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Let’s a look at social media’s relationship to restaurant marketing. A study by the Center for Hospitality Research at Cornell University addressed the use of social media as part of a restaurant’s marketing plan. Some of the findings are interesting.

  • The 5 most sited goals for restaurants using social media…
    • Increase Brand Awareness (23%)
    • Increase Loyalty (21%)
    • Bring in New Customers (21%)
    • Increase Customer Connection to Brand (19%)
    • Increase Revenues (16%)
  • The top 3 types of customers restaurants focus on…
    • New Customers (47%)
    • Current, but Not Loyal Customers (31%)
    • Loyal Customers (22%)
  • The top 5 ways restaurants measure the impact of their social media efforts…
    • Number of Customers (31%)
    • Followers (21%)
    • “Likes” (19%)
    • Amount of “Chatter” (13%)
    • Coupon Redemptions (10%)
  • Of those responding to the study, independent restaurants are more likely to use social media (75%) than chains (59%).
  • The 30-39 year old age demographic is the most sought after by restaurants using social media (45%), followed by 40 to 49 years (about 32%).

The top four social media platforms used by restaurants are Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and blogs. 

The study concluded that Facebook is the optimal social media platform for restaurants, based on flexibility and reach. Independent restaurants, coincidentally, have a higher propensity to use Twitter and Foursquare compared to chains.

The problem restaurants have with social media marketing…

The researchers indicate that most restaurateurs don’t have a specific goal in using social media, but are simply jumping in, and hoping for a positive outcome.

For social media campaigns to be effective, they need a well-defined strategy with clear goals and objectives. Establish a set of measurable results, and test your social media strategy. Find what works and from there you can experiment for even better results.

Just as important to note, social media is constantly evolving, with new players entering the scene all of the time. Pay attention to your customer and the different demographics that come through your door. Don’t be afraid to ask what is relevant to them and what they’d like to see. 

There will be some trial and error, but you can leverage this powerful channel to cater to your audience’s needs. 

What should you talk about on social media?

We’ve picked a couple of specific topics to get you started: 

When it comes to social media, your restaurant probably has one or all three of the following: a Facebook page, a Twitter account, and a presence on Instagram. (Bonus points if you are on Pinterest as well!)

What should you talk about on these platforms to engage your customers? Also, be aware of the best time to send messages on social media.

A recent survey of more than 1,200 restaurant consumers asked what guides their choices when they decide where to dine or order takeout/delivery.

83% said that treating employees well is important. Highlight your employee-of-the-month on social media. Did someone get a promotion, graduate from college, or do something great for a customer? That’s great material to put on social media and promote within your company.

73% indicated that support of their local community influences their restaurant choice. When you support a local community event, take some photos and post them online.  It makes a significant difference in the minds and perceptions of your potential customers, while really showing that you genuinely care.

Gluten free

When you promote menu items, keywords such as “fresh”, “locally-sourced”, “whole grain”, “vegan”, “Gluten-free“, and anything “all-natural” are great to mention.

And finally…

The survey revealed that the convenience of an online ordering system shares the top spot with taste and quality, which is why making your online ordering capabilities easily available to all customers is one of the most impactful ways to increase sales. Be sure to highlight your online ordering via social media.

What kind of photos should you post?

Social media offers an excellent opportunity to reach customers on an emotional level using photos. Here are three suggestions of photos you can post to Twitter and Facebook:

Photos of Dishes – Presentation is everything. Post a photo of your popular entrées and desserts to Twitter and Facebook. You can even add an offer: ‘Surprise your sweetheart with pie tonight – order an entrée online and get 50% off one of our delicious pies.’

Photos of Employees – Highlight your employees and how well they do their job. Post photos of employees so customers feel like they know them the next time they come in to eat.

Photos of Customers – Patrons are also part of your restaurant family. When you have a happy group eating at your restaurant, capture it with a picture. How about the folks who order online at your restaurant three times a week for lunch? Snap a picture (with their permission) the next time they pickup an order and use the photo for promoting your ordering online services by posting it to your social media sites.

How to drive profits with social media…

Over the last decade, social media has transformed the food and dining experience. A recent study shows that 69% of millennials photograph their food before eating it. Sometimes the ability to promote an experience is becoming just as important, if not more important, than the experience itself. So, you absolutely need to be social media conscious and competent.

Here are some of the easiest and most effective ways for your restaurant, coffee shop, or bar to leverage social media:

First, you need to have a great product.

If you’re serving food, you need to make sure that it’s actually good and that it’s well executed for social media content. Meaning that not only should it taste good, but it should look good on camera as well.

Know that almost everything in your restaurant is going to be photographed or videoed, especially the food, drinks, and tables. So, make the extra effort to ensure your food is well plated and the tables are nicely set.

Next, design a space that promotes Instagramable experiences.

Whether it’s in the lobby where customers wait to be seated, at the table, or in the bar, create spaces that allow for ‘moments’ to be easily capture by customers when patronizing your business.

Having an exciting experience to capture for social media makes an experience worth having for a lot of people. And, giving that experience to them adds a lot of value, not only to customers, but to your business through “free advertising”.

Now that you have “set the IG stage”, offer your customers free WiFi in exchange for them following your restaurant’s social media pages. This gives your customers the ability to post pictures and videos while simultaneously building your following. It also allows you to access and track customer data which you can use to create powerful, targeted lookalike audiences for any future Facebook and Instagram ads.

Once you’ve created great experiences for your customers to capture, and given them the internet to do it, you can offer them incentives to share those experiences with their friends on social media. Discounts on future purchases in exchange for social media posts is a great way to get exposure to new customers while creating repeat customers out of first-time patrons.

Lastly, get on social media and contact local influencers at scale.

Offer influencers free dinner, drinks, entrée’s etc. anything to get them in the door. Not only will they appreciate the status perks, but your restaurant is perfectly staged for them to do what they do best, create content.

This is an incredibly cheap and effective way to reach masses of your customer base while creating a culture around your restaurant. Getting popular, powerful people to patronize and support your business elevates its status, and people will come in to do the same.

Social media has changed the way the service industry does business, but it has never been easier to leverage technology for new customers and profit.

Using social media tactics like these allow you to effectively reach, contact, and advertise to your customers at a fraction of the cost, with much greater impact. Try them out and see how they help grow your restaurant!

6 specific ways to promote your restaurant using social media…

Here are some tips on how to use Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to increase the awareness of your restaurant’s online takeout and delivery business. Most digital cameras have a video function, so consider substituting still photos for video when the opportunity arises.

Show, Don’t Tell – People love pictures.  Ask one of your takeout customers to pose with their order when they come in to pick it up. Maybe include the employee that assisted the customer too.

New Dishes – Offering a new takeout item on your online menu? Promote it with photos sent out via social media: “Checkout our new dish – available only online!”

Pitch Your Promotions – Offering an incentive for ordering online?  Perhaps 50% off a dessert for orders over $15? Make sure that gets posted via social media and include a photo of a dessert.

Recipe of the Week – A lot of restaurants let their customers in on recipes.  Promote it online (as long as it’s not a secret family recipe).

Updates – New things are always happening at your restaurant. Talk about them on platforms like NetWaiter to keep local customers informed.

Tell Stories – Catering a special event, or hosting it at your restaurant? Talk about it online. Maybe a customer has a special story? Ask them if you can share it online.

Parting thoughts…

Some helpful social media tips came out of a recent “Summer Brand Camp Conference” as reported by Nation’s Restaurant News. Here they are, along with some of our own thoughts…

Facebook is still the most favored platform. There are others, but Zuckerberg’s baby seems to pay off the most. Our guess is that both your kids and your grandma are on Facebook.

Simplicity is key. Short and visual messages often get the best response.  The top Facebook post for Buffalo Wild Wings was a tantalizing photo of a glass of beer and the post: “Mmmmmm, Beer.” People love pictures (…and beer).

Social media should be a conversation – not a sales pitch.  If you’re always trying to hawk your product, people will find it annoying.

Resist the urge to jump right in and defend your restaurant against a negative post. Other customers may step in to defend you.

Folks love video, and everyone can be a videographer with a smartphone.  Smartphones often allow you to edit videos too. Tell customers if they make a good video about your restaurant, you’ll post it online (and throw in a free appetizer or dessert too).

Integrate your social profiles with other marketing efforts. If you’re advertising anything offline, you should include it in your social media information too.

More than one location? It might be best for each location to conduct their own social media efforts if each has its own character. A sandwich shop in an industrial center will have a much different vibe than the same brand in a college town.

These suggestions are quick and easy, but remember – all markets are different – do what works best for your restaurant and good luck with your marketing efforts.


Author NetWaiter

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