Technology can be a double-edged sword. On one side it has allowed restaurants to engage with a vast audience, primarily through social media.
On the flip side it has allowed every company to do this; thus people are exposed to a constant barrage of special offers, food photography, hashtags, etc. This exposure can cause a numbing effect, but worse still it can make your restaurant seem the same as everywhere else.
If you visit OpenTable or ResDiary or any other directory list of restaurants, every restaurant has the same type of profile page, and they all appear in neatly organised lists. That’s because these services are not created for the restaurant. They are created for the customer. They are a massive index of information and only show what ‘they believe’ most people need to know when choosing a restaurant. The main factors they focus on are cuisine type, price bracket and location, but is this all that your restaurant is; a food category and somewhere people will visit if it’s close by?
Social media is a massive opportunity for businesses, but because of its mass appeal, a lot of companies go crazy with mass marketing. They believe that because the platform is so big, they need to appeal to everyone.
Social channels use metrics such as likes, shares and comments to help users filter what is of interest to them. Your profile page is judged based on the number of followers or likes you have. If you’re not fully invested and always active on these platforms, then you will most likely have fewer likes and followers. Does that mean your restaurant is no good? Does it mean the restaurant who is on Facebook non-stop promoting is better than your venue? Of course not. Likes are simply numbers and do not define your restaurant or the type of customers you serve.
You can use social media to your benefit by being specific about the type of audience you want to attract, by having a clear strategy that is not about getting the most likes but getting to the right people who will actually become a customer.
Not everyone is going to like you
If someone who prefers Italian cuisine dines at your burger shop and hates it, then leaves a bad review, does that mean your burgers are terrible? Of course not.
What if you run a fast turnaround restaurant which is ideal for busy workers at lunchtime. A couple on holidays visit expecting a relaxing long 2-hour meal. They might feel there was a limited menu (because your chef has created the menu to turnaround orders in 10 minutes). They might feel rushed out the door because the bill arrived so quickly. If they leave a terrible review is your restaurant somewhere to avoid? Of course not. This couple was not the type of clientele your restaurant is aimed at.
Humans are unique and we have different opinions, tastes and needs. It’s okay if someone doesn’t like your restaurant because it’s not for everybody. Know who your ideal customer is and put all of your focus into creating a restaurant brand, menu, atmosphere that delights those people.
Set your restaurant apart and help people filter
Setting yourself apart by showing people the type of experience they can expect when they dine with you should be an integral strategy in your business. Paint them a picture. Show them if it’s fast and convenient; why that’s of benefit. How many people decide to go to McDonald’s because they wanted ‘something quick’?
Setting your restaurant apart should not mean the most likes or reviews or any other vague metric. People use likes and reviews as a way to filter the abundant choice out there. They use these metrics because that is what is available to them on social platforms.
When recommending a restaurant to a friend do they say “this place has 10,000 likes, you need to go there” or do they say something a bit more helpful like “it was so relaxing and the staff were so helpful” or “it is a great place to bring the kids”? These are the types of things you need to showcase in your imagery and content.
Food matters but restaurants are more than just food; they are an experience and you need to help people anticipate the kind of experience they will have in your venue. A zoomed in photo of a beautiful dish is great but a photo of a happy family sitting at a big table eating the food is much more helpful.
The more people know what to expect the more likely you are to attract the right people who will sing your praises. Since the days of cavemen, our brains were trained to avoid the unexpected. We like what we know — which also means if we know what to expect we are more likely to come back again.
Your strategy should be consistent in the tactics you use to market your restaurant and act as a guiding light to the right people. It will also discourage those people who were never going to like you no matter what you did because you were just not right for them.