Island Sushi rundown plus social media talk in Vegas Seven

This week in my Green Felt Journal column I talk a little about the role of food in marketing a casino, the future of Downtown, and how the Plaza’s going to fare by looking at Terence Fong’s Island Sushi. From Vegas Seven:

In that light, recruiting chef Terence Fong, owner of Henderson’s Island Sushi and Hawaiian Grill, to open a branch of his popular Eastern Avenue eatery in the Plaza was a masterstroke for two reasons. First, Fong is a casino veteran who spent years at Caesars Palace and with Wolfgang Puck; he worked in some of the city’s most historic restaurants (Bacchanal, Andre’s) before leaving the Strip to spend more time with his family and, ultimately, to pour his energy into Island Sushi. He knows how to run a casino eatery.

via In the Dining Business, the Plaza Plays Smart | Vegas Seven.

I first tried the Plaza Island over a lunch meeting with a trio of high-powered Plaza marketing executives. Got the chicken katsu. Was very impressed. Would have gladly paid for it had one of the execs not had the Power of the Pencil. While I’d been thinking about doing a piece on Fong, I’ve got to admit that the quality of the food made it a “hey, I want to write about this next week” as opposed to, “this might be a good idea for an article someday” piece. In a later interview, I found Fong to be passionate and deeply knowledgeable. I don’t usually do “food” writing, and I wouldn’t call this food writing since I’m more looking at the role of the restaurant in the Plaza (and Downtown’s) rebirth as opposed to comparing it to other sushi places.

I thought highly enough of Island to check out the Eastern location, where I had great sushi and some of the best-tasting seaweed salad I’ve had in a long time. It put the stuff they serve at the Wynn buffet to shame, at the very least. I paid my own check, so this is not a sponsored conversation.

Speaking of which, I also took a look at the Cosmopolitan’s social media strategy at the prompting of a Vegas Seven editor. I struggled to articulate just how I felt about it. While the piece, part of the new media section, isn’t available in its own html page just yet, you can check it out in the digital edition right here.

Updated G2E panel info: Social media & ROI

Here’s the latest info on the panel I’ll be moderating at this year’s Global Gaming Expo–at the Sands Expo Center for the first time–about social media and ROI. I’d love to see a lot of people there. Personally, I think this lineup of speakers will make a great start to anyone’s conference day:

Date: Wednesday 10/5//2011

Time: 9:15 AM – 10:15 AM

Room: 704

Social Media Insights, Part III: ROI

Although it officially costs nothing to tweet, the hard costs associated with staffing and content development are undeniable. This session will examine how casinos are using Facebook, Twitter and other avenues to produce a quantifiable return on investment. Experts will present statistics from casinos using social media to various degrees of success and discuss why approaches based on market size, target customers and similar factors may prove most effective.

Key Takeaways:

• Creating a quantifiable return on social media investment

• How to measure the real costs

• Finding the correct approach for your market

Moderator: David Schwartz, Director, Center for Gaming Research, University of Nevada, Las Vegas

Speaker: Ryan Leeds, Vice President, Strategy, Masterminds

Speaker: Marlene Reyes, Executive Vice President & Chief Client Officer, The Fine Point Group

Speaker: Jim Wise, Senior Vice President of Marketing, Seneca Gaming Corporation

G2E–Registration

Not only does everyone have a unique perspective on social media, gaming, and ROI, each of us has spent at least some time working in Atlantic City, so it should be a rollicking session, to say the least.

Me @ G2E: Social media insights

A little while ago I received an invitation to participate in G2E‘s conference track. Here are the details:

9:15AM – 10:15AM (Wednesday, October 05, 2011)

Social Media Insights, Part III: ROI

Although it officially costs nothing to tweet, the hard costs associated with staffing and content development are undeniable. This session will examine how casinos are using Facebook, Twitter and other avenues to produce a quantifiable return on investment. Experts will present statistics from casinos using social media to various degrees of success and discuss why approaches based on market size, target customers and similar factors may prove most effective.

Key Takeaways:

# Creating a quantifiable return on social media investment

# How to measure the real costs

# Finding the correct approach for your market

via All Sessions – Education & Conference Programs – Global Gaming Expo.

As soon as I get the names of the speakers, I’ll share them with you. Looks like I’ll be doing another Casino Twitter Study between now and then.

Social media is cheap and effective, but…

Interesting story about the Las Vegas Hilton’s Twitter initiative, though the timing couldn’t be worse, coming on the heels of yesterday’s LV Sun article about the Hilton’s abysmal 4Q earnings. From hotelsmag.com:

The marketing budget for Las Vegas Hilton is miniscule when compared to multi-property powerhouse rivals like MGM Mirage, Harrah's Entertainment and Wynn Resorts. And despite being relatively late to the social media party, the hotel has picked up enough incremental business from Twitter and Facebook to convince once-skeptical executive management to fund a full-time social media coordinator position.

The Hilton’s first “tweet-up” last year drew 130 participants to the hotel—the vast majority of them as first-time guests. “It caught the attention of our executives—they said, 'Wow, you did this with nothing?’” says Peter Arceo, executive director of casino marketing. “These have become loyal customers spending money at the bar, talking about the hotel. That was the buy-in [the executive team] needed to fund this.”

Monthly tweet-ups keep growing in size.In less than a year, @LasVegasHilton has accumulated more than 23,000 Twitter followers. While other properties in Vegas complement social media marketing with heavily promoted contests, viral videos and even digital Twitter billboards, the Hilton has no social media budget, so it instead focuses on building personal relationships with brand advocates that extend beyond the computer screen into real life. “We’re trying to build solid, loyal fans and followers—people who want to come here,” Arceo says.

via Hotel Social Media On A Shoestring Budget – 2010-04-01 07:00:00 | Hotels.

Here’s the Las Vegas Hilton Twitter stream. Seems like an awful lot of #hash #tags to me. Here’s a sample post:

Have you tried #Benihana? One of The Most Popular #LasVegas #Japanese #Restaurants around. http://bit.ly/2pAF0F

If Twitter is reaping such benefits for the hotel, that’s great, since this is likely the most challenging year the property’s ever faced, including the aftermath of the 1981 fire. Clearly, though, this isn’t enough to compensate for the bigger economic problems that are to blame for the Hilton’s poor performance over the last year.

I can see Twitter helping draw a few more FIT people in, but the Hilton will rise or fall based on its convention business.

Speaking of drawing incrementally more business, it’s worth saying that the September 2008 closing of Star Trek: The Experience has left a huge hole at the Hilton. With the new movie coming out last year, I can only imagine what kind of traffic it would be drawing right now.