The Top 5 Restaurant Digital Marketing Trends in 2020 [Infographic]

By: Tyler Cumella

5 Minute Read

Feb 19, 2020

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Over the years, restaurateurs have come to better understand the value of digital marketing and regard it both as a worthy investment and an important factor in making a restaurant stand out.

According to our 2019 Restaurant Success Report, 33% of restaurant professionals named “Attracting and Retaining Customers” a top challenge to success in 2019. In today’s crowded restaurant landscape, it’s more important than ever for restaurateurs to know how and where to reach new and existing customers online.

When it comes to restaurant marketing, everyone has an opinion about what’s next or what’s important. To help you cut through the noise and focus on what will really move your restaurant’s bottom line forward, we’ve created a helpful infographic outlining the top five restaurant digital marketing trends that should be on your radar in 2020. Incorporate these trends as marketing activities, campaigns, or initiatives on your 2020 restaurant marketing plan to pack your dining room with customers. Don’t have a marketing plan yet? Click here to download your customizable copy of Toast’s 2020 restaurant marketing plan and calendar. 

Free Resource: The Only Restaurant Marketing Plan You’ll Ever Need

restaurant digital marketing trends 2019

Toast’s 2019 Restaurant Success Report revealed restaurateurs’ biggest pain points and frustrations, along with how they are managing these challenges. Here’s a breakdown of how to approach these trends in your restaurant.

1. 34% of restaurants dedicate an employee’s time to marketing

Nowadays, standing out requires more than great food and guest experiences — and restaurateurs understand that. With more than 1 million restaurant locations in the U.S., restaurateurs know just how important marketing is to attracting first-time customers and turning them into regulars.

However, adding marketing to a plate already heaped high with daily, necessary responsibilities is overwhelming for many busy restaurateurs. So who exactly is taking care of marketing for restaurants?

12% of restaurant professionals surveyed said they don’t bother with marketing at all, but a surprisingly high percentage were at the other end of the spectrum: 34% said they have a dedicated employee whose full-time job it is to market the restaurant. This includes marketing campaigns and efforts such as putting out advertisements, deciding on promotions, and managing social media accounts.

The growing number of restaurateurs who are not only marketing their restaurant online but also dedicating employee resources to handle marketing full-time speaks volumes. 

Free Resource: The Ultimate Guide to Restaurant Marketing

2. 67% of restaurants advertise on social media 

While it’s free to use social media sites and post content to your business’ feed or page, many restaurateurs choose to pay to advertise their businesses on social media.

Social media advertising continues to be the most popular form of advertising for restaurants — 67% of restaurants surveyed do paid advertising on social media — due to its ease of use, cost-effectiveness, and ability to be done from a smartphone. There’s also a very large customer base — 79% of Americans have a social media profile.

Other popular advertising channels for restaurants include community/event/charity sponsorships (53%), Google/search engine ads (42%), and newspaper/magazine ads (32%).

Read More: Create a Restaurant Marketing Plan for Any Size or Budget

3. Instagram has surged in popularity 

Instagram is showing a huge growth trajectory in popularity with restaurateurs. In 2017, only 18% of restaurateurs used Instagram to promote their businesses, and in 2018, it grew to 24%. In 2019, that number skyrocketed to 78%.

Instagram is a strong channel for restaurateurs to connect with audiences due to its highly visual nature and the olfactory nature of the dining experience. One billion people use Instagram every month, and of Instagram’s one billion monthly active users, more than 500 million use the platform every day.

The potential reach — along with the possibility to showcase your restaurant brand and menu items in such a visual way — is hard to deny.

Read More: Marketing to Millennials Made Simple

4. Facebook is still the #1 social media platform

Despite Instagram’s surging popularity, Facebook remains the number one social media platform for restaurants.

Restaurateurs have had a love-hate relationship with Facebook over the past few years. The platform’s algorithm has undergone many changes that have affected how consumers see posts from business pages, which may have contributed to restaurateurs’ negative feelings.

In 2017, 73% of restaurateurs use Facebook for promotion, and in 2018, that number went down to 68%. In 2019, it jumped back up to 91%. In fact, many restaurants are using Facebook instead of a website.

While Facebook is at its most popular among restaurateurs, you may be overestimating the impact that Facebook has on diner decision-making. Only 28% of guests said that Facebook impacts their decision of where to eat, but 38% of restaurateurs thought it had more influence. This finding might inform how much energy or money restaurants spend on Facebook promotion, because there might be more effective ways to draw in new guests.

Read More: 15 Tips for How to Use Facebook Ads for Restaurants

5. Online reviews influence guest decisions

As noted above, 28% of guests said Facebook plays a role in their decision to choose one restaurant over another. The biggest source of influence on the restaurant guest decision-making process are friends and family — 88% of guests said they choose a restaurant based on recommendations from those close to them. However, the second largest influence on guest decisions are online reviews, with 35% of guests saying that online reviews affect where they choose to eat out.

Online reviews can make or break a restaurant — a Harvard Business School study showed that a one-star increase on Yelp can increase revenue by 5-9% — so it’s important to manage your online review profiles and respond to guest reviews and feedback, whether it’s positive or negative.

Digital Marketing for Restaurants

Using digital marketing to advertise your restaurant to the masses increases brand recognition, and ultimately, more customers. Using our 2020 Marketing Plan to create a budget, timeline, and strategy, you’ll be able to incorporate the above trends into your marketing activities this year and, in turn, see your restaurant thrive.

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