Restaurant operators will want to start off this year's National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show by marking their calendars to attend at least one of the more than 70 educational sessions.
Deciding which sessions to attend this year has been made easier because of their alignment with the NRA's four industry imperatives: Jobs & Careers, Sustainability & Social Responsibility, Profitability & Entrepreneurship, and Food & Healthy Living.
Several sessions this year revolve around the hot topic of social media as it pertains to the profitability and entrepreneurship imperative.
To start off the show, word of mouth marketing expert Andy Sernovitz, CEO of Gaspedal, will lead the panel discussion, "Get Butts in Seats for Free with Word of Mouth & Social Media." The session will be held May 22 at 12:00 p.m. and will cover how operators can learn simple, hands-on word of mouth marketing and social media tips and strategies to generate traffic and buzz.
The panel also will provide easy ways operators can use Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to turn customers into fans and evangelists. In addition to Sernovitz, the panelists will include: Dunkin' Donuts' David Puner and Domino's Pizza's Ramon DeLeon.
On Monday, Chicago restaurateur Billy Dec will lead the session, "How to Leverage Your Product or Brand through Personal Relationships, Traditional Media, Social Networking, and Celebrity." The session will be held May 24 at 12:00 p.m.
Panelists also include Richard Roeper (writer, columnist, former co-host of Ebert and Roeper), Steve Dolinsky (ABC 7 Chicago's Hungry Hound) and Alpana Singh (WTTW Channel 11's Check Please!).
Here's a rundown of other social media and marketing educational sessions:
"Yelp and Your Restaurant: Harnessing Online Word of Mouth to Drive Customers Through Your Door" to be held May 23, 12:00 p.m. Luther Lowe of Yelp will explore the benefits, potential pitfalls and overall best practices for restaurateurs hoping to utilize user-generated content sites such as Yelp.
Special Dealer & Distributor Session: "Managing Social Media to Meet Your Business Needs," May 23, 2:00 p.m. Explore the ways foodservice professionals use this emerging tool from marketing to recruitment to meet business needs. Moderated by Joseph Carbonara, editor in chief, Foodservice Equipment & Supplies Magazine. Operators can get tips about word of mouth marketing May 24 at 10 a.m. during the session: "10 Lessons Learned from Igniting Word of Mouth Movements." Word of mouth expert Geno Church of Brains on Fire and Angela Daniels, Fiskars' "Fiskateer" ambassador and movement builder, will highlight successful word of mouth marketing case studies to help arm operators with the strategies they need to begin a movement within their own organization.
Moderator Rob Birgfeld of SmartBrief on Social Media and panelists Andrew Mason, CEO and founder of Groupon, and Tristan Walker of Foursquare, will discuss what restaurants are doing (and should be doing) to take advantage of the fastest growing 2.0 tools. The session, "Driving Foot Traffic with the Latest Social Media Tools" will take place May 24 at 2:00 p.m.
Education sessions will be held in McCormick Place's South Hall on Level 4, and in the Technology Pavilion on Level 3 in the North Hall, all four days of the Show. For a full schedule of sessions, visit www.restaurant.org/show. The National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show is the largest single gathering of restaurant, foodservice and lodging professionals. NRA Show 2010 will be held May 22-25, at McCormick Place in Chicago. For more information, visit the show website.