Restaurant Marketing: Using Social Media at a Local Level

To look at how social impacts restaurant searches, it is first important to examine how people search for restaurants.

What did you use to find that last new restaurant?

The vast majority of our search behaviour for restaurants happens online, no shocker to anyone. On a similar note, it is also not a surprise to find that the majority of restaurant search activity is happening on mobile devices; a trend that has been apparent for the last several years. The restaurant category remains one of the most highly trafficked categories in online search, 30% – 50% of which is coming from mobile devices.

What do we know about the Restaurant Search Behaviour?

  • 75% of smartphone users access restaurant info on the go
  • 70% of the time spent searching for restaurant information is spent on local directory apps
  • Restaurant activity is locally driven with 65% of smart phone users looking for a restaurant within walking or driving distance. Proximity and location are key selection criteria, followed by price and then reviews
  • The time between searching and purchasing at a restaurant is immediate with 47% or purchases happening within one hour and 67% within 3 hours
  • Restaurants is the most ‘checked-in’ category
  • The average number of apps or websites consulted in a restaurant search is 2-3

The question is not whether restaurants need to be online, but where do they need to be and how can restaurants take full advantage of this shift in search behaviour? For restaurants this is a good news, bad news scenario.

The Good News & the Bad News

The Good News
Very few restaurants are leveraging online effectively, making the market a wide-open playing field and a level playing field. Many of the listings platforms have the ability for restaurants to claim and optimize their listings, but very few restaurants are actively taking advantage of this opportunity. A study by venue labs indicated that major brands are missing up to 86% of local customer content by not claiming and listening to the content being posted on review and social sites.

Example: 97.7% of restaurants have a Google+ Local Listing; however, only 29% of restaurants have verified those listings. The major opportunity for restaurants lies in the fact that 77% of Users contribute to Google+ Local Listings; content that the vast majority of restaurants are not taking advantage of. Google+ Local listings are imperative to being able to rank in map results for local search queries.

The Bad News
The online ecosystem for restaurants has become increasingly complicated and fragmented.  Restaurants now have to deal with multiple platforms involved with local search. Each brand needs to manage its individual locations on each of these platforms. The problem is that with up to 10 major platforms, a brand with multiple locations now has a compounding issue where the number of online locations requiring to be managed increases by 10 for each additional location. For brands with tens or hundreds of locations, this task can quickly become overwhelming and daunting.

Socially-Enabled Near-by Search

Nearby search has fundamentally changed the search patterns of restaurant goers. Many of the platforms such as Yelp, Google Maps, Facebook, Foursquare and UrbanSpoon are incorporating geographic proximity into search results.

Socially enabled near-by search has two elements that need to be addressed:

  1. The accuracy of your geocoded information and the optimization of your locations’ profiles for each of the platforms
  2. The consumer-generated reviews and social enablement of the platform to add and share reviews about the location

Restaurants need to not only monitor the accuracy of the information in their profiles, but also ensure that they are continually vigilant of consumer reviews. Nearby search is representing a fundamental shift in the way that consumers are searching for local businesses, but it is especially important for restaurants as proximity is a major purchase criterion.