Tanuki: Gamifying Digital Engagement


Walking in to meet Sai Jones, General Manager of Tanuki Miami Beach, I felt welcomed as if it was my own home. Meeting Sai was like meeting an old friend, she was so welcoming. And I got the feeling that I wasn’t even special. Sai treats everyone who walks into Tanuki with the same warmth, and you can feel it in the atmosphere of the place.

And that atmosphere is well decorated, too. Scroll through their location tag on Instagram, and find shots of the main statue in the center of the restaurant, or pics of the luxurious booth seating. And that’s not even all of it. The whole space is warmly colored and modern.

It was designed for the Instagram-age, because everything is so purposefully photographic and the colors are so vivid, even in the sushi. So I spoke to Sai about how she exploits these strengths.

Your venue was designed for the photo-age. What social media platforms do you use?

Tanuki is on Instagram and Facebook, but we see the most engagement on our Instagram page, @tanukimiami

On Facebook, we use paid ads to target certain clients and geographical locations, depending on the season. For example, during the winter we might target colder parts of the country to inspire a Miami vacation.

How frequently do you post and whose responsibility is it?

We work with digital media and marketing company Naughty Forks, and communicate with them in regards to our social media presence. The founder, Samantha, comes in once or twice a week to take photos, and we talk about promotions we want to run on the page. She understands the social media culture very well, and we really value her input.

Once in a while, Samantha encourages us to run promotions that incentivize guests to post about us, so we host games online and give away prizes for them to pick up. I like to have fun with it because online there can be so much negative energy, and I want our guests to be laughing and smiling while they’re here. Engaging with each other in the moment. When an IG winner comes in to claim a prize, it’s so nice to meet them in person, and see the people who have so much interest in us online come in to our restaurant.

Do you currently use influencers to promote your brand?

We do communicate with local foodie influencers on a monthly basis. Usually when a promotion comes up that we’d like to really get the word out about. We love having them, and talking about different dishes is fun for both of us! The biggest challenge we face when working with them is figuring out how to track and measure how effective their campaigns are for our business.

Keeping up with social media accounts can be time consuming. What is the biggest challenge you face managing content for your pages?

Even though we work with Naughty Forks we do have a hard time coming up with ways to keep it fresh and interesting at times. If we have 50 dishes on the menu, that’s just the way it is. Extending that for new content takes a lot of planning, creating, communication, and time management. On top of running the restaurant! But from the comments we’ve received from guests, the investments we make in social media have definitely helped our bottom line.

In the hospitality industry, much of what you do is visually pleasing by nature. How do you exploit this strength on your pages?

It’s more than pretty pictures and vibrant dishes, we want to make sure all of our imagery reflects the experience of dining at Tanuki. Our pictures should make you feel like you’re actually picking up that noodle, or slicing into that chocolate lava cake…

In a city as foodie-filled as Miami, how do you manage to stand out in the crowd?

Hospitality industry is such a small world, and Miami concierges are absolutely amazing professionals. We love working with them because they give the food industry great support.

We also value our relationship with the community, and the locals. We grow when Miami grows! Connecting with the locals is one of the best ways to spread a good word, and it’s the nature of hospitality!

Located on Alton Road in South Beach, Tanuki is an easy-to-get-to (and there’s even parking out back!) spot for amazing Asian fusion cuisine. Tanuki’s website conveys the fun atmosphere in it’s description of the place, “Inspired by a Japanese raccoon dog, known as Tanuki, that carries great folkloric significance, we believe that we can bring the myth of happiness and good fortune behind this gullible, yet also sometimes mischievous animal to life with the right combination of food, fun, and atmosphere.”