Creative copy goes a long way, from the experience description on Tock to marketing on social media.
Vicky Hu: Coming up with copy and verbiage has been a team effort, brainstorming what our themes are going to look like going into each season. We host our dome dining experience in the wintertime, and then we change up the experience around March to May. We work together to come up with the copy to transition into each season and keep the activation going.
Allison Anderson: We’re inspired by the artistic nature of the neighborhood here. The street is partially blocked off so that people can hang out outside and walk freely around. It’s very easy to imagine walking down Larimer Street and popping onto our patio—what that should feel like and what you want it to look like, and how you want it to present. We certainly try to parlay that feeling through the language.
On summer hiring: message boards, open house fairs, and hospitality schools.
Alex Wilson: We employ well over 200 people at peak season. We utilize social media posts, city event boards, and hiring fairs where people can RSVP and come in anytime for an interview. We hire people on the spot. It’s about getting bodies in the door and trying to see who’s a good fit.
Mitchell Kerr: We’ve got a restaurant on site that has huge fluctuations in staffing needs; we almost have to double in summer. We’ve done hiring fairs, a lot of word-of-mouth, bonus referrals, hiring boards. We go out to hospitality schools and universities to fill that summer crunch.
Create a through-line with food, aesthetic, and design.
Allison Anderson: Assign a character to your restaurant and decide what that character sounds like. What do they say? What is the brand of that character? Beckon and Major Tom share a lot of the same aesthetic touches—the same feel, the same team, the same through-line in food—although it is markedly different between the two restaurants. Major Tom is based off of a David Bowie song and that gave us this kind of glam vintage, much more playful aspect to the way that we talk about Major Tom. It’s hugely important to know your restaurant.
Mitchell Kerr: We also look into working with different brands and suppliers to create a feel outside. Can they chip in to help with the cost?
Define and communicate an inclement weather policy.
Mitchell Kerr: We use Tock to help control bookings and communicate with guests. We might use the text feature to say, “Hey, just a heads-up, the patio’s closed right now. Are you okay with sitting inside?” If people say no, we then use that as an opportunity to try and invite them back in at a later date.
Alex Wilson: We can’t have 400 people here with nowhere to put them when it starts raining, and in Atlanta, it can rain out of nowhere. We come up with rain plans for everything. For all events, there’s a plan.
Mitchell Kerr: It’s similar to sick calls from staff. There are times we have to say to guests, “Hey, I’m really sorry, we’re going to have to limit reservations tonight.” It’s just about communicating and being upfront and honest. Most people are pretty understanding.
Invest in the right outdoor furniture and equipment.
Mitchell Kerr: We definitely think about this year round. Even now, I’m looking at cushions, lighting, what I need to replace from last year, what hasn’t survived. We’re building out that budget and chipping away at it over the months, so that it’s not one massive hit in the month beforehand where we’re left scrambling.
Allison Anderson: Our florist is the most important asset for our outdoor experience. I think the investment in modern landscaping, patio landscaping, flower boxes—all of that is where you make a huge impression. Creating an environment where people get to spend a nice couple of hours is really special.
Mitchell Kerr: We’ve added more plants and greenery to enhance the experience because it’s something that you can do to help change that whole atmosphere and feel, you can kind of swap it up. Even with blankets, maybe you’ve got one color one year and you go for a bohemian feel the next year.
Alex Wilson: We made a pretty large financial investment in a pergola with a closable roof and retractable doors. It creates an all-weather space. It was a large financial commitment at first, but we’ve made the money back 20 times over now.
Cater different experiences to different audiences.
Alex Wilson: It can be challenging when it comes to managing different experiences. We might have an event that goes from the pool to the restaurant or from the restaurant to our outdoor lounging area. We think about how we want to position these things in the dashboard, and who we want to cater the event to. The pool crowd may be a different crowd than the restaurant crowd. So we think, if we have this event going on, should we be promoting this via pool or via restaurant? We have more eyes on the pool, but we have a higher income clientele at the restaurant. So it’s important to think about all of these factors.
Experiment with social media trends and content to promote.
Vicky Hu: By leveraging TikTok, we were able to capture an audience that was searching for new unique outdoor dining experiences. We filmed tons of TikToks and Instagram Reels. Our happy hour TikToks started taking off and the certain influencers that we were partnering with were suddenly coming in voluntarily. One TikTok in particular went viral and sent 80,000 website page visits in one day and generated tons of attention and buzz. We kept going with that platform and kept our presence up. It really put us front and center for a lot of guests.
Mitchell Kerr: It’s about staying true to who you are as a venue. We have a lot of conversations about different trends and what’s happening within the market or even outside different markets and whether it fits who we are as a restaurant and who we are as a venue. Not everything you see on TikTok will suit your venue. So, it’s really picking and choosing, finding the right ones and holding that true because you can’t be everything to everyone. I think that really does come through to the guests.
Accept, manage, and differentiate guest feedback.
Allison Anderson: We recently started utilizing Tock’s email feature that lets the guest provide private feedback. We personalize it, so it’s coming from me. It helps us so much more than it does reading reviews online, that’s never very helpful or exciting for us. So we’ve just tried to take control of it, basically. It gives people a different path than just blowing you up online. I think it’s important to be as open and available, and to promote a sense of community.
Vicky Hu: A lot of content creators or wannabe content creators are looking for that free item or complimentary meal, or they know that they can stir up some drama and get something in return. And so it’s a bit tricky managing that sometimes. With reviews, it’s important to differentiate pure drama from something that needs to be addressed immediately.