There’s an online revolution happening in the food services industry.
Restaurant rating websites are surging in popularity; people are posting pictures and reviews in unprecedented numbers; even Uber has gotten into the food delivery business with its app.
The most recent Sensis report estimates that this year, 16% of people will use the internet to “follow or find out about a brand or business”; and 13% will “follow brands to access offers or promotions”.
When you consider that in July 2016* alone, the top 10 social media platforms in Australia had over 57 million users, you get an idea of how huge the opportunity is, for a restaurant or bar's bottom line.
Social drives decision-making in our social lives
Social media allows users to access peer-to-peer advice in order to anticipate how good or bad an experience might be.
It’s a great way for those who are time-poor to make more informed decisions and get recommendations about where they want to eat and drink.
On the other side, social media also gives restaurant owners not only a chance to reach new customers, but also provides insights into who they are, where they’re located and what they offer.
Why you need to be on social
If you own a café, bar or restaurant then being on social media can offer you:
Exposure: Your brand can be seen by more new and existing customers.
Engagement: It’s an effective way of developing and nurturing relationships with customers.
Advocacy: You can create fans who will share your brand with friends and give you a good rap.
Increased positive sentiment: Social offers the opportunity to create a buzz about your business, with people talking and sharing about what you do.
Tips for getting started
Many owners in the food services industry can get overwhelmed by the idea of using social media, especially as they're already busy enough doing what they do best.
But the good news is, it’s not hard or expensive to get going. You just need to know what to put your time into.
Take these three steps to get started.
- Plan - decide why you want to use social media. Is it to attract new fans, engage existing ones, expose your brand or drive bookings? Study your competition to see what they’re doing online.
- Schedule - whatever content you create, do it regularly, so your brand becomes known for consistency. And plan ahead so you can post seasonal or holiday related updates.
- Check review sites - your establishment may already have a profile on sites like TripAdvisor or Zomato. Make sure it contains accurate information.
If you find any negative reviews, Jorke Janssen, the owner of Little Lily’s Wine and Tapas Café in Little Bay, has some great advice:
“Customer reviews, and your responses, will be online forever, so make sure you’re humble and gracious when you respond. Thank them for taking the time to let you know, and tell them you’ll use their feedback to better improve your service", says Jorke.
Find a platform that works for you
There are lots of social media platforms to choose from.
Start with one so you can get the hang of it first.
Not every channel may work for you, so see where you get most return for your effort.
The most popular are below.
Facebook (15 million*)
Here you can share updates on your menu, social events, charity causes, behind-the-scenes snaps of your chefs etc.
It’s also a great place to engage with customer questions, comments and posts.
By genuinely listening to them, you can build a loyal army of brand ambassadors.
Twitter (2.8 million*)
With space for only 140 characters, ‘Tweets’ are quickly and easily digestible by users.
It’s great for sending out time-sensitive information, like menu specials, so send them just before meal times to reel customers in.
Instagram (5 million users*)
A photo-based app favoured by the foodie crowd who like to share pictures of their dishes.
And like Facebook, it allows users to geo-tag their pictures so potential customers can find your business.
On Instagram you can make stars out of your menu items and get people’s mouths watering.
Give good customer service
And one final, but critical tip – respond quickly to your customers posts.
They’re just like diners in your restaurant – they want good customer service and they want it now!
And when they get it, they might just tell their friends about it.
Do you need business insurance for your hospitality business? Find out more here.
* Social Media News July 2016