5@5 - Mark Canlis
May 2nd, 2011
05:00 PM ET
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5@5 is a daily, food-related list from chefs, writers, political pundits, musicians, actors, and all manner of opinionated people from around the globe.

In 1950, Peter Canlis opened Canlis Restaurant in Seattle, Washington.

Sixty years and three generations later, Mark and Brian Canlis - with the help of James Beard finalist Jason Franey in the kitchen - are keeping the storied restaurant going strong with a little something-old, something-new  ... and the World Wide Web.

How to Stay Connected to Your Guests in the Digital Age: Mark Canlis

1. and 2. Be Active on Social Media 
"The first two are easy: there’s Facebook and there’s Twitter.

To us, we value Facebook a little more than Twitter, but clearly you need to have some sort of social media presence. At Canlis, we’ve done a number of things. I think the key to having that social media presence would be to do something that adds value to the guests.

You can’t just be throwing random information at them – the soup of the day just isn’t that exciting. I think for that reason, we think Facebook is a little bit more interactive. Ultimately your hospitality is a relationship, not a transaction, so to be sending out 140-character messages is hard to build a relationship that way.

...I think whatever the campaign is, you need to be adding value. You need to be giving the guests something and not just be self-serving. Nobody wants a relationship that’s focused on the other person, it needs to be an actual relationship.

The more digital marketing goes, the more weight social media carries. We find that you need to be engaged, but you need to be engaged in a personal way."

3. Practice your penmanship
"I think particularly now in a digital age, what we’re able to do is connect with people using traditional media. What’s more powerful than picking up a pen and writing a letter?

In fact, in spite of the digital age, I would say that’s even more prevalent: the ability to write somebody – to pen out a note and say, 'thank you for that business deal,' 'thank you for the way you dined at the restaurant,' or 'thank you who you’ve been to our business for so many years.'"

4. Pick up the phone
"So many people just send out an email. It’s impersonal. It just doesn’t do the same thing. You need to hear a voice, you need to have that connection - you need to reading the person’s tone and pace and measure.

Reservations now are all made digitally – and I think that’s important to do. You need to have an OpenTable system or an Urbanspoon-like system: something to be able to harness the Web site for reservations.

At the same time, we pick up the phone and call every one of them. Just to confirm it. Just to hear them. When you say special table, I have 36 of them. What does that mean to you? Does that mean cozy corner? Does that mean side-by-side? Does that mean around in the center of the action, or something tucked away by a window? A phone call ironically is really effective in a digital age."

5. Meet and greet
"I go meet the person, whether that’s in a business deal sometime in the daytime, or being at the front door. I think that surprises people, delights them a little bit. They walk in the front door and say, 'Hey! There’s Brian Canlis,' or 'Hey! There’s Mark Canlis.' There’s actually a person with the last name meeting you and shaking your hand.

Maybe that’s in the daytime, instead of sending 50 emails back and forth, you can hop in the car or subway and jam downtown, and in 10 minutes you could be at the person’s office, shaking their hand, looking them in their face and saying this is who I am, this is who you are, and how are we going to do this transaction.

Whether that’s the business piece of the restaurant or the relational-guest part of the restaurant, you’ve got to be there, you’ve got to show up.

Brian and I always talk about social media being that hot girl in school that arrives in your class and everyone wants to talk to her. I think it’s important that if you do talk to her, that you have something to say. That you make an impact, make it meaningful.

If you just sit there and [babble] at her, it’s like every other guy in class is doing. It’s not going to work. So to protect guest in that sense – to give her space, in this analogy – is important."

Is there someone you'd like to see in the hot seat? Let us know in the comments below and if we agree, we'll do our best to chase 'em down.

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Filed under: 5@5 • Buzz • Think

soundoff (3 Responses)
  1. Jason mKey

    well done. This is a shining example of how to communicate in the modern age

    May 2, 2011 at 7:40 pm |
  2. JBJingles

    I like the balance of te digital age vs. the face to face, penning a note, a telephone call. Nicely done. Next time I'm in Seattle, I will have to make a point to visit.

    May 2, 2011 at 6:42 pm |
  3. Amrita

    This is a great list. Social media has changed the world so much, and made everyone so much closer. Kind of strange to think about how it was before it!
    Social media is totally "that hot girl..." nice analogy!


    May 2, 2011 at 5:44 pm |
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