How Social Media Is Changing the Face of the Food Business

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Unless you’re Amish, social media has, by now, permeated your life in a wealth of ways. Even if you don’t have a social profile to your name, your loved ones will, and the organisations that you deal with day-to-day most certainly will.

Organisations simply must put a firm focus on social media these days, lest they be left behind. And what with its focus on customer experience and the often transient nature of its clientele, one of the sectors most affected by the rise of social media is the food industry. While many of these changes aren’t immediately obvious, for those restaurateurs and cafe managers who seek to get ahead in the digital age it’s imperative that these changes are recognised and acted upon.

So what do these changes look like? Let’s take a peek at three of the most major.

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Bad experiences come back to bite

There was a time when restaurateurs could get away with the odd bad meal. The patron would be a little miffed, some words might be exchanged, and you’d be down a possible return customer. If the customer wanted to broadcast their feelings they could do so to their friends and family, take a full page advert out in a local newspaper, or jump on a street corner and start shouting.

How things have changed. Social media has allowed every diner to become as important a food critic as those who are paid to do so. Sites like Yelp allow people to air their grievances for all the world to see, directly affecting a restaurateurs profit margins. While this system can be cause for serious concern for restaurant owners – “they couldn’t fit my party of 25 when we arrived unannounced: 1 star” – it’s now an unavoidable part of restaurant life.

According to this study, a 1-star increase in a restaurant’s Yelp rating could result in a 5% to 9% increase in the establishment’s revenue. As such, taking customers’ concerns seriously, responding to their queries and focusing on their experience are all non-negotiables in this day and age.

Greater control of your restaurant’s destiny

While the make-or-break world of online review sites may be seen as a negative development by many restaurateurs, the next major change can be seen as nothing but a positive. Thanks to the likes of Google and Facebook you can now get your restaurant in front of the most relevant eyes at an almost ridiculous price.

The fact is that online marketing is far more effective and efficient than traditional advertising methods. Facebook allows you to hyper-target your ads, aiming for an incredibly specific type of person through the use of advanced demographic filters. You then receive highly detailed engagement numbers back to see how your advertisement performed. And you get all this for mere dollars.

Put simply, social media marketing offers you far greater control of your restaurant’s destiny. And those restaurants who choose to use it are quickly separating themselves from those who choose not to.

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A focus on flair and creativity

Ten years ago, a night out at a restaurant would go something like this:

  • Sit down
  • Order your meal
  • Eat your meal
  • Pay your bill

God, that seems old-fashioned! These days it’s a little more like this:

  • Sit down
  • Check your phone
  • Order your meal
  • Take a photo of your meal for Instagram
  • Eat your meal
  • See where your like count is at
  • Pay your bill

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Savvy restaurateurs know that they are in a business seemingly built for social media. People love food, people love taking photos of food, and for some hard to understand the reason people seem to enjoy looking at photos of food that they can’t eat. This has resulted in a focus on creativity in social media-minded kitchens. ‘Plating up’ a meal worthy of Instagram, with a taste to match, is the sign of a top tier restaurant in many people’s minds.

There’s no doubt that the last decade has been one of great change in the business of food. And there’s no sign of the rate of change slowing. To stay ahead of the pack, restaurateurs need to be pragmatic, adventurous, and social.

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