Where do your guests interact with you online? If you have a strong social media following and a consistent presence on select platforms — or even if you have plans to launch social media-based marketing campaigns in the future — you could probably benefit from social media ordering. The recent announcement that Deliverect was acquiring ChatFood, a company specializing in social media ordering, is likely to make the capability far more common. Restaurant Business reports that Deliverect works with about 41,000 restaurants around the world and roughly one-third of them are located in the U.S. The deal will give restaurants that use Deliverect a new stream of orders: People can order food from these restaurants directly from their Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp accounts without having to leave the app and place their order from your website or a separate app. Restaurant food is often an impulse purchase and the social media ordering functionality removes some of the barriers that currently exist between your food and potential guests. Imagine sending someone in your loyalty program a WhatsApp message with a targeted offer. Instead of leaving WhatsApp to visit your app or website to order, all they have to do is reply. They can even use the same app to coordinate the order with their partner.
You read the Yelp reviews about your restaurant. You consider the preferences of your guests when developing your menu. You collect data in an effort to understand what you do well and where you might improve. But do you make an effort to be your own guest in your restaurant – or for your staff to do the same? You may be surprised at what you learn by taking a look at your business from the other side. Consider what you value most about eating restaurant food – either onsite or off-premises. Walk through the customer journey, both online and in person. A recent report from Modern Restaurant Management suggests how to approach this and what to observe. Do you feel welcomed by your brand? If you didn’t have an association with your restaurant, would you want to return? What works really well? Do you think something is missing? Going through this process – and making it something your staff does as well – can reveal strengths and weaknesses in your business that you might otherwise overlook. As for your staff, encouraging their feedback as guests in your restaurant can also help them take ownership of your restaurant – and take responsibility for delivering great service to others. If they notice problems, they may have an easier time seeing how they can be part of the solution.
For a large number of consumers, summer is prime time for eating out. Statista research found that 48 percent of consumers say they dine out more in the summer than in any other season. So before the season wraps up, make the most of the opportunities it can provide to elevate your restaurant online for the public in the months ahead. There’s no promotion better than an authentic testimonial from a guest, so consider where you can accumulate user-generated content – to include photos, video and audio created by guests based on their experiences with your restaurant. Are your guests already posting about your restaurant on social media? Modern Restaurant Management advises restaurants put a mechanism in place to gather what guests post in one place so it can build some momentum around your brand. Develop a contest or other promotion and create a branded hashtag that you ask your guests to use when sharing content about your restaurant. Launch a food photography contest or name-the-new-cocktail contest and give the winner a free appetizer or drink, along with promotion on your social media channels and other marketing outlets. Your loyal guests are your restaurant’s best ambassadors. How can you channel their enthusiasm for your restaurant into promotions that can bring other guests back after the season has ended?
For better or worse, we’re all tethered to our phones. So why not use this to your advantage? According to research from the Local Project, text is the most commonly used form of communication for American adults under 50. The online marketer 99Firms found that the open rate for text messages is 99 percent, as compared to 17-28 percent for emails. Texts get attention, yet according to the communications firm MessageDesk, only 60 percent of marketers use them to interact with guests and build stronger connections with them. Consider the potential uses of text in your business. The Rail suggests using text to share discounts and specials, personalized promotions, loyalty rewards updates, and survey requests. You could also harness text to manage communications about reservations, send guests updates about the availability of their table, or to streamline curb-side pickup. At a time when restaurant operators are concerned about cutting costs where possible, texting is a cost-effective way of reaching guests at scale and targeting them with segmented messages. They are also easy to automate, so you’re setting yourself up to connect with guests on auto pilot. Just make sure you’re not bombarding your recipients with messages and that the ones you send contain information that’s actionable and valuable.
Can your guests place an order with you via social media? It’s a practice that is likely to expand in light of Deliverect’s recent announcement that it would be acquiring ChatFood, a firm that specializes in ordering via social media, as well as tableside order and payment functionality and loyalty solutions. Restaurant Business explained that ChatFood integrates with Meta apps such as Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp and allows customers to order directly from a restaurant’s profile via these platforms. The move was made in an effort to help remove barriers between consumers and the restaurant food they’re craving. It’s a good time to review the process your guests go through to order from you. Where is there an opportunity to reduce the friction?
Text messages have become the digital communication vehicle of choice for many restaurants and it’s easy to see why: According to Gartner research, text open and response rates are as high as 98 percent and 45 percent, respectively – compared to 20 percent and 6 percent for email. The text medium can be a useful vehicle for alerting waiting guests that their table is ready, sending online menus, or making people aware of just-in-time offers or updates about their loyalty program status. But while email has become easier to ignore and more businesses are relying on text to reach consumers in the moment, this text-heavy environment makes it that much easier for the recipient of a text to choose to block the sender. So making your texts targeted, worthwhile and as distinct from spam as possible will help you maintain a high level of access to the people you want to reach. As a recent report from Modern Restaurant Management advises, make sure you’re sending texts to the appropriate audience (if you have locations in multiple cities, you obviously need to separate your distribution lists for those regions, but try to segment even further). Try to make your messages personal and specific, using the person’s name and the name of your restaurant so your message isn’t readily overlooked. If you’re sending a link, such as the link to your menu, you’ll come across more credibly if you include the full, identifiable link and not a shortened version. Finally, include in each text an option allowing recipients to opt out. It may seem counterintuitive to make it easy for people to unsubscribe, but you’re only going to be able to get through to people who are open to hearing from you.
There can be a lot of fear mongering in the news when it comes to new technology and its potential for replacing people in the workplace, or removing the human touch consumers expect from businesses like restaurants . While automation is replacing more repetitive tasks in restaurants, it’s more common for technology to recreate the kinds of work restaurants do — and help them make experiences feel more personal for guests, not less. You can do this in ways beyond mining guest data to send targeted promotions. Case in point: Ford Fry, the founder of Rocket Farm Restaurants, recently told Entrepreneur that he has gone from not knowing what Instagram was to hiring a team dedicated to the restaurant group’s online presence. That has involved tasks like curating Spotify playlists that embody the restaurant brand and are played for visitors to the restaurant’s dining rooms and website. Whether you have a dedicated team managing your online presence or not, how can you use tech tools to boost the connections you make with guests — and the connections they can make with each other?
Social media planning and posting can feel like a one-and-done exercise: Conceive of eye-catching content, post it, hope for the best and move on. But if you’re strategic about your posts – and simply aware of how people respond to your brand – you can generate a response that’s far larger than any individual post. Take Chipotle’s recent experience on TikTok with a menu hack shared by two content creators on the platform. Late last year, the pair’s review of a Chipotle steak quesadilla with fajita veggies touted a do-it-yourself dressing made from the brand’s chipotle-honey vinaigrette and sour cream. So many people tried to order the off-menu item that Chipotle decided to promote it as a limited-time offer on its app and website this spring. When you consider potential contests, invitations to share menu preferences, or other outreach to customers via social media, think a few steps ahead. How might you use guest feedback to not only reward people for their loyalty but also demonstrate your own engagement with the people who enjoy your food most?
In the third-party delivery world, it can be easy for a restaurant brand to get lost – or even just diluted in a sea of other dining possibilities. Uber Eats recently announced that it is weeding out several thousand virtual restaurant listings that are basically replica menus being promoted under different virtual brands, Restaurant Business reports. This is allowing some restaurants to occupy a larger digital footprint than they merit, while crowding out smaller restaurants. While the step is a positive for smaller restaurants with a single brand, it also underlines the power of branded apps for restaurants looking for footing in a crowded market. According to the research site FinancesOnline, the number of people using food delivery apps in the United States is expected to reach 54 million this year, up from 44 million in 2021. Restaurants must have a strong online presence, and yet it’s becoming more difficult (and important) to stand out. As a recent whitepaper from Fast Casual emphasizes, relying on third parties for digital ordering can cost restaurants money and opportunity. Bad service from the third-party provider can be perceived as a negative experience with your restaurant. By farming out the ordering and delivery process to third parties, restaurants also lose valuable customer data they could use to build loyalty with their guests. If you don’t already have your own branded app, consider partnering with a provider that can allow you to connect with customers, build your loyalty program, sell gift cards, connect with them through geolocation and build an overall online and app-based ordering experience that you can control.
Restaurant reviews – both positive and negative – pack a punch. TripAdvisor found that 94 percent of U.S. restaurant diners base their dining decisions off of online reviews. The sweet spot for ratings is four stars and higher: According to Review Trackers, consumers don’t trust businesses or restaurant operators with reviews of less than four stars, and 33 percent of diners won’t eat at restaurants where the ratings on Yelp, TripAdvisor and Google are lower than four stars. A Harvard Business School study found that restaurants can boost their revenue by 5-9 percent for every star added to a Yelp review. Playing reviews to your advantage requires a deft response, particularly to your negative reviews (though potential brand ambassadors may be hiding out in both your positive and negative reviews). A thoughtful, calm, well-written response can turn a bad review on its head and make a reader – if not the reviewer themselves – want to give you a try. In a recent report from Modern Restaurant Management, Izzy Kharasch of the restaurant consulting company Hospitality Works advises operators go back through two years of online reviews for their restaurant and respond to each one personally. Thank the person for bringing a problem to your attention, apologize for not meeting their expectations, and invite them to contact you personally. Ask them back to your restaurant and check on them personally – you may or may not want to offer a free appetizer or round of drinks. Your treatment may motivate them to post a positive updated review and to recommend you to friends.