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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.