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Jellybean Creative Solutions - Foodservice Marketing and PR Agency

Digital Innovation Forum

Posted on 18th September 2014 in Interesting Stuff
Written by: Jess Sewell

difThe digital world is ever-evolving and the opportunities it holds to enhance your business are huge.

The restaurant owners and brand marketing managers alike, eager to grasp these opportunities could be found at The Soho Hotel this week, for Restaurant magazine’s annual Digital Innovation Forum, in association with OpenTable. A stellar all-day line-up with plenty of networking sessions, we as the leading foodservice agency, made sure we were in the thick of it.

Kicking-off the day with a personal favourite – Twitter – was Eimear Lambe, Brand Strategy at Twitter UK. With over 15 million users, 80% of whom access the platform via mobile, it is clear that Twitter is a leader in the digital field. Eimear shared some encouraging stats for restaurant businesses including, one in three users follow restaurant accounts whilst 52% use Twitter to source more information on restaurants. There are seven restaurant experience related tweets for every one TripAdvisor restaurant review and most interestingly, 78% of negative restaurant reviews are tweeted whilst the diner is still in the restaurant – a great opportunity to speak with the disgruntled customer and resolve any issues before they’re left with a long-lasting bad taste in their mouth.

Following some sure-fire stats-for-thought, Eimear presented her top ten tips for getting the most out of the social media giant – insight and inspiration, it’s safe to say, formed the bedrock for these.

1. Your profile is your promise – have a high quality Twitter page using the highest resolutions for images and banners and make use of the bio for writing call to actions and sharing your ‘need-to-knows’ with your audience.

2. Understand your audience – use Twitter to search for how people are talking about your outlet and give them what they want, whether it be pictures or video content (which generates seriously high engagement levels, consider using Vine), providing useful information links, exclusive first looks at new menu items, or even discounts for your restaurant.

3. Treat Twitter like a giant dinner party – involve your followers, don’t just broadcast. Be sure to share relevant information and links with them, acknowledge when you’re being spoken to and about, know when to retweet and favourite and even reply.  Finally be mindful to always update content.

4. Share your story – “people don’t buy what you do, they buy into why you do it” Simon Sinek.

5. Show, don’t tell – video content = high engagement, consider tweeting images on a regular basis too.

6. Use hashtags to group conversations and/or piggy-back on to trends.

7. Turn followers into regulars – reward them for following you and where appropriate, acknowledge outlet visits and invite them back on Twitter.

8. Your handle is your identity – grow followers with call to actions on restaurant material i.e. ‘Follow us @JellybeanAgency’ on menus/menu boards and physically tell people you’re on Twitter.

9. Save time – use tools such as tweet deck to plan ahead.

10. Develop a strategy that works for you – use your team to your advantage – perhaps the younger members are more confident on social media? Give your host/ess access to Twitter to monitor when bloggers come in to your restaurant so you can give them that special experience.

OpenTable’s Adrian Valeriano was next up to share some key statistics to encourage the use of their online booking service. For instance, in the UK to date, 4,200 restaurants use OpenTable with 43 billion diners having been seated in these outlets. Much like Twitter, 34% of bookings have been made via mobile, a growing stat that reinforces the fact that digital and mobile in particular is the future.

Controversially, Lewis Allen, Director of Environments at Portland Design threw this concept on its head with the statement that many will concur with – ‘Digital only delivers so much’. Lewis is indeed right in the sense that people want authenticity; they’re after the whole dining experience that remains true to the brand and this can be hard to carry on into the digital world. Technology cannot replace the human-touch. Lewis’ answer to this we learned: Aim to create an online community that is a duplication of the on-site experience. Be friendly, be polite, be proud of your services and don’t let customer service standards slip – online or offline. Sound advice!

Next up, the forum treated its delegates to a restaurateur panel discussion – a chance to reveal their best practices for promoting business using social media.

Panellists included Pizza Pilgrims Co-Founders Thom and James Elliot, Pho’s Head of Marketing, Libby Andrews, Sweet Potato Sales and Marketing Manager, Lizzy Barber and Sam Lynas, Director at Sauce Communications.

Kicking-off the discussion, the Pizza duo recommended keeping online communications light and informal in order to show your audience your brand personality – ‘people also like jeopardy’ shares Sam, so don’t shy away from anecdotes and more trivial updates.

Pho’s Libby Andrews agrees by saying ‘social is the quickest way to find out what your customers want’. And she’s not wrong – social provides your brand/individual outlet with immediate and constant feedback. You’re never more than a few tweets away from hearing what customers really think. Thom and James Elliot couldn’t agree more, saying it’s a fine way to enable you to tailor future service accordingly. If you’re wondering ‘how so?’, well think of this: A customer receives a pizza and tweets there’s not enough cheese – this feedback would get monitored and if it’s a common irritation for customers the company would reassess their cheese to base ratio.

Sauce Communications’ director, Sam, highlights the importance of such customer service and states you should offer the same level of customer service online as you do on-site.

“Consumers have never been so close to brands, whether it is through Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or even YouTube” says Sweet Potato’s Lizzy Barber. Having a presence on social media can break down barriers between customers, staff and the ‘big guys at the top’ – get your directors and CEOs on Twitter she suggests.

From the discussion, a light, open, conversational approach to social media has been the favoured method, but what happens when you’re so used to having a firm brand strategy in place?

Pho’s Libby affirms the importance of having a social media strategy to keep you in-line and on-brand but she also and more importantly stresses the need to go with the flow and react in real-time to comments and retweets, relevant breaking news stories and current trends – all the things you cannot plan for. When your posts are too rigid and obviously planned, people see through this and will get bored of your content and thereby, bored of you!

Now for those restaurants who haven’t bored their customers to tears, or perhaps who have…the digital world brings us ‘TripAdvisor’. Joining the day was Pollyanna Vincent, Senior Partnerships Manager for UK and Nordics TripAdvisor for Business.

To start with, did you know: the site has on average, 280 million unique users a month with a solid 60 million members in total? It receives over 100 contributions per minute and 43% of such traffic is generated in Europe. So firstly the common misconception that it’s a US dominated platform is eliminated. Secondly, if you are scared the site will give your outlet a bad name, there’s no solid reason for this (unless your offering and service rightly deserves such a rollicking). 65% of UK restaurants are rated at least 3.5 out of 5. Sounds more appealing now, I imagine you agree.

Finally, Pollyanna shared findings that highlighted when users look for somewhere to go on TripAdvisor, they each read on average 11 reviews – it is therefore vital you encourage satisfied customers to leave you a review on the site. And to note, travellers are 12% more engaged when managers respond to these reviews – so get typing!

…And by typing, that’s on all social and digital platforms! In today’s day and age where the majority of your audience will be online, be sure to keep communications in the public domain. You’ll be sure to reap the rewards.

Now, if you think that the only things social can offer is a great conversation and a window into your brand personality, you are sorely mistaken. Sam Trainor-Buckingham, Marketing and Creative Director at Ignite Hospitality Marketing, tells of how worldwide social media advertising spend is set to double by 2017 from its current value of $6.1billion to $11billion. This, Sam shares, is largely due to the number of social sites which offer such advertising, including, Facebook, Twitter (where you pay per new followers), Instagram, Snapchat, Google+ and even Pinterest (where you pay per website clicks only), to name but a few.

So whether it is communication with your diners that you’re after, a means of drumming up more business through advertising in the digital realm, or any other opportunity discussed at the forum for that matter, you’ll be a fool to miss out. Get your restaurant in the social-phere now!

A huge thanks to Restaurant Magazine, its headline partner OpenTable and all other sponsors for a great event showcasing the digital opportunities for restaurateurs. Here’s to next year’s!

Jellybean Creative is a leading foodservice marketing agency. We help top brands with foodservice pr, foodservice marketing, digital and design. If you feel we could help you with your marcomms, strategy, public relations, creative or digital then drop us a line today.