Last week, as Philadelphia was crying mercy from its second snow storm in less than a week, most local restaurants and shops closed up business for the day as Philadelphians were unable to even see down the block.
Yet, nestled in the back of the Piazza in Northern Liberties, P.Y.T. was packed to the brim. Every table in the burger joint was filled with indicators that its inhabitants had settled in for the long haul: empty beer pitchers, stacks of winter gear shoved into the booths and plates filled with onion rings and burger crumbs lettering the tables.
So, how did P.Y.T. fill a restaurant when SEPTA wouldn’t even dare run busses?
Being located under an up-and-coming apartment complex doesn’t hurt, but owner Tommy Upgegrove (better known as Tommy Up)messaged his 300 Foursquare friends that those who arrived early to the restaurant would be able to take advantage of an open bar.
By 1 p.m. the offer had been rescinded, but it didn’t matter. P.Y.T. turned a blizzard into one of its best days of the season and its owner proved why, thanks to social media, he was the restaurant world’s undisputed king of low-budget promotion.
PYT’s Tommy Up has been ahead of the curve for years. The former promoter says that back when handing out flyers was the standard way to promote a party, he cared more about getting email addresses.
“When you hand a flier out it might work for that time, but then next time you have to find them all over again,” says Updegrove who is the son of an IT worker.
The forward thinking translated to Updegrove’s first restaurant: P.Y.T, a Northern Liberties-based burger joint whose initials stand for a handful of phrases (Pay Your Tab being Technically Philly’s favorite) where Updegrove attempts to utilize as many of the up and coming services as he can.
“We don’t really have an ad budget,” he says, so he tries to utilize the power of social networks to help move burgers and “adult milkshakes.”
“I’d rather put my time and leverage into these [social media] tools than be lazy and do Philly Weekly and Citypaper ads,” he added.
But even when P.Y.T does get press in the city’s alt weeklies, he tries to make the most of it. After receiving a negative review by the Citypaper’s Tray Popp, P.Y.T. said it would offer a discount to anyone who brought the review in leading Popp to crown Updegrove the “unparalleled master of promotional jujitsu.”
Updegrove can also be seen answering reviews on Yelp and the restaurant has a standing offer to give a discount to anyone that brings in their printed out Yelp review whether it is positive or negative. .
“If something is addressable, we get right on it,” he says adding that the promoter in him loves the new tools and each one allows him to import all of his contacts so he doesn’t have to go around collecting email addresses again.
But perhaps the tool that P.Y.T. uses best is Foursquare, the mobile application that allows users to “check-in to their favorite bars and tell their friends where they are drinking for the night.” Foursquare also allows business owners to offer special to Foursquare users, something only nine restaurants in Philadelphia take advantage of, including P.Y.T. awarding a free draft beer to anyone who checks in. To help keep track, the business has buttons on its point of sale system for Yelp and Foursquare discounts.
For restaurant owners, the service is a dream allowing restaurants to track unique check-in much like a website can track visitors. Which is a far cry from Updegrove’s days of handing out fliers.
“Handing out fliers felt like beating my head against the wall,” he says.
When asked by Technically Philly how the restaurant was doing, seven moths after its launch, Updegrove says that while he was apprehensive about the winter months, they have been kind to the burger joint and he doesn’t see the business going anywhere.
“Until we get hit with 2012 apocalypse , we’ll be alright,” he says