Tag Archives: Houlihan’s

Houlihan’s: A Foursquare Success

The location-based social media site, Foursquare, is gaining popularity among millions of mobile app users worldwide and also for over 250,000 (and counting) businesses—many being restaurants. With over eight million users and over 2.5 million check-in’s per day, this is another great advertising tool for restaurants. Best of all, it’s free and doesn’t take much time at all.

Russ Chargualaf, executive chef of Houlihan’s of Castleton Square and social media liaison of Houlihan’s Indiana, began using Foursquare on a personal level with friends when he realized how great of a marketing tool it could be.

“Our location (Castleton Square, Indianapolis) was the first location in the company to utilize Foursquare,” he says. “Today, over 61 of our locations across the country utilize it!”

To give some background from the Foursquare website, smartphone app or SMS users can check-in places with their smartphone to share locations and collect points and badges. Users can also bookmark information and browse through suggestions about nearby venues.

For merchants, Foursquare says they can “leverage the foursquare platform by utilizing a wide set of tools to obtain, engage, and retain customers and audiences”—which is exactly what Houlihan’s is doing.

Image: Houlihan’s Logo

Through Foursquare, Chargualaf says the entire company has a promotion for customers to receive a complimentary order of “frites” upon every check-in.  Also, the Mayor of each location (user with the most number of days of check-ins at a specific place within the past 60 days) receives 10 percent off all food items.

The Castleton Square location has taken “a more aggressive” approach by giving a free dessert upon each check-in and first time Mayors receive a $25 gift certificate.  This aggressive approach has helped build Houlihan’s sales tremendously.

Chargualaf uses Foursquare to create a personal experience for guests.  He has seen Mayors change three times in a week before and since he can monitor all check-ins, if Chargualaf notices a guest comes in consistently but hasn’t been a Mayor, he will call and have the manager find that person and buy them dinner.

“This is just another way to utilize Foursquare as a loyalty tool and reward our guests for coming in all the time.”

Chargualaf also said they’ve implemented Foursquare into their employee orientation program because they want their guests to be well educated about how it works.

Another interesting use of Foursquare is adding Tips (notes left on a venue for friends and other foursquare users).

In Houlihan’s case, at every hotel or motel within a mile, Chargualaf will put in a Tip welcoming someone to Houlihan’s with a short history, specials and hours.  Also, he’s been creative by creating a Tip for Midas and other car repair shops that says, “Just got your bill? Come and share your sorrows with us.  Half off drinks all day, everyday at Houlihan’s Castleton Square Mall.”

“It’s simple things like these that are free yet, build business and bring in money,” Chargualaf says.

By using these methods, he has witnessed people from out of the area become regulars by visiting once a month just based on a Tip they received upon checking into their hotel.

“We also utilize Foursquare for our Social Media Tweetups (gathering of Twitter users) that we hold once a month,” Chargualaf says—with their next event being on June 1.

Houlihan’s is one of many restaurants successfully using Foursquare to bring in customers and create a memorable experience for them.  While many people are still skeptical of using this social media platform, or find it a waste of time for their business, it really can be a great tool for both users and businesses to come together.

Lastly, if you’re in the Indianapolis area, be sure to check-in the Central showroom.

Why is Everything So Small? The Rising Popularity of the Small Plate Meal

Appetizers; Image from MorgueFileIt seems like no matter what restaurant you may stop into for a bite, you can’t miss items like tiny lamb kabobs, small shrimp skewers and a generally miniature version of just about anything. It seems choices like sliders are no longer just a novelty saved for the likes of White Castle, but have become commonplace everywhere from high end eateries to your local Houlihan’s.  According to a recent list put out by The Nation’s Restaurant News, small plates will be even bigger in 2011, placing at number 13 on their top 20 list of food trends in the coming year.

So why do we have this sudden obsession with the little things in our food life?  One of the answers could lie in our internet habits.  A study of internet use in Korean teenagers may have proved that the web isn’t the gateway to obesity as many believe.  They studied teens with light, moderate and heavy internet “addiction” and found that those falling under the heavy addiction actually tended to eat smaller meals on average.  One answer as to why this happened comes from a Salon.com article by Sara Breselor.  Breselor advises to “Considerate it (smaller portions/plates) the dining equivalent of updating your Facebook status…”   If you look at it this way, it’s only logical that with the growing popularity of social media sites like Twitter and Facebook that seeing smaller portions has also increased.

A second thought on the attractiveness of this new petite movement may be due to the economy.  After all, isn’t it common to downsize when in a financial downturn?  The average chain restaurant, like the Cheesecake Factory and California Pizza Kitchen, have recently turned to this thrifty option as a way to cut costs, but not sacrifice taste and options.  Using undersized portions allows for customers, as well as the kitchen, to test out new combinations without breaking anyone’s bank.  This alternative also tends to help add more items to the check and has increased wine-by-the-glass purchases, according to an article from Nestle Professional.

A final, and seemingly obvious, reason for the trend is it’s “health” benefits.  Like most fads in the cuisine arena, small plates have been thought to be able to lend a hand in weight loss.  In terms of portion, according to a study done by Calgary University in Canada, how much a person eats is directly related to the kind of plate they use.  This means, the smaller the plate, the smaller the portion, the smaller the portion, the less you eat, the less you eat, the less weight you gain.  However, not only does the portion size make small plates an appealing choice but the common options add to the “diet” appeal.  Most of these snack-sized alternatives are guided by the traditional Spanish tapas which focus on proteins and vegetables.  As anyone who’s followed a low-carb diet knows, these items are a diet’s best friend because they tend to provide nutrients and flavor without the starchy, fatty side effects.

If you’re looking for great places to try this new trend:
In Indianapolis, check out:  Mesh, Zing, Iozzo’s Garden of Italy and
Zest! Exciting Food Creations

Nationwide, check out:  Barcelona Tapas, Cheesecake Factory,
Houlihan’s and California Pizza Kitchen