Over the years, restaurateurs have come to better understand the value of digital marketing, and 2019 is no different. Now more than ever, restaurateurs see digital marketing as a worthy investment and an important factor in standing out — either learning to leverage it more effectively themselves or hiring people to help.
33% of restaurant professionals named “Attracting and Retaining Customers” a top challenge to success in 2019. This is down from 41% in 2018, but 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.
Check out the below infographic for the top five restaurant digital marketing trends in 2019. After the infographic, make sure to download the 2019 Restaurant Success Report for a deeper look at the trends impacting the restaurant industry.
1. 34% of restaurants dedicate an employee’s time to marketing
Offering great food and guest experiences isn’t always enough to stand out anymore — and restaurateurs understand that. With more than 660,000 restaurants in the U.S., restaurateurs know just how important marketing is to attracting first-time customers and turning them into regulars.
If you take great photos of your restaurant and your food and share them across social media, you can catch the eye of potential new customers. While not free, paying to advertise your business on social media or elsewhere can have proven ROI.
However, things like beautiful food photography and catchy, memorable ads don’t come out of nowhere. 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.
2. 67% of restaurants advertise on social media
While it’s free to use social media sites, 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 — and has seen an increase from last year. In 2018, 63% of restaurants advertised on social media.
Other popular advertising channels for restaurants include community/event/charity sponsorships (53%), Google/search engine ads (42%), and newspaper/magazine ads (32%).
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 has skyrocketed to 78%.
Instagram is a strong channel for restaurateurs to connect with audiences due to its ever-growing popularity and its highly visual nature. 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.
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, we reported that 73% of restaurateurs use Facebook for promotion, and in 2018, that number went down to 68%. However, this year it’s jumped back up to 91%. In fact, many restaurants are using Facebook instead of a website.
While restaurateurs are using Facebook to market their businesses now more than ever, they 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 — there might be more effective ways to draw in new guests.
5. Online reviews influence guest decisions
As noted above, 28% of guests said Facebook affects how they find out about restaurants. The biggest influence on guest decision-making are recommendations from friends and family — 88% of guests said they choose a restaurant based on recommendations. 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.
What are your thoughts on these 2019 digital marketing trends?
Share with us on Twitter and Facebook, and download Toast’s 2019 Restaurant Success Report for more statistics on restaurant technology, restaurant marketing, and staff management.