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Use social media to curate your customer base

Use social media to curate your customer base

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Everyone is welcome to dine and drink at Finnegan’s Irish pub in Stockton, CA — providing they show up prior to 9 p.m. But only those who have "liked" the restaurant/bar on Facebook are certain to get in after that, when DJs, live bands and karaoke singer get the party started. If you’re looking for another way social media can be useful for your restaurant, screening out less-than-desirable customers could be it.

Finnegan’s offers patrons a lengthy Irish-themed bar menu whose choices include a corned beef and cabbage sandwich served with Guinness dressing and an Irish fish sandwich featuring Bass Ale-battered cod. Its owner, Tony Mannor, says he came up with his Facebook-based approved guest list concept because he wanted to keep late-night troublemakers out of his establishment.

Previewing a potential guest’s Facebook page isn’t a foolproof method of doing so, to be sure. But it does hold potential to be a valuable tool. In an era when restaurants go to great lengths to acquire pertinent data about customers, checking out their Facebook page can provide a lot of information in a hurry.

Game night at Finnegan's

"Responding to a ‘friend’ request is more of a gut check," the 38-year-old Mannor tells Stockton’s The Record. "If you go to their page and see a lot of gang-affiliated activities, that's not someone I want to hang out with. If I wouldn't let you in my house, I don't want you in here.”

Finnegan’s guest list has grown rapidly. Here’s how potential guests can get on it or otherwise gain admittance.

“Simple,” Mannor writes on the restaurant’s web page. “Go to and request to be a Finnegan's friend. Or you can come with a friend who is already a friend on Facebook (as long as we have room, you are in dress code and your friend is permitted to have guests). You can be enrolled in the University of the Pacific and have your student ID on you. If you don’t have a Facebook account and don't want to start one? Simply fill out our online form (coming soon!). You will be notified once you have been accepted.”

Acceptance isn’t automatic. Here’s why a potential guest’s Facebook friend request might be turned down.

“We get hundreds of requests a month,” Mannor explains. “Each one is verified and reviewed for accuracy and content. This takes time. Some are processed more quickly based on if you have enough friends in common. The more friends you have who are on our guest list, the better the chances you will be processed quickly.”

Mannor emphasizes that diversity is a key component of Finnegan’s guest list. So who’s on it? “A variety of people from local heroes, politicians and celebrities to blue collar workers and freshly anointed 21-year-olds looking for a safe place to have a good time,” he says. “We have a variety of folks from all ethnic backgrounds, all ages and all creeds. The guest list began as a list of our Facebook friends who we knew to be solid, friendly folks. Because not everyone had a Facebook page, it slowly has grown to over 6,700 names.”

Your restaurant may not face the same issues Finnegan’s does. Or if it does, you may be happy to have tough-guy bouncers handle your operation’s front door. But when it comes to learning more about your clientele and gaining some measure of control over who will enter your restaurant, all while gaining Facebook friends for it, other operators may wish to take a cue from Mannor.

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