The food service industry is constantly evolving as restaurants adjust to changing demographics, regional population shifts and a seemingly insatiable demand for “new.” Today, we’ll look at some new trends in food service that will impact how restaurants “go-to-market” in the coming years.
1. Mobile Marketing
With more than 60% of the population owning smart phones, mobile marketing will have a profound impact on the restaurant industry. Text messaging-based marketing platform EZ Texting outlines several ways restaurants can leverage the power of mobile platforms:
- Coupons: Research indicates that mobile coupons are realizing a 1,000% higher buy rate than print coupons. And, of course, the cost to distribute mobile coupons is a fraction of that for paper distribution. Strategies vary, but if you’re planning a mobile coupon program, always remember that the word FREE is still a game-changer. Instead of discounts, offer a free dessert with an entrée or a buy-one-get-one-free offer.
- Timed delivery: More than 70% of dinner decisions are made between 4-6PM. Restaurants can increase their response rates by timing message delivery for this key “decision point” time period.
- Loyalty programs: Loyalty programs have evolved behind the power of digital platforms. Now, instead of a paper punch card, restaurants can create apps that will track customer usage and preferences— and change up offers on the fly that can be sent via text messages.
- Customer communication: The promise of mobile marketing is the ability to create a dialogue with your best customers. Instead of “pushing” marketing messages, mobile platforms allow you to reach out to your customers to ask their opinions about everything from drink menus to hours of operation.
Do consumers care if a company is responsible? Yes. Research indicates that 54% of global consumers say they would buy products from brands that act responsibly, even if it means spending more.
In the food service industry, sustainability is about restaurants “managing the social and environmental impact of their organizations.” The Sustainable Restaurant Association suggests three areas to concentration your sustainability efforts:
- Society: Restaurants need to be actively engaged with their communities and treat people (customers and employees) fairly. Perhaps, most importantly, they must promote healthy eating through responsible marketing.
- Environment: Consumers are focused on how well restaurants perform in terms of:
- Saving water
- Managing workplace resources
- Handling waste management
- Practicing energy efficiency
- Sourcing: This might be the area that receives the most attention from consumers. When it comes to sourcing, restaurants must be sensitive to:
- Environmentally-positive farming
- Local sourcing
- Sustainable fish
- Ethical meat and dairy production
- Fair trade
3. Social Media
According to a Pew Research study, 74% of Internet users are involved in some fort of social networking. The vast majority (71%) is on Facebook, with Twitter (19%) and Instagram (17%) following suit.
Social media gives restaurants unprecedented ability to engage consumers and create a truly unique competitive advantage for themselves. But “working” social media is about much more than building a Facebook page or opening a Twitter feed.
When the social revolution first began for the food service industry, Mashable interviewed some of the country’s top social media experts about how restaurants can maximize the potential of their social media networks:
- Be transparent: If something is wrong with the food or service, restaurants can use social media to address a customer’s concerns and, more important, fix the problem in real time.
- Be responsive: Restaurants must stay on top of customer comments on social networks and be quick to respond. Research shows that even the most irate customers will return to a restaurant if they feel that their complaint was heard and acknowledged.
- Be enticing: Social media gives restaurants a platform to “romance” customers with their food and to bring their establishment to life. An important point here: if you’re going to use social media to display and “sell” your food, be sure to spend a few dollars more for professional food photography. As the saying goes: you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.
- Be interesting: People love stories. Use your social media platform to draw consumers into the story of your restaurant. Tell anecdotes. Share customer comments. Have fun with your social media efforts because people want to be around other people who are fun.