As a marketer at heart, I see many trends coming and going. Every day, I come across great ideas and always wonder how they would apply to our industry. This is a short overview of what I think we will continue to see grow or start seeing more in the restaurant industry.
The Internet has given a very powerful voice to your guests; make good use of it.
If you are not already on social media, you know you should be. I don’t see this trend changing any time soon. The main complaint with social media is the time it takes to keep it going and up to date. It’s easy to post something every once in a while, but keeping it entertaining and meaningful on a regular basis is challenging (and if you become boring, you’ll lose your following in less time than it takes to post on Twitter). You can hire a young social media specialist; some are really great and quite easy to find. Don’t ask your staff; they will not be the best at it. Define with your specialist what you are trying to accomplish, provide a frequency for the post, a tone, ask them what they need from you and let it roll. I’ve found some college students to be quite the experts and managed to bring the hype to different age groups and social channels, so give it a go.
If you wonder which social channel should be at the top of your list, it is Instagram, without a doubt. Instagram is the perfect channel for the food industry. Tell your story in images, chronicle all aspects of your restaurant operations, introduce new dishes or beverages, and encourage your customers to participate. Let’s be honest: outreach on social media is time consuming, but Instagram is probably the one social channel with the best return on time invested for restaurants.
Referrals and Micro-Influencers
Ninety percent of guests trust friends’ recommendations and 33 percent trust ads. In other words, it is more essential to make sure all of your guests have an amazing experience at your restaurant than it is to have a pretty ad in a magazine. While in the past, a satisfied or dissatisfied guest would only be able to reach his or her close circle of friends, they now have the ability to leave their mark on your establishment for years to come.
The Internet has given a very powerful voice to your guests; make good use of it. But they don’t only trust their friends, they also trust referrals and reviews gathered from the Internet. Another interesting trend is the emergence of micro-influencers. They are social media micro-celebrities in their corner of the world. They typically have between 2,000 and 10,000 followers and have a fairly strong influence on them. Find out who they are in your community and reach out to them. Invite them to your restaurant and make sure they have a great experience. In return, you can be assured they will talk to their following about you.
Communicate, Interact and Engage
This is an expected outcome of using social media. People are interacting more than ever with each other online, and they expect the same from the place they like to patronize. Social media is a great place to tell your story, share your experience and engage with your customers. You can easily start conversations about what their favorite dish is or what dish they would like to see on your menu.
By becoming more than just a restaurant and more like a place for the community to gather - engaging and welcoming - you will build loyalty amongst your guests and get repeat customers who will love to talk to their friends about the great experiences they had at your place.
It definitely complements our previous point, but you can take it a step further. New and quite affordable solutions, such as the Hostme App, allow you to save information about your guests. For instance, you may have noticed which table they like, which wine they drink and the date of their anniversary. So, the next time they come on that day, when they book a table, those notes will help you make sure they get the table they love and make sure you have their favorite wine in stock.
Guests love these kinds of small marks of attention and appreciation. Again, personalization will help give them an exceptional experience that they would rave to their friends about.
If you use Waze, you have already been exposed to this. When you get a message at a stoplight, giving you a discount at a local shop, this is geotargeting. Waze - based on your location and on the demographic info they have about you - will serve you an ad that has the most meaning at the time the ad is served. If you are driving by a McDonald’s around lunchtime, they will try to convince you to stop there to buy your lunch. This is powerful since they know who you are (Waze is owned by Google, so don’t underestimate how much info they have), they know where you are and what time it is.
Can you imagine if you were able to wave at all potential guests driving in the vicinity of your restaurant around the lunch hour and tell them about the great meal they can get at your establishment? That’s exactly what geotargeting allows you to do and may be well worth the time you spend investigating now.
All the ads and discounts in the world will always be trumped by convenience.
All the ads and discounts in the world will always be trumped by convenience. Guests expect to be able to make reservations online at any time of the day and night. They also expect to be able to order from your place and get the food delivered to their doorstep. Make sure your website offers all those conveniences.
Again, many affordable turnkey solutions exist to allow you to offer online reservations or your menu from your website. And for the delivery, you can subscribe to a service such as UberEats or Grubhub. The additional benefit of those services is that they will list you on their quite popular websites, giving potential guests a new way to find out about your business.
Some of those trends are more than just marketing and cross over the line into customer experience and services. But marketing is more than just ads and promotions. The art of marketing is touching every aspect of your business, because guests will become your best advocates. Consequently, everything needs to be perfect from the time they call to make a reservation, to the time they go home and reflect on their experience.