Brian Bessler’s Facebook Restaurant Group Surpasses 30,000 Members

JOLIET, IL – This week marks the second birthday of businessman Joliet Brian Besler launched the Guide to bars and restaurants in the Joliet area on Facebook. Bessler’s group recently surpassed 30,000 members in Joliet and 74 surrounding communities.

Bessler said he runs the Facebook group with the help of seven dedicated moderators.

So how popular is the Joliet area bar and restaurant guide?

  • Average of over 100 Facebook posts per day to promote local restaurants.
  • Generates over a million monthly views on Facebook.
  • Gets 100,000 monthly interactions on Facebook

Who is Brian Bessler?

  • Owner of Moonstop Productions in Joliet for 23 years.
  • Real estate broker at Karges Realty in Joliet for 14 years.
  • Political candidate for Will County Council, District 7. He is running as a Democrat.
In 2020, Brian Bessler received the Project Acclaim Reverend James E. Allen Award from the City of Joliet for his service to the community. Image via District 204

Why did Bessler start the Joliet restaurant group on Facebook?

According to Bessler, in March 2020, as the Joliet area, just like every other community across the country, began closing for COVID-related shutdowns, he had friends and small business owners who were scared.

On their personal social media pages, they posted that traffic to restaurants had stopped and they feared they might have to shut down permanently if something didn’t change soon. They simply didn’t have enough social media to survive on the sales they could generate through their existing followers, and no extra money to invest in marketing. Meanwhile, another restaurant decided to temporarily close and donate all of its existing food to hospital workers and first responders to thank them for putting their lives at risk when little was known about the pandemic.

Al’s Steakhouse owner George Daskalakis highly praised Brian Bessler for leading the Joliet Area Restaurant group. File/John Ferak/Patch

What happened next ?

From these two situations, Bessler said he created what would later be called “The Guide to Bars and Restaurants in the Joliet Area” to help create a larger network to display and promote restaurants in the area, keeping group members updated on ever-changing hours, COVID-related closings and reopenings as well as putting a face to local businesses. The group grew quickly and gained over 3,000 subscribers in the first week.

When you think of one or two restaurants in the Joliet area that have adapted really well since the pandemic, who comes to mind and why?

“It’s pretty amazing how some of our favorite restaurants in the area adapted to survive during the early days of COVID,” Bessler said. “They completely changed their business model and really started embracing social media marketing while moving to a take-out-only menu. Sit-in restaurants like Syl’s, The Dock At Inwood, Al’s Steakhouse, Merichka’s and Hamburgerseria literally changed everything. and found a way to not just survive, but thrive and grow their customer base.”

Merichka’s opened in April 1933. The restaurant’s Theodore Street website accurately proclaims it to be Will County’s landmark for good dining. John Ferak/Patch

Which stories or Facebook posts from your members seem to get the most engagement?

“There are so many that come to mind, but I think my favorite story was about ‘Hey! Hot Dog,” Bessler said. “A band member made a really touching request to support ‘Hey! Hot Dog.’ BJ, the owner, had assumed full responsibility for the small Joliet hot dog stand and was visibly worried about the future of the business. The post had an amazing response and Joliet did what Joliet does. They came together to support a local favorite with queues in the parking lot in the days that followed.”

Hey! Hot Dog is a local landmark at 601 Ruby St. It’s been there since 1978. John Ferak/Joliet Patch

What is the hardest part about managing the Joliet restaurant Facebook page?

“The biggest challenge is trying to keep a positive tone,” Bessler explained. “The group was created to support local restaurants and with the help of seven amazing group moderators, we try to keep the group a fun and positive place to support locals.

“We encourage members to contact restaurants directly if they have a problem rather than complaining on social media. Mistakes happen and the overwhelming majority of business owners want to do things right for their customers.”

Did the focus of the group change once COVID vaccines became available?

Bessler said when the COVID-19 vaccination became available, his restaurant group worked to create a local hub to help people who may not have been comfortable with scheduling online and posting availability. current statewide vaccinations.

Additionally, local businesses and organizations worked together to provide 3,500 snacks, beverages and coffee pods to area vaccination clinics. Three additional sister groups have also been created: “Joliet Area Small Business Guide”, “Joliet Area Family Fun Guide”, and “The Breakroom: Joliet Area Bar and Restaurant Guide”. Bessler said the latest group is a place where restaurateurs and employees can discuss industry issues, available subsidies, bulk purchases, and more.

Are you surprised by all the buzz and hype when Raising Cane opens on March 8 and Portillo’s Pickup on February 1? And do you think these additions will cause other restaurants to close?

“Anytime a well-known restaurant brand comes to the area, usually it’s a good thing,” Bessler said. “It brings investment to our community, jobs and taxes. However, independent restaurants are truly the heart and soul of a community and, especially in these difficult times, they need all the local support that I really feel like every restaurant, whether it’s an independent chain or one that empowers residents to support the local economy or brings new visitors to our area , good thing the Joliet area is large and diverse enough to support them all.

About 4,000 customers were expected at the March 8 grand opening of Joliet’s first Raising Cane’s. John Ferak/Patch

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