Table manners – Eating on the internet – Dinner tonight.
So, I’m sitting in a restaurant with my girlfriend. The wine has been poured and our order has been taken. We devour the bread before the waitress who brought it over has even walked away. We discuss our meal choices, unsure if we’ve made the right decisions. Eyes scan the restaurant in anticipation, hoping those two plates will be ours. The waitress finally arrives at our table with our food and lays the plates in front of us. It looks and smells delicious. So we whip out our phones and take a picture of our food right?
We pick up our knives and folks and enjoy our meal together! I do not enjoy looking at pictures of other people’s lovely food, I enjoy tasting lovely food. However two of the most popular and enjoyed things in today’s society are food and social media. While a picture of your Duck confit might wind me up it can be the perfect marketing tool for the restaurant it’s taken in. In my last blog I looked at pubs and social media so exploring how restaurants are using it to gain exposure was always going to be on the menu.
What’s On The Menu?
When looking for somewhere to eat you might ask a friend but many will opt for their more knowledgeable and trusted ally – the internet. Tripadvisor, Yelp, food blogs and social media all provide an enormous amount of information for hungry customers seeking a bit of grub. It’s these sites where restaurateurs want and need their brands to be placed. A good presence online can dramatically alter the success of the establishments no matter how big or small. I recently moved house and although I knew the area fairly well there were a few food places I hadn’t tried out. When discussing the options with a friend he advised against the Cuban place on the corner because his mum said the food there was horrible. So Cuban was off the menu. No matter how you hear about these negatives a bad experience can be shared through social media much quicker than it can circulate around a community by word of mouth.
Most global brands and restaurants have the resources to run and deliver successful social media campaigns. Whilst there are a lot of local restaurants who are delivering the goods through social media there are several out there that aren’t. Having a Facebook page with a few likes or a Twitter account with the odd tweet here and there is worthless. It’s like having a cross trainer in the garage that you use once a month, having one is a step in the right direction but you will never reap the true benefits if you don’t use it properly. Small businesses may have an online presence but lack of planning and inactivity means nothing is happening that will positively impact their business.
Posting the occasional promotion online is like sticking a leaflet through someone’s letter box. These small businesses need to engage with their customers and grab their attention more proactively. Blogs, photos, videos, real life and funny stories are all ways to grab people’s attention and get them talking. Posts should be visual, engaging, brief and relevant. The reality for most small businesses is that they don’t have the spare time or the big budgets to spend on expensive media companies. Every small business wants the same thing, more customers through the door and more money in the till. However, whilst the main aim is clear each restaurant will have areas where they need to improve. Take away orders might be high but the number of customers eating in could be low. What do these restaurants want to achieve? More foot traffic? Raise brand awareness in the local community? Attract locals or tourists? More orders online? Or simply improve their ratings?
The Customer Is Always Right!
Setting realistic goals and objectives will give these small businesses a clearer plan and focus. Investing in current customers is a very simple strategy and one that small businesses should adopt. Current customers can become the voice of a company and combined they have a much wider audience than what a small business could afford. Free promotion is great if it remains positive. A local restaurant wouldn’t be able to buy all the advertising it would cost to reach the same audience as their customers.
Nandos are offering customers the chance of winning a years’ worth of Nandos with their #WingRoulette and finger selfie competition. Customers are challenged to grab their mates and order the wing roulette. Each player gives them self a finger character. The different spiced wings are numbered and positioned and a spin of the wheel decides the first player to brave the chosen wing. Customers are encouraged to capture the moment and share it online. This is a perfect example of how to invest in your current customers and make sure they are overly satisfied. It’s fun, engaging and relevant and whilst Nandos is already an established brand it gets current customers talking and encourages them to involve friends who might not have been before.
Small changes can make a big difference in the long run for small companies trying to improve their online presence. Twitter hashtags, encouraging customers to check in on Facebook or even an Instgram wall in the restaurant toilet. Restaurants can even use social media to announce cancelled bookings and promote table availability. Eateries need to stay on top of their online presence like a waiter trying to win employee of the month. Monitoring online conversations and engaging with customers accordingly is important. Negative reviews or unsatisfied customers could lead to loss of revenue.
When you go out for a meal with friends and family good company is guaranteed. Now, thanks to the internet and social media great food and customer service should always be on the menu and exactly what you ordered. Eating out is as sociable as it can get. So eateries need to get there social media presence right, even if the customer is wrong.