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Social Media Lessons from Rubio’s Restaurants

English: Ralph Rubio

Ralph Rubio (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In addition to honoring their 30th birthday this January, Rubio’s has a lot to celebrate. The restaurant chain known for its fish tacos, flavorful seafood dishes, and devotion to the ocean celebrated a big year in the digital space in 2012.

On Cyber Monday, they branched into the retail space with the debut of an online store that features a variety of Rubio’s gear for all ages. Their Facebook page showcases a ton of personality, and features a variety of content from gift card incentives, to giveaways, to quizzes and fill-in-the-blanks.

They also have a Facebook tab entitled “original stories” where people are asked to share their first original fish taco experience. Over 200 people have chimed in with stories ranging from sentimental to humorous – definitely a great way for the brand to create an emotional connection with fans.

A couple months ago, they encouraged diners to share photos on Instagram with the hashtag #ILoveRubios for the chance to win gift cards. With 94 pages of entries, it’s safe to say they excited fans and spurred a ton of engagement.

I was given the opportunity to interview co-founder Ralph Rubio and learn more about the brand’s digital strategy:

Can you tell us a little bit more about Rubio’s digital strategy?

At Rubio’s, we communicate via email, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Foursquare, and occasionally through online ads. Our primary focus is on our unique and delicious grilled fish menu items. Most of our seafood items are sustainable, and we feel that they really set our brand apart from the rest. In addition to making our guests hungry for more, we also want to educate guests on our fresh ingredients, made-from-scratch salsas and sauces, and the fact that we grill-to-order. We are constantly growing our fan base and always encouraging them to engage with us and share with others.

In what ways has Rubio’s used social media to spread awareness about its sustainability efforts? Has Rubio’s launched any specific online initiatives highlighting social responsibility?

At Rubio’s, we are dedicated to being a friend of the ocean. We regularly spread awareness about our sustainable seafood efforts through our emails and social media channels. In fact, it’s a regular topic in our weekly conversations. Our sustainability efforts are highlighted when we describe our menu items and ingredients, and we go into even greater detail each week to educate our guests on where their seafood comes from, why sustainability is so important, and how they can help protect the ocean for future generations. This year will be the fourth year in a row that we celebrate World Ocean’s Day (June 8). Since our first celebration, we’ve given away more than 30,000 re-usable tote bags, raised awareness about ocean conservation, and had a lot of fun along the way! In 2012, our World Oceans Day guest social media engagement doubled after our successful communication efforts in-store, online, and through social media channels. During this period, from May 24 through June 9 our Facebook fan base grew by 4,000 new members. Additionally, the World Oceans Day tab on our website garnered 17,000 unique visitors, 70 percent of which heeded the call to action to ‘Share Their Story’ about how they stand up for the ocean.

What is the key to maintaining balance between being professional and showing personality within Rubio’s social media presence?

Rubio’s fans are extremely loyal and believe Rubio’s is “their restaurant.” They are very proud to be our fans, and we pride ourselves in taking exceptional care of them. For us professionalism and personality go hand-in-hand. At Rubio’s, we’re passionate about showing our guests our attention to detail and the interesting and complex flavors in our chef-crafted recipes. By engaging our guests online with open, honest communication and craveable, mouthwatering menu descriptions, our brand voice and personality shine.

How does Rubio’s go about overcoming obstacles that may arise related to its online marketing efforts?

At Rubio’s, we pride ourselves on taking exceptional care of our guests. We read every comment, question, complaint, and respond openly and honestly. We thank every guest for their feedback, positive or negative. All feedback is extremely valuable to us. We encourage our guests to tell us what they think so we can continue to grow and provide spectacular food with exceptional service.

What is the greatest success story Rubio’s has had from its online marketing efforts?



Since 2009, we have doubled our Beach Club membership from 185,000 members to 370,000 members. Today and regularly, we are in the top 100 brands of the Restaurant Social Media Index and top 50 brands in social consumer sentiment. This success and growth comes from empowering our brand advocates to share their love of Rubio’s with friends and family. We always include social media links in our email communication and we regularly ask guests to share their stories, opinions, and ideas with us both online and via social media. Most importantly, we generally don’t incentivize sharing. This helps ensure that our fans’ recommendations are genuine, authentic, and from the heart.

It’s safe to say Rubio’s has done a great job embracing social media and making very strategic decisions regarding their online footprint. What stands out most about Rubio’s strategy?

Debbie Miller (15 Posts)

This monthly Social Media and the Hospitality Industry column is contributed by Debbie Miller. Debbie is the Founder of Social Hospitality, a blog which outlines the ways businesses in the hospitality industry are using social media. She works for HyperDisk Marketing managing social media accounts, writing website copy and executing SEO strategies for clients. Prior, she was with a destination marketing organization where she maintained the website along with launching and managing their social media presence. She is very active in the social networking community in southern California, has enjoyed watching social media emerge over the past several years and is fascinated by its continuing evolution.

TOPIC: Social Media for the Hospitality Industry

Social Media Lessons from Rubio’s Restaurants by Windmill NetworkingWindmill Networking – Social Media Marketing & Social Business Strategy

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