As Covid-19 variants continue to add uncertainty to the in-restaurant dining experience, your online presence – and specifically your efforts to present your restaurant on social media – will be important to keeping your brand front-of-mind for existing and new customers. According to a new study from GlobalWebIndex, nearly half of all internet users discover new brands via social media, whether through ads, recommendations and comments from contacts, or through updates on brands’ social media pages. Your consistency in posting engaging and valuable content will help boost your restaurant’s visibility, so it’s a good time to fine-tune your social media content schedule for the year ahead. Aim to post a range of types of content so you’re providing a full picture of your brand and values – not simply a string of photos or ads. Here are some ideas to consider as you plan content: Go behind the scenes and feature a video of your chef preparing a signature dish or talking about the history of the restaurant. Release a poll to find out which dishes your guests enjoy the most (or would like to see on future menus). Advertise a limited-time offer. Ask for guests’ help in sending you job applicants (and reward them for any hires you make as a result). Profile a favorite supplier or complementary business – they may return the favor and introduce you to new potential customers. Share a positive online review. Promote a discount to entice people to order directly from your app or website. Post a fun fact about your city or neighborhood. Share what you’re doing to protect people’s safety, minimize waste and run a more sustainable business.
How well does your website reflect the experience of dining with you? As you get business back on track after the past year, make sure your website is ready. First, focus on the mechanics: It should be easy to navigate on a mobile device, have an intuitive interface that doesn’t require a lot of scrolling and clicking to find items, and include updated hours and contact information. Then, make the most of your visuals. Place high-impact content toward the top – several eye-catching photos representing your menu items, or even a sweeping video shot of menu items being delivered to a table. Include brief but meaningful food descriptions with updated items and prices. Finally, ensure your site makes connections: Include your social media links, invite people to join your rewards program and optimize your site’s SEO so people can easily find you online.
What tools and networks are helping you carry out your digital marketing strategy? If your plan needs a refresh, focusing on creating engaging video content could help. Throughout the pandemic, many restaurant operators have found TikTok to be a surprising outlet for attracting and maintaining business. As of April, 21 percent of U.S. adults say they use TikTok, along with 50 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds, according to a Pew Research Center study. The Washington Post reports that TikTok has had the advantage of being a place where restaurants and the bloggers who cover them are both seeking opportunities – and can benefit from finding ways to work together. Restaurants that have invited bloggers for a free or discounted meal in exchange for a review – or even those that have shared recipes, kitchen tools or food prep tricks that end up going viral – have managed to attract business. While partnering with food bloggers and sharing tips and tools are nothing new for restaurants, TikTok’s brief video format seems to be the format of choice right now – and other channels are following suit. Recently the head of Instagram spoke on social media about how Instagram would no longer be favoring the square, static images that helped it rise to prominence, but would be boosting engaging video content on its site – and it now provides users with several options for posting videos of varying lengths. As you think about how to present your restaurant online, consider how to present your food, people and background story in a dynamic way. Look beyond the still image and aim to tell short, engaging stories instead.
As people return to restaurants in greater numbers, we’ll continue to need the digital tools we have been using to maintain safety and distance. Since it may take some time to rebuild the sense of hospitality and community restaurants had before the pandemic, it’s more important than ever for operators to use their social media channels to keep communication flowing to and from guests – and to use that to generate more traffic. Create a content calendar that allows you to plan social media posts in advance and on a regular (if not daily) basis. Think about sharing behind-the-scenes videos and blog posts, asking open-ended questions to start online conversations, hosting virtual trivia contests and scheduling a lineup of other promotions that encourage guests to share photos of their food online and talk up their experience with you.