If the success of the food ‘pop-up’ shop phenomenon has taught us one thing, it’s that foodies love the thrill of the chase and the satisfaction of being a part of anything that’s scarce, ‘underground’ or limited to the few.
They also love knowing insider information and being up-to-date on the latest news and trends.
And that’s exactly why secret menus work.
In fact, their secret menu has been credited as one of the main reasons for their popularity and success.
But with the rise of the internet, food blogging and social media, secret menus are not so secret anymore.
Just do a google search for ‘Burger’s Priest secret menu’ to see what I mean.
These days everyone has their own online megaphone so your menu is going to get published whether you like it or not.
So how can food entrepreneurs harness the online buzz and loyalty that a secret menu creates knowing it’s going to get shared online by others?
The answer is to be first to publish your secret menu online so it’s still easy for people to find but allows you to control access to it (at least initially) and get something in return.
I’m talking about using your secret menu as an ‘ethical bribe’ to get people to ‘like’ your business on Facebook, tweet about you or sign up for your email newsletter.
Creating a Facebook ‘Like Gate’ to Deliver ‘Fan Only’ Content
One of the most powerful Facebook fan page features I see business owners failing to take advantage of is the ‘like gate’. Instead of dumping new visitors at your wall – which is the default setting – this feature redirects them to a custom designed landing tab.
Usually this landing page (which you create) contains a call to action or an offer for a free gift or resource that the visitor gets access to in exchange for clicking ‘like’.
For example, here are the pages I created for the Toronto Food Trucks Facebook page. On the left is what non-fans see when they arrive at our page and on the right is what they see after they click ‘like’.
In our case we’re using the first page to ask people to support the Toronto food truck movement by clicking ‘like’ and on the second page thanking them as well as displaying a call to action to sign up for food truck alerts via email.
But for food entrepreneurs this is the perfect tool for offering access to your secret menu in exchange for a ‘like’ which subscribes the visitor to your future Facebook posts keeping your business top of mind.
Giving something away as an incentive for clicking ‘like’ will get you far more fans and subscribers for your Facebook page.
So how do you implement this?
There are a number of different solutions ranging from free to premium. If you’re comfortable with HTML then I recommend the Static HTML: iframe tabs app which is free and unbranded (and what I use).
Lastly, you could hire someone to implement this functionality for you.
Whatever option you choose, don’t forget to set your new app as the welcome page instead of your wall in your Facebook page settings.
Create a Social Sharing Landing Page
If you don’t maintain a Facebook fan page or you’d prefer control access to your off-menu items on your own website then this option might be for you.
A social sharing page is a landing page on your website where you tease visitors with an offer to get access to your secret menu but in order for them to get it, they first have to click a button and share your page with others on Facebook or Twitter.
Just like the Facebook ‘like gate’ you’re taking advantage their curiosity and their desire to to get access to insider information.
In terms of implementing this functionality on your website, you’ve got a few options. If you’re using WordPress to power your site, check out the Premise landing page software plugin (premium) or the Tweet And Get it! plugin (free).
Another alternative is Cloud Flood (free) which lets you insert this feature on any website.
Build Your Email List With Your Secret Menu
If you rely more on email marketing than social media, you can still take advantage of the ethical bribe approach with your secret menu.
Most email marketing services come with a feature called an autoresponder. This is where you pre-write an email, or sequence of emails, and schedule them to go to new subscribers automatically after they sign up for your list. What’s great about autoresponders is that you write the emails once and they keep working for you over and over as new people join your list.
You could set it up so that new subscribers receive one secret item every seven days after signing up until they get the whole menu. This makes your business seem fun and interesting and also keeps you top of mind which hopefully results in multiple visits.
Alternatively you could simply send new subscribers the entire menu as soon as they sign up if you prefer to keep things simple.
The two services I recommend for email marketing are Mailchimp and Aweber. If you’re just getting started with email marketing then Mailchimp is great because it’s free up to 2,000 subscribers. If you plan on managing a list larger than that then you might want to consider Aweber.
Keeping Things Fresh
To keep your secret menu campaign from going stale, you can change the items on it every few months and shift between all three content delivery methods so that your Facebook fans also have to sign up for your email list if they want access to the new menu (for example).
Not Just Menus
Keep in mind this strategy doesn’t have to be limited to secret menus. You could take this same approach and offer an instructional video on how to cook one of your popular dishes instead. The possibilities are endless.
The key is understanding that creating this kind of exclusive content triggers people’s desire to be ‘part of the club’ and gives them an incentive to engage with your business online. It also helps to turn regular visitors into loyal fans.
If you need help implementing any of these strategies into your business, feel free to contact me through my personal website.