Restaurants and social media

Moderated by Rick Badie

Georgia relies on innovative technology and a trained workforce to grow its manufacturing base. Today, a Georgia Tech professor writes about the possibility of long-term growth if the state remains committed to this mass-production sector. An executive with Georgia Quick Start writes about that program’s role in training a skilled labor force. Meanwhile, an entrepreneur writes about the role of social media in marketing restaurants. To comment, go to: http://blogs.ajc.com/atlanta-forward/.

Social media a way of life

By Robby Kukler

In the restaurant business, we see it often: Customers sit down to eat and inevitably pull out a smartphone at least once during the meal to post a picture on Instagram, check in on Foursquare, send a tweet or update their Facebook.

Social media is a way of life.

Social media reviews via Twitter, OpenTable, Yelp and more is a given in the service industry. What’s critical for executives is knowing what to do with that feedback: how to capture it, examine it and use it to improve the customer experience. Insights from this data, known as “social media intelligence,” help businesses get smart when it comes to delivering what guests want.

Social media intelligence mines online feedback to uncover details about the customer experience that might be lost in a sea of comments. These insights illuminate trends so businesses can take action to improve operations. As more companies across Atlanta embrace this practice. living and dining in the city could potentially be more satisfying than ever.

Atlanta is suited to be among the cities leading this social intelligence revolution. We’re regularly featured as one of the most-wired cities in the U.S. Our tech market is thriving, and our start-up-friendly climate has drawn entrepreneurs to the area as well.

At Fifth Group Restaurants, which operates local restaurants that include South City Kitchen and La Tavola Trattoria, we recognized social media’s ability to attract and engage guests early on. We’re seeing new benefits as tools like the newBrandAnalytics platform help us monitor online trends, make changes based on actual data and track performance based on social media reviews. It gives both the business and the guest a voice, which is tremendously important.

Customer loyalty no longer begins and ends at your establishment’s door. It lives online, too. Exceptional service is one quality that sets many Atlanta businesses apart. Fostering that reputation sometimes requires extra effort. For example, our restaurants use social media intelligence to help motivate our managers: Restaurants that garner consistent positive online feedback are eligible for higher bonuses. That gives our team’s added incentive to provide the customer service that guests will talk about online.

Last year, more than 42 million people came to Atlanta. The city is booming. As the spotlight grows, so does attention to our restaurants, hotels and retail establishments. Social media intelligence has the power to distinguish us from other major metropolitan areas because it creates the type of responsive businesses people love.

If we’re going to thrive among our competition, Atlanta businesses need to continually examine online feedback to see how to perform better. In the restaurant business, the adage says you’re only as good as what you did yesterday.

With the help of social intelligence, that’s shaping up to mean a very bright tomorrow.

Robby Kukler is co-founder and partner of Fifth Group Restaurants in Atlanta.

Georgia competes in manufacturing

By Thomas Kurfess

Georgia’s recent declines in GDP have sparked speculation that its economy is in peril. In fact, Georgia is poised for a long-term growth in manufacturing.

Georgia sustains itself well in the national and global economy with its rising manufacturing and exports. Challenges, however, lie ahead for U.S. competitiveness. A recent Deloitte report shows that our nation ranks third behind China and Germany but may decline to fifth in 2018 forecasts.

The leading attribute of global competitive leadership is not trade, taxes or manufacturing costs. It is a talented workforce. Georgia has armed itself with this globally competitive weapon on three levels — higher education, secondary and k-8 education, and practices. Properly supported, Georgia will remain atop the nation’s hotbed of advanced manufacturing, the Southeast. With talent, a strong port and domestic energy access, Georgia has the right ingredients to bolster our nation’s advance toward a trade surplus.

Since 2009, Georgia has gained 11,500 manufacturing jobs and ranks 14th among states with increases. Manufacturing output is at historic highs, and technology jobs are reaching similar heights. Georgia’s productivity, and its growing manufacturing base, exemplify the quality of this state’s competitiveness. Its workforce preparation for today’s jobs and tomorrow’s opportunities make it desirable to global manufacturers and employers.

Primary contributors to the strength of Georgia’s globally competitive talent are:

• Georgia Tech, one of the world’s greatest engineering and manufacturing universities.

• Growth of engineering and manufacturing programs at other Georgia universities and technical colleges.

• A respected workforce training program in the state’s Quick Start program.

• Growth of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) programs in secondary and k-8 education.

Manufacturing programs offer online or night-time lectures, thus freeing up time for hands-on and real-time experiences. Georgia Tech’s Maker Labs enable all students, not just engineering students, to build prototypes of products and advanced materials.

I am proud Georgia’s talent, its people and its products will be on display Oct. 29- through 31 when the Southeast manufacturing community gathers in Greenville, S.C., for its biennial summit — the Society of Manufacturing Engineers’ SOUTH-TEC — on technology, innovation and workforce development. This talent stands as a cornerstone to our nation’s leadership in the global economy.

Georgia’s biggest challenge to sustain and grow its competitiveness lies within itself. Our state’s leadership must commit itself to continuing to invest in public education at all levels. We must ensure that the current and next workforce generation is there to answer the needs of our state and nation in securing economic prosperity and national security. This commitment is potentially our state’s biggest opportunity or its greatest hindrance.

We must rise to the occasion.

Thomas Kurfess, a board member of the Society of Manufacturing Engineers, specializes in manufacturing studies at Georgia Tech.

Workforce training key to job creation

By Rodger Brown

If you can’t figure out how to work your smartphone, that’s a “skills gap.”

But it’s a gap easily closed. Just ask an expert for help.

It’s the same with 21st-century advanced manufacturing. Only the devices are much more complex — computer-controlled systems, automated robotics — and the gap is much larger between the skills required to work in advanced manufacturing and the skills available in the workforce.

In some areas, this gap has slowed or stymied the resurgence of advanced manufacturing. In Georgia, though, qualified new, expanding and existing manufacturers can get expert workforce training help through Georgia Quick Start and the Technical College System of Georgia.

Quick Start is a unit within the technical college system that serves as a discretionary incentive and offers no-cost, comprehensive, customized workforce training to attract investment that creates jobs in Georgia.

That’s a powerful tool for economic development. New companies list workforce issues at the top of their list of concerns. Do the available employees have the needed skills and work ethic? Will they perform at the required level?

Quick Start answers those questions with customized workforce training solutions that work. The program is considered one of the state’s key assets to support new and expanding industries. The program can provide training in classrooms and mobile labs or on plant floors.

One example: Quick Start training for Kia Motors and many of its supplier companies has helped these companies create more than 14,000 direct jobs over the past five years. That’s just one case. Since beginning in 1968, Quick Start has provided training for 6,527 projects involving more than 1 million trainees. About 90 percent of these trainees were involved in advanced manufacturing.

Quick Start’s success hasn’t gone unnoticed.

Surveys of site location consultants by Area Development magazine for the past four years have ranked Georgia No. 1 in the United States for its Quick Start workforce training program. The decade before that, Expansion Management ranked Quick Start No. 1 in the U.S.

At the end of the day, though, it’s the companies themselves that matter.

Rodger Brown is executive director of Georgia Quick Start.


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