It’s no longer sufficient to put an ad in the paper or write a standard, printed menu to entice and maintain cafe and restaurant clients. Any hospitality business not investing time, money and energy into their social media will simply not survive.
The reality of life is that everyone from primary school age kids to their grandparents are connected to the digital world 24 hours a day. Bombarded with images and ads, it is up to business and brands to cut through the noise and make it possible to develop a relationship with existing and potential customers.
By knowing what your strengths are as a business – do you make really nutritious meals? Do you deliver locally? Is everything organic? Can you cater to gluten-free and paleo customers? Is there a kid’s menu?
Whatever your strengths are, make sure the images, videos, music and stories you share via social media reflect what you’re really good at. Less ads and copying other brands, and more authentic storytelling is what will connect you with your target audience.
In 2019, diners aren’t choosing a breakfast venue based on an ad in the local newspaper or walking past. People are scrolling through their Instagram to see where their friends are going or searching via location and dietary preferences to narrow down their choices. So, here’s what to take note of if you want to stay relevant for digital age diners.
People rely on Instagram instead of a standard menu
Recently, while out at a cafe with a mix of 12 friends and colleagues, I noticed that half of us picked up the standard printed menu, while the other half went straight to their iPhones. Even those of us who had perused the menu then picked up our iPhones to see what the dishes actually looked like via Instagram. What had other people posted about them? Was it a big serve? Was the spinach fresh or pan-fried?
However much effort you’ve put into your print menu, put triple the time and effort into posting appealing photos of your menu items on Instagram and encourage your customers to take photos and share them. Sure, it means you need to put the effort into presenting food that looks good in photos, but that’s the reality of appealing to an audience obsessed with aesthetics.
PR expert in the hospitality industry, Renae Smith from The Atticism says: “A recent study showed that over 60 percent of diners look for photos of the venue’s menu on social media before dining and people are actually 25 percent more likely to trust ‘peer to peer’ venue review (such as on social media) over that of restaurant critics or even the mainstream media.”
By including location tags in photos, you’re more likely to appeal to clientele who live and work in the area. Share your clients’ photos and respond to them to increase engagement on your own social media channels. Thank people for dining with you, congratulate them on their choices, invite them to return.
Reliance on friends’ recommendations and online ratings
People are time-poor and overwhelmed with choices. Nobody wants to risk spending $20 on a meal that doesn’t taste good, in a venue that isn’t welcoming. There’s plenty of evidence that people rely on online review sites such as TripAdvisor and Zomato to assess dining venues based on user ratings. Zomato has over three million active users per month, with over 12,000 Sydney dining venues listed.
There’s no cheats or shortcuts to getting good reviews other than providing exemplary service and encouraging people to review and share their experience. In the event of receiving a bad review, respond with diplomacy and remember your reputation is on the line, so being rude or trying to delete it is likely to make the situation even worse.
When you get positive feedback, or someone posts a great photo of your food or your venue, share it. This encourages more people to engage with you and spreads the good word you’re getting.
Good design and usability of social media and websites is mandatory to succeed
Filling your website with images and videos that are slow to load only frustrates your customers. Keep your website simple and easy to navigate. Think about what people really want to see – a menu, your address and contact details, photos of your food and your opening hours. Make sure links to your Facebook and Instagram are obvious too.
Take photos of your food in natural light, with attention to the background (no dirty tables or smeared glasses) and make sure the food looks as delicious in the photo as you know it tastes.
“With social media, quality is definitely better than quality,” says Smith. “People often ask us how often they post and I simply say, “When you have good content.” We often post two to three times a week or our clients; if you’ve got a special event, menu release or something exciting, posting high engagement content more frequently is often good to increase activity on your pages.”
By Cat Woods