Facebook page helping restaurants survive
Wendy Alexander/The Madera Tribune
From left, Eduardo Sandoval of Sal’s Mexican Restaurant, Ray Roberts of Simply Scrumptious Grill & Pub, Moneshay “Moe” Platt of MoJo’s Catering Services, Lisa Gill of Sugar Pine Smokehouse, Kym Salter, administrator of the Madera To Go Facebook page, George Buenrostro of TJ’s Bar & Grill, Stacey Cornaggia-Miller of Backstreet Bar & Grill and Kim Praytor of The Waffle Spot gather at Sugar Pine Smokehouse to show their support for their fellow business owners and the community of Madera.
When Kym Salter created the Madera To Go Facebook group at the end of December, she didn’t think it would grow to the size it is now. All she wanted to do was help Madera’s restaurant community.
“Everyone kept saying, ‘Sorry, I wish I could do more for you,’” she said. “I thought everyone uses Facebook for a purpose. Madera is a community where everyone stands behind everybody. I thought I would create a To Go group. That’s how it started.”
Now, the Facebook group has more than 3,000 members, and community members are going crazy, posting food pictures from their favorite Madera restaurants.
“It kind of gives me goosebumps to know there’s that many people in the group,” Salter said. “We’ve lived here for 12 years and we know Madera is a tightknit community. Everybody is out there to help each other. At the rate that it has grown, I had no idea. It’s a positive group. We’re not Yelp.”
Salter said she is still learning how to use Facebook as a tool to help these businesses, but she is progressing and doing what she can.
“We have a few big names on the group,” she said. “The first few days was bumpy. I had no idea what I was doing. I just knew I wanted to help. It’s not put together like an Excel spreadsheet where you can change a tab to name them things. Everyone was saying where to find a menu. I wish I could change Album to menus. Then, I thought, in the albums, I could take each restaurant, take a Google screenshot with the phone number and then it started growing from there. As soon as it got from an infant to crawl and walk, it took off.”
Now, when a person takes a picture of their meal at a restaurant, Salter will move that picture to the restaurant’s page within the Albums folder in the group.
“There are a ton of pictures,” Salter said. “Most of those pictures have a spot. I will try to move the pictures to the restaurants. It’s a one-stop shop. I am on that page at least 10 times a day. I have it set up that anyone can post anything. Anyone can say they went to a restaurant and enjoyed it. I had people taking pictures. It’s fantastic. It’s been great to see this idea take off.”
The restaurants are even seeing a up-tick in business and it can be traced back to the Madera To Go Facebook group.
“It has been so beneficial to us,” said Lisa Gill, general manager at Sugar Pine Smokehouse. “It has allowed us to put out our daily specials. We have seen the impact on the page itself or people calling in. It’s really helped us out a lot.”
“It’s been awesome,” said Kelly Molina, owner of Perko’s Cafe and Grill. She did a really good job of putting it together. You can tell people are looking at that. They are posting their orders on the site and suggesting you. It helps a lot. It’s free advertisement.”
In addition to telling people what each restaurant serves, it can also help in reminding residents that some restaurants still exist.
“I had no idea that the Pita House was over there,” Salter said. “There’s a donut shop by the high school that serves phenomenal sandwiches. I never knew that, and I’ve been here for 12 years. I had no idea there was the Indian restaurant by the Toyota dealership. It’s been nice.”
Salter has even worked on rotating restaurants featured on the cover page.
“Every week or longer, I will reach out to someone to be on the cover page of Madera To Go,” she said. “These people are so excited to be on the cover. It started out where Sugar Pine had the cover and it went from there. We have Valentine’s cover and people can vote on the cover. For the holidays, I’m going to let people vote. Usually, I’m the one picking.”
“We get a lot of new faces and some might be from the group,” Molina said. “I really want to thank her. She let me put my restaurant on the cover for a week and I was able to put something on (late husband) Mike so that touches my heart more than anything.”
Not only do patrons take pictures of their meal and post it to the site, but restaurants take photos of their food to entice customers to their place.
“It helps us showcase our specials, our specialty items and any new items,” Gill said. “It’s been a huge benefit to the restaurant.”
“The amount of people that have helped in making it larger than it is,” Salter said. “People that have been posting pictures and going places and posting it. The contributions have helped the most. Now, restaurants can do outdoor dining so this helps give people another way of supporting restaurants.”
Some of the restaurants have even worked on creating short videos to post on the group page to entice customers. The first one was started by Togo’s and followed by Pizza Factory.
“On the page, I noticed Pizza Factory has one of their guys flipping pizza dough,” Salter said. “Jose at Togo’s was the first one doing a video and was talking about Jose’s way of sandwich toppings. I don’t know if anyone knows Jose’s way. I went there last night and there was a line to the door.”
Salter created this page to do what she could to help the restaurants in Madera. She never thought it would take off the way it has.
“It makes me so happy to create a platform for everybody to use,” Salter said. “It’s been phenomenal. I’ve heard so many stories about people picking up orders and they’ve been in tears. I tell them it’s for them. This is us and we. It’s a community. We’re all helping you. The stories I have heard have been heartbreaking. People have told me that I’ve really helped. That brings me to tears. I have left restaurants in tears. I just wanted to help. I never thought it would be this big, not in a million years. I look at the back end of it, it’s people from 17 years old to 80.”
“Kym has been a big supporter of the restaurant industry,” Gill said. “They have always backed us and been there when we needed them.”