Does Your Restaurant Have Time For Social Media?

A recent report on a study done by an online provider of restaurant menus indicates that many restaurant owners lack the time and money to engage in social media. Yet, many hospitality consultants and restaurant consulting companies say that social media (from Twitter to Facebook to Foursquare, and the many smaller players in between) can be invaluable sources for marketing and building loyal customers.

About a quarter of the 1,300 restaurants surveyed in this study don’t believe they need to use social media as a marketing tool. The reality, however, is that even if these restaurants don’t think they’re “using” social media, they are very much in the mix since their clients are on Yelp, Facebook, Tripadvisor and the like, offering up opinions and having discussions about their product and services. If they’re not engaged, they can often let complaints go unanswered when they have the opportunity to remedy them.

Restaurateurs are so busy running their businesses, they’re not often aware of the glitches in their guest experiences. This is one of the reasons why they turn to mystery shopping providers. Mystery shopping programs, in which experienced secret shoppers evaluate a restaurant’s standards, can often provide insight into both positive attributes that restaurants can market and promote online, as well as negative issues that need remedying before they end up as complaints trickling through the social mediasphere at an alarming rate.

But how can restaurants make the time for, and handle the costs of, social media? There’s no simple answer. According to the survey, 12% of restaurants and catering companies hire someone to manage their social media. That’s one approach.  But even minimal efforts (keeping a Facebook page current with photos and news, for instance) are important when some studies indicate that about half of diners who seek information on their next dining experience do so online.  If most of your customers are on Facebook, shouldn’t you be as well?  Restaurants certainly don’t have to do everything at once – they don’t have to start twittering every day, for instance – and, in fact, some hospitality consulting companies say restaurants shouldn’t get involved with Twitter unless they can do it on a daily basis.

It stands to reason that if your restaurant has a solid social media imprint, you have a leg up on your competitors. These restaurants have bitten the bullet and invested marketing dollars and/or time in the belief that this is where they’ll reach current and new customers, and where they can control the image and reputation of their restaurant.  But those still weighing the costs shouldn’t feel they need to tackle everything at once. By the same token, they shouldn’t hide their heads in the sand, either.

© 2024 Coyle Hospitality Group. Reproduction of any material without written authorization is strictly prohibited.

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