Dining and Social Media Meet
by Adam Erace
Terry McNally, co-owner of London Grill
Terry McNally is on Twitter. More precisely, London Grill, the restaurant she’s co-owned since 1990, is on Twitter. “I just started tweeting in the last six months,” McNally explains, “and it’s been absolutely successful.” In a city where flashy new restaurants open every week, it’s not easy for more established eateries to steal the spotlight. Twitter has proved to be an attention-grabbing tool for 19-year-old London Grill and McNally, who premiered her new menu of beer cocktails via the social networking site last fall. Not only did the local media come calling, so did The New York Times.
“I started becoming a Twitter dork in the summer of 2008 and immediately noticed a handful of local bars and restaurants [using the site],” says Drew Lazor, food editor of Philadelphia’s City Paper. “Between then and now I’ve seen a huge explosion of places using it to promote themselves.”
On City Paper’s food blog, Meal Ticket, Lazor manages a list of local Tweateries. Among the web-savvy are Oyster House, bragging how many bivalves were shucked on a given night; Snackbar, posting Twitpics of its riff on pineapple upside-down cake; and the Varga Bar, whose feed clues followers in to keg rotations and meet-the-brewer events. As chef Daniel Stern was readying MidAtlantic for opening, he teased fans on Twitter with menu items—crab scrapple!—before the final cut ever hit the blogs.
The site has also become a place for restaurateurs to extend deals to their followers. Recently Tommy Up turned City Paper’s not-so-glowing review of his burger bar PYT into a marketing tornado when he promised a free burger to anyone who brought in a copy of the critique. During the World Series, Tria leaked a password to followers for $2 off any draft. (Unfortunately it was “Hamels.”)
But in order to reap the benefi ts of this Internet phenom, tweet smartly and with care, cautions McNally, who prematurely announced that London Grill had tapped Limb & Life, a rarefied collaborative brew by Dogfish Head and Sierra Nevada. “Six guys showed up immediately looking for it, and my bar manager called me,” she remembers. “I was wrong; we hadn’t tapped it yet. It was OK, though. They came back when I retweeted.”
PHOTOGRAPH BY MICHAEL PERISCO