The Food Instagram Takeover

It always surprises me that when I look to see if a restaurant has an Instagram handle, there is either nothing there or a picture hasn’t been submitted in over 24 weeks. I mean, come on! If you’re in the restaurant business, you’re one goal needs to be to hashtag ‘food porn‘ and ‘num num’at least once a day! The self-proclaimed foodies of the world are disappointed in you… #SMH!!!
But seriously, every time I browse through the search tool on Instagram and go to the Explore Posts section, I stumble upon either a ridiculously delicious looking burger and fries, a crisp bloody mary or some sort of double chocolate cookie from Insomnia. It seems like there are more and more food handles being made every week.

However, even if these food accounts are clogging up our news feeds, they are benefiting restaurants from a marketing standpoint. The reason? Instagram is taking over and for restaurants all over the country, it is a great way to market their dishes in a unique way in 2016.

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Almost twelve years ago, Facebook was created in a Harvard University dormatory. When Mark Zuckerberg first plotted out his vision of what Facebook would become, he saw a search engine to track friends, classmates and people you heard about through gossip at the lunch table. But it has become much more than that now. Besides taking over the lives of over 70% of the world’s adults, it inspired two Stanford alumni, Kevin Systrom and Mike Kreiger to create the photo-sharing service, known as Instagram.

Now Instagram, an app that was recently bought out by Zuckerberg in 2012 for $400 million, is used to share photos and videos on a variety of different social media platforms. According to the Pew Research Center this past August, about 28% of the world uses Instagram (http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/08/19/the-demographics-of-social-media-users/). This statistic alone is a call that restaurants should be utilizing and optimizing Instagram to the best of their ability.

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Here are five steps for Instagram marketing:

1) Use trending #hashtags

Basically every single picture that is posted on Instagram has some sort of trending hashtag. #tbt #nonewfriends #pizza #eatz, whatever – you get the point. But it works! The reason people use these hashtags is to bring awareness to their respective handles. For restaurants, it’s a chance to bring awareness to their business and to the specific dish they are displaying on the picture.

2) Use niche #hashtags

Using a niche hashtag could bring an even more specific audience to your restaurant. If a person were to use one of these hashtags, it would be because they are basically showing the geographical location of the restaurant. Doing something simple like putting a hashtag before the city works too.

3) Photo contests

A contest is a great way to bring awareness to the restaurant. At the end of the day, everyone is on Instagram for the likes, right? By issuing out photo contests, it would bring some fun competition between the customers and it would bring some more awareness and a larger audience to the restaurant.

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By incorporating this, the competitors followers would see their picture, the restaurants followers would see the picture and around and around we go! Also, the winner would get a certain gift from the restaurant and the restaurant would receive some more followers. Win/Win for all.

4) Pictures of the Menu

Because Instagram is constantly being used and browsed every hour of the day, the restaurant followers should have the capability of seeing the meals that are on the menus. It would behoove restaurants to use this opportunity to market their best dishes regularly.

5) Action shots of Employees

By taking photos of your staff using the product or the menu items, it would give followers an interesting perspective of what goes on behind the meal. It could be a chef, hostess, waiter, whatever. But these photos will show that your business values its employees and that they enjoy what they do and that customer service is important to your restaurant.

Technology Meets Restaurants – How to Market Your Restaurant With Email Chains

You know that feeling you get when you grab lunch with one of your friends and they take you to a restaurant that blows your mind? Everything you ate – from the Calamari and Mozzerella Sticks, to the Chicken Parmesan hero entree was arguably the best meal you’ve ever eaten! Next thing you know, you just found your new lunch spot. Mazel Tov to you, my friend.

When you go back the following Monday, you quickly find out that the entree dish you ordered the previous week isn’t on the menu. That Chicken Parm hero is only served on Thursdays. You end up getting the Salmon and Brown Rice, which is solid and will get you through the day, but you were dreaming about the Chicken Parm Hero all weekend!

With everyone being attached to their smartphones every hour of every day, the ability to access your email whenever you want is there for you at your convenience. Having accessibility to your text messages and emails gives you the chance to see all of the information you need to know about on a day-to-day basis. In terms of eating at restaurants, this accessibility not only benefits the consumer, but that can benefit the restaurant owner as well!

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Just imagine receiving notifications or emails from the restaurant daily, listing what kind of specials they have each day of the week. This would attract a larger audience and would bring back previous customers who had a specific liking towards a certain dish.

The easiest way for customers to see what kinds of specials and items are on the daily menu is for the restaurant to offer out a listserv. By offering out this listserv to every customer that shows up to the restaurant, it will provide a larger awareness and could attract a specific audience each day.

For example, if the Monday special is a Buffalo Chicken Sandwich with a side of Brussel Sprouts, this gives the Buff Chick and Sprout lovers a quick heads up that if they are craving these items, their restaurant is the place to go! The best part about the listserv is that it wouldn’t cost a dime!

If a customer signs up for the Listserv, all they need to provide is their most frequently used email address and the restaurant would take it from there. Gotta love 21st century technology, am I right?

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The best way to bring back customers is to do whatever you can to make them happy. By getting people to sign up for the listserv, they may need more of an initiative besides getting an email once a day. It may not be a bad idea to throw in a free item by signing up on the listserv.Perhaps a coupon that has buy one appetizer, get one free if they sign up for the email chain would suffice? If the customers are happy, the business will continue to do well.

Now you might be asking yourself how this would work? How would the restaurant know that I’m a fan of a specific type of food? How can they categorize the types of food I like? It’s quite simple actually.

Upon arriving to the restaurant, the customer would be asked to fill out a quick optional survey as they waited for their food to be made. On the survey, certain questions regarding the kinds of foods they most desire when at a restaurant. The types of food would range from meats, cheeses, breads and vegetables. All of this information would be entered into the restaurants database and pending the customers desires, they would be split up into the food groups chain that they desire.

Whenever the restaurant would be serving a dish that includes those types of dishes, the customer would receive the email.

It’s time for restaurants to embrace the change in times and to take advantage of digital technology. By simply incorporating a listserv to their marketing campaign, it will attract returning customers and could even bring in new customers based on word of mouth. Like I said – gotta love 21st century technology!

The Health Halo Effect

The holiday season is a beautiful time. It’s a time for family to get together. It’s a time to express to your loved ones how much they truly mean to you by buying them lavish presents and to all of the self-proclaimed foodies out there, it’s the best time for them! They finally get a free pass to eat and drink whatever the hell they want to.
It’s time for the Kale and Quinoa lovers to put those salads aside and enjoy some Chocolate fudge pie (nice rhyme, right?). If you’re that type of person, much respect to you for being so disciplined about what you eat; but there are some folks out there who just don’t know or don’t care what they consume. They wish they could be discipline, but they don’t fully understand what’s healthy and what’s not.

They may assume that because it sounds healthy, like an apple pie, it’s good for you because there are apples in apple pie. Or maybe even something like a buffalo chicken salad with breaded chicken – even though the chicken is breaded, it’s okay because they’re eating lettuce and other fruits and vegetables on top of the salad, right?

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It’s an effect that many of us deal with daily, but have no knowledge of. It’s called the health halo effect and it’s something many of us suffer from daily.

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According to The Guardian, the health halo effect refers to the act of overestimating the healthfulness of an item based on a single claim, such as being low in calories or low in fat.  Many people often times confuse the difference between low fat and low calories, which results in an over consumption of foods. Just because people are cognizant of what they eat, doesn’t mean they are eating healthy. They could be misinformed and misguided about what they are putting in their bodies.

A research done at the Cornell University Food and Brain Lab showed that the American trend of eating healthy has been growing over the past few years at 6% each year. However, the obesity rates have risen at a rate of 3% each year. Just because people are eating at what may be known as a healthy restaurant, they may not be eating particularly healthy.

With the new year approaching, people will make their standard resolution to eat healthier and become more cognizant about the foods they eat. However they could use some help from those who know exactly what is healthy and what is not. Those people are the owners of the restaurants these people eat at every day.

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Have you noticed that more and more grab-and-go restaurants are listing how many calories and grams of fat are in each dish? It’s an excellent idea and marketing tool for each business. If people want to track how many calories they are intaking per meal, they may continue to eat at that particular restaurant. Everyone is always driven to try and eat healthier and these restaurants are assisting their customers so they can track the number of calories they intake per meal.

The new year can bring new trends for restaurants and that new trend can be listing each dish’s calories and grams of fat per meal. A tedious, yet very simple task for restaurant owners to oblige by in the new year that could potentially bring in more business.

By restaurants incorporating this simple task, it would help eliminate the health halo that surrounds restaurant consumers daily, simply by helping the consumers become more knowledgable about the nutritional information in each meal. However, in order for this to work, I’d suggest a certain type of nutritional seminar for restaurant owners to partake in a couple of times a year, just so they are staying 100% up-to-date with this information.

It’s up to the owners to make sure to put every bit of information on their menus so they are not cheating their customers out of what is most healthy for them. Because if they cheat their consumers on the healthy items on their menu, what is preventing their consumers from cheating on what foods they digest?

A healthy burger means a happy girlfriend

This past May, my girlfriend and I took a weekend getaway to the Windy City. It was my first time in Chicago and I absolutely loved it. After catching a day-game at Wrigley, we needed to find a place to eat dinner.
When it comes to food, I am not picky at all. As long as there’s a burger on the menu, chances are, I will give the ‘thumbs up’. My girlfriend on the other hand is the extreme opposite. She’s not a vegetarian, but is always on the lookout for neat and unique salad options. With over 50% of U.S. consumers trying to eat healthy when visiting restaurants, she’s not alone. Every time I am handed the responsibility of finding a restaurant, I need to make sure there are healthy options available.

Studies show 80% of Americans say they’re willing to pay more for foods with healthy attributes. Filling meals do not make you feel terrible for the rest of the day have a tremendous amount of value. Although I am not picky and will settle on a burger, if a restaurant offers a turkey burger… I am way more likely to order it. While the turkey burger probably has the same amount of calories, psychologically I feel better about myself because there is a belief out there that turkey burgers are healthier for you. A healthy burger means a happy girlfriend and the proud feeling of healthy dining.

Restaurants can turn this psychological feeling of satisfaction from eating healthy into increased revenue. Chain restaurants that increased their reduced-calorie options saw a 5% jump in sales and 11% increase in customer traffic. Restaurants can charge more for these healthy options when they are not necessarily costing them more to make. I’ve seen restaurants charge more for a bun-less burger with a bed of lettuce because they know it is attracting a particular type of market. I find it mind-boggling that this could possibly cost extra, but people are absolutely willing to pay for that psychological satisfaction of treating their body right.

Gluten-free living appeals to about 30% of American adults. Nothing will drive a person with Celiac Disease crazier to ask, “Do you have gluten free options?” and receive the response, “well, our salads are gluten-free.” Restaurants that add gluten-free options have experienced an 8% lift in sales. Restaurants have the ability to charge a premium for these options, including pizzas, pastas, sandwiches, and deserts, because customers are willing to pay more. It is understood that the restaurant is going out of their way to provide a product that is not needed by everyone, but applies to a particular group of people, and therefore, it means more to the consumer.

It’s very simple: diners want healthy options. Restaurants have the ability to use health conscious trends to their advantage for additional revenue.

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Ways to Make Your Local Business Stand Out in 2016

HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Well – almost.

But the New Year is right around the corner and it’s time to start plotting out some resolutions for the upcoming year. Setting aside a New Years resolution is a way to personally better yourself and maybe even those that surround you on a daily basis.

For local business owners, the new year can be seen as a time for a fresh start. It’s a time where they can continue to harp on the things that were successful in the past year and it’s a time to learn from any mistakes they might’ve made in the previous year.

In order for these local business owners to find success, they must take advantage of the resurgent listing sites to advertise their businesses most appealing attributes and products. With New Years approaching, they can continue to find success on many listing sites (Yelp, TripAdvisor and FaceBook to name a few) by following these four steps and protocols in 2016.

1) DO IT FOR THE ‘GRAM!

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Instagram was everything in 2014. It somehow got bigger in 2015. It’s set to take over the social media game in 2016. Instagram has become one of the most powerful marketing tools due to it being so easy to access and it is fun to use. Many businesses have  seen success and a larger audience due to an active Instagram handle.

Over 53% of adults  ages 18-30 used the device in 2015 and that number will only continue to grow in new  year. It is a way to promote and advertise a company’s most appealing attributes with just  one click of the button (and maybe a couple of filters in between). It is vital to stay up-to-date with Instagram because more pictures will bring more viewers.

2) Can We Yelp You?

It should come as no surprise that more and more businesses are showing up on Yelp, but for local businesses to continue to thrive in their respective areas, they need to advertise that they are on arguably the most popular search engine. You’ll see the sign in the front window of the building ‘Find Us on Yelp.’  

See? Told ya.

This is because businesses want to see what their customers think of their product/items. It shows that they care about their customers. Happy customers=happy office. Which leads us to #3….

3) The Customer is Always Right

It comes with the territory of owning a business – there will always be criticism about your product or your items. People are expressing their joy and distaste with companies all over these search engines daily. However, it’s important to take that criticism with a grain of salt and learn from your mistakes.

As Yelp, TripAdvisor and these other listing sites continue to grow in 2016, more customers and critics will write their reviews on these pages. Even if the review could be seen as discriminating or out of line, learn from what they say and make your business better so no one else will write those reviews again.

4) Create Local Buzz About New Items

It’s important to follow the top trends and fads of the new year, whatever they may be to attract new customers. But hypothetically, let’s say no one knows about the new products yet and it hasn’t been published on any search engines.

Have your friends and your most frequently visited customers spread the word to create a buzz around town about the new product. And hey – if word gets around to enough people, maybe throw in a company discount? Remember – happy customers=happy office!

The rise of food blogs

Diners today are using multiple social media outlets when choosing which restaurant they will be trying out next. Sites like Yelp and Zomato are great when searching for new restaurants on the go, but with the “foodie” crowd growing, more sophisticated diners are turning to trendy new food blogs for their next meal.

Word of mouth turned written word

The internet is quickly turning into the digital word of mouth. Diners are turning to reviews to make buying decisions and food blogs have become a way to turn everyday peers into reputable food crisitcs. According to an article in Business Today, “People trust reviews from bloggers the way they trust the opinions of friends and family.” The bloggers are telling a personal story about their experience, from the ambiance of the restaurant to the flavors of the meal. The Infatuation does a great job telling the reader a story while giving in-depth critiques of big-city restaurants, check it out!

Dietary needs create a need for specific information sources

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We have seen a huge increase in gluten-free and health conscious trends in the past few years and with over 2 million blogs about food, diners are now able to find blogs that meet their individual needs. The Gluten Free N-Y-C Girl gives followers a list of NYC restaurants with gluten free menus while Will Travel for Vegan Food gives followers reviews on vegan restaurants all over the globe.

A photo is worth 1,000 words

Instagram has played a huge role in the popularity of food blogs. The “food porn” craze has given bloggers the availability to promote their blog posts and restaurant reviews through visual content. When New Fork City posts a picture of a juicy burger, diners are drawn to the photo and can easily click for more information on the restaurant.

Reaching out to local or dietary-specific food bloggers can be a great way to boost your visibility of your restaurant. You can do some research in your area to find the ones your local customers love.

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