The Importance of Customer Engagement for Restaurants and the Best Ways to Gain It and Maintain It
In this modern day world of digital media, instantaneous communications and an increasing number of tech savvy people visiting your restaurant; two of the most important things a successful restaurateur must accomplish is to first, understand their customer base and second, how they should best retain that loyalty, as well as that continued support through an ever changing world of more modern and at times trendy new technology. Today, many respected restaurateurs, chefs and hospitality professionals maximize their online presence by various methods with one of the most important being user-generated content or UGC.
What is UGC and how will it work more me?
User-generated content is most often utilized in online social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or Snapchat to promote businesses that range from multi-billion dollar corporations such as Coke® to the independent restaurateur. In recent years, some of the most successful entrepreneurs and small business owners have used UGC to boost their sales and you should too. Have you ever walked through your restaurant and seen a guest taking photos of the meal you prepared for them? Have you ever read a Yelp review of your restaurant or business and responded to the comment? Have you ever encouraged your guests to comment on your social media sites and link their sites to yours? Have you ever shared customer, client, or guest pictures, videos, blogs or tweets on your website?
If you answered yes to any of those questions, then you are well on your way to understanding how best to integrate user-generated content into your internet exposure. In this world of ever-changing methods of communications it has become commonplace for the successful restaurateur to incorporate user-generated content into advertising campaigns and promotional events, be it weekly or even daily and in doing so, they increase their sales and exposure.
Today, it is crucial for business owners, whether they are a restaurateur or retailer, to establish an online presence using social media such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Then they must maximize that exposure to their advantage. Consider this, thirty five-years ago, restaurateurs in rural America as well as metropolitan areas used print media such as daily newspapers or weekly advertisers. They promoted their “daily specials” by preparing a print advertisement for a day, week or even a month in advance. Would that work for you now? No. Potential customers or guests are now looking for instant answers and gratification. We live in an era where people can impact your business on a minute-to-minute basis and a successful restaurateur should adjust their sales and marketing strategy to reflect upon those changes.
What are the advantages of user-generated content?
One of the biggest advantages of UGC is that it is cost efficient for the restaurateur. In an ideal setting, numerous people that enjoy your establishment will share their experiences with their friends and followers on their own social media accounts. Some may do it in the form of picture files focusing on the presentation of your products, and others may share their dining experience on review websites such as Yelp or Trip Advisor. Guests that share photos of their meals, your menu or your establishment are likely to return and to further promote your business. The cost to you for this type of marketing is virtually nothing and the successful business owner should welcome user-generated content just as they would do for positive word of mouth advertising.
The winning restaurateur also knows that marketing content written by their own customers is more trustworthy in the eyes of today’s tech savvy consumers. In the modern world we live in now, almost every product or business has an online presence, be it their own website or those of others and customers regularly turn to them for reviews and other information on their business or products. Most consumers realize that marketing done by a business such as a restaurant is biased because it was created to specifically market to them and it is not as believable as information posted online by actually users and customers of their business or products.
What can I do to maximize the benefits of user-generated content?
There are several ways for a successful restaurateur to embrace user-generated content and incorporate that content to increase their sales. Some of these may include:
• Using customer’s photos. Social media sites such as Instagram, Twitter and Facebook are a valuable source for UGC. Search these sites for content related to your restaurant and use that on your own social media pages. However, one Instagram study has shown that most users don’t use tags on their photos so you may have to use some more creative methods than just a search of their site using your restaurants name. Consider using your location or maybe a popular dish you serve when doing your search.
• Promoting your Yelp page. If you had a customer pull you aside and personally make a complaint to you about the service or your food, would you ignore them? No, as a successful restaurateur you would work with the customer to resolve the issue and that is the way you should approach Yelp reviews. Whether they are positive or negative reviews, you should take some time out to respond to your customers and resolve any issues they may have with your establishment. Maybe something as simple as a discount on their next meal or a round of drinks may be all you need to win over their trust and confidence again.
• Using unique contests. Does your restaurant go all out for holidays like Halloween or Christmas? Consider incorporating these festivities into playful contests like best costume or an “ugly Christmas sweater night” night and encourage your customers to take pictures and post them on your social media sites and theirs too. You may also consider creating polls that encourage your followers to vote for their favorites. People like to encourage others to vote for them and they will share your page with their friends and followers which will increase your traffic on your pages and hopefully into your business.
• Knowing your users. A good restaurateur should know their client base and current trends. Consider this, twenty years ago the only thing kale was used for in the restaurant industry was line the ice on salad bars to make them look more appealing to the customer. Today, it’s nearly impossible to find a restaurant that doesn’t serve some sort of kale infused salad on their menu. Knowing your demographic is a vital key to success.
While all of these techniques may improve your sales, keep in mind that for a restaurant to be a success, it really boils down to good service and good products. You may have the best burger in the city, but if it takes three hours to come out of the kitchen or isn’t visually appealing to your guests then you may need to get back to the basics of being a successful restaurateur because no amount of high tech savviness can replace good food and service.