personally rather than soliciting applications. 

Click on image to see post on Facebook. 

Click on image to see post on Facebook. 

Their goals for generating social engagement with users include:

  • Connecting with People: Start conversations with their audiences to explain what Requested is as well as introduce the people behind the app.
  • Showcase Merchant Network: Requested really feels they have "awesome" merchants, and want to showcase and celebrate each restaurant. Being a restaurateur himself (Red Rabbit), this is a very important to Sonny. 
  • A Polling Tool: Requested utilizes their follower base to ask questions and gain feedback on certain topics. 
  • Honest Feedback: Sonny believes that getting feedback from users is key. Whether it's for a new app feature, or a restaurant experience, Requested has received good and honest feedback from their followers. 
  • Promotion: Promoting Requested sponsored events. 

Listening to Your Social Superusers
Sonny created a Secret Facebook Group called the "Requested Founder's Club". These superusers are active on Facebook providing feedback, sharing the app with friends, etc. According to Sonny one of the most important pieces of feedback they've received came from this group. A follower's constructive criticism made them step-back and take a look at user experience and how expanding too fast could hurt the overall success of the app. 

We needed to get the user experience perfect in one city before expanding into others. We try to focus on a city's center, own those and THEN expand. 

Utilizing Employee's Social Networks
Currently all Requested founders and employees use their own social networks to promote the app. It is not required, but encouraged. It's not a hard sell, Sonny feels everyone who is part of the company has the drive to make Requested a success.  

Social Sharing on the App 

As you can see in the image above, Requested has a prominent "Share" feature within he app. You have several options for sharing including sending an email, posting to your Facebook account or sending a text. Not seen in the image is your ability to share to Facebook once a reservation has been made. 

As an incentive for people to share, users receive a $10 credit when they share the app with someone who signs up and makes a reservation. The new user also receives a $10 credit. There is actually one user who has racked up $600 in credit for sharing the app. Sixty people so far have made a reservation based off his recommendation! Although that's not typical, it shows the power that social sharing has. 

How Will Requested's Social Expand as the App's Geography Expands?

Currently Requested has one global page on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. Since Requested only covers the Sacramento and Roseville areas currently, this strategy works well. Soon; however, they will be expanding into other geographic areas such as Oakland in Spring of 2016. I asked Sonny how they see their social media expanding as the geography does. Can one global page do everything they need? 

The jury is still out. But if I had to guess, I'd say each community will have its own ecosystem with a community manager in charge of the page. 
We're not ruling out one global page though, that could still work well. 

Moving Forward

I asked Sonny if there was anything he felt Requested could be doing better in social. He had two thoughts: 

1) He wants to spend more time promoting their merchants, chefs, bartenders, etc. 

We need to promote the people behind the scenes, the people making the food, sources the ingredients, putting it together, doing the lighting, putting on the music, opening the place, naming the place, those are the people that matter.
Service industry people are inherently invisible, so we want to bring them out into the light — showcase and support them. 

2) Produce more video for each of their platforms. Video has the potential to reach a larger audience and will be key to promoting the restaurants. 

What Social Media Advice Would You Give to Other Startups?

Be authentic and don't be spammy.
Pick one or two platforms and try to own them. There's huge value in all these platforms. I mean, millions and sometimes hundreds of millions of people are using them everyday. But don't try to own all them all at once. Pick one that you think your brand resonates with and build an audience there. 
Keep an eye out for new tools like Canva. There are all these developers out there creating add-ons for social, and a lot of them are getting good results.
Be radical, think about what it is called... it's social media. It's literally the democratization of information in media. Social has put the power that once belonged to big media and put it into the hands of anyone. So, be creative. Be smart. Be radical. Don't just be boring and cookie cutter. That's not going to get anyone excited. Take chances. See what resonates with people. 

Back to Dining and Dashing... 

The first time I used Requested I must have asked our waiter three times if it was OK to leave without getting a bill from him. I had this image in my head of someone running after us, hands waving as we walked to our car! But I received a notification on my phone about halfway home that the invoice had been received. 

There will definitely be a learning curve for some of us, but after you've used the app a few times, dining and dashing takes on a whole new meaning! 

Download Requested 

Thank you to Sonny and the crew at Requested for not only taking the time to talk with me, but for providing Crow Call readers a $10 credit towards their first Requested reservation! 

Use the promo code socialcrows to receive $10 off your first reservation! 

Take it for a spin, and like Sonny says – they love feedback! Let them know what you think on FacebookInstagramTwitter or YouTube

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If you would like to receive email alerts when new blogs are posted in the Crow Call, click on the button below. Our next blog is about Bacon Bibs, a Sacramento startup creating custom dog bandanas. Bacon Bibs launched November 1, 2015 and is using social exclusively to promote their products. 

If you follow an impressive social media page that should be given some props, please let me know. Provide the organization's name, social platform and a link if available.