Every second, 12 newly active mobile accounts spring up on social media, steadily adding to the 2.3 billion social media users currently active worldwide. Social media is a bona fide global phenomenon, and it’s changing the way we experience everything from day-to-day communication to eating out. Restaurants have become hotbeds of smartphone activity as consumers happily snap pictures of their plates and populate with pithy reviews, forcing restaurant owners to sit up and take notice. Here’s a look at how the social media movement is influencing the restaurant industry — and vice versa.
One Star Away From Profit
Most restaurant owners have a love/hate relationship with sites like Yelp or Tripadvisor. It can be infuriating to deal with amateur food critics who pick apart a business without regard for circumstances beyond its control (no last-minute seating for a party of 30 is not grounds for a one-star review) or respect for the people who work there. On the other hand, Yelp isn’t going away, and according to some sources, the site may hold more power than initially realized: One study found that a restaurant whose average Yelp rating increased by one star could expect a corresponding 5- to 9-percent boost in revenue. Whether restaurant owners like social review sites or not, their influence is undeniable, and businesses have to play the game.
Restaurant Marketing in the Age of Social Media
Social media started as a platform purely for peer-to-peer communication, but a lot has happened since then. Businesses of all sizes and from a wide variety of industries are all clamoring to attract the attention of social users by putting up profiles, establishing fan pages, and boosting promotional posts as often as their budgets will allow. Social media offers restaurant owners a chance to re-imagine their marketing campaigns, thanks to digital tools that make the following possible:
- Increased control. Forget funneling promotional ideas through a separate department or outside agency. Social media marketing can be controlled through a computer in the restaurant’s back office or even via smartphone.
- Responsive campaigns. Analytics looking a little off? Weather forcing a change of plans for the restaurant’s upcoming barbecue cookout? Everything from Facebook ads to pinned Twitter posts can be edited, switched out or deleted altogether in mere seconds, ensuring you always have a way to get the correct information out to your customers, and at lightning speed, too.
- Ongoing interaction. Given the influence wielded by customers (see the Yelp statistic above), it stands to reason that using social media to build a rapport with clients would be a valuable tool. Reading and responding to comments, acknowledging criticism and being openly grateful for praise shows that restaurants are not only listening to customers but also giving their opinions weight.
Interior Design for the Sake of Instagram
We tend to think of Instagram as a place to see beautiful things that already exist, but some restaurant design firms are taking Instagram into account long before they even break ground on construction. Designers are getting inspiration from the colors of raw ingredients, how chefs are plating dishes, and from the lines of the dishes themselves. Oblong tables might be erected as an ode to a shot of farm-fresh eggs while the weathered wood acting as a breakfast bar in a coffee shop may evoke a picture of a dilapidated barn captured in an Instagram snap.
There’s also the desire to build a restaurant that, once finished, will itself become Instagram-worthy. The more customers choose to share their filtered photos of a restaurant’s ivy-covered patio or artfully strung Edison lights, the more that restaurant’s reach extends into the nebulous outer galaxies of social media. It’s free publicity, and more and more restaurateurs are deciding that the potential “likes,” comments and reposts that could come from a customer’s post are reason enough to design a physical space, logo and menu that will stand out on social media.
Social media is an untethered beast with a tendency to act out. It’s nearly impossible to predict with complete accuracy how a business will be perceived by the electronic masses, but restaurant owners can help shape the narrative by embracing social media marketing, reputation management and the power of Instagram. The rest, as they say, is just details.
Fabio Tantaro is Director of Marketing at Specifi, a global foodservice specification platform. Since joining the team in 2011, Tantaro has utilized his graphic and design skills to deliver creative solutions for the company’s branding, messaging and event strategy.
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