Stay on top of current trends is an imperative part of running a business in any industry – doubly so in the food service industry where tastes change so frequently.
Sure, you can read the reports that come out, but those are usually only completed once per year, but these studies offer a retrospective look at the year. You want to stay in front of the current trends and a good social media strategy can do just that.
Not only do these popular platforms provide a gold mine of information, they can also be pretty powerful at influencing the trends in your favor.
If you are not familiar with hashtags you are definitely missing out. The symbol, which you may recognize as the pound sign (#), has become one of the easiest and fastest ways to sort posts on social media feeds to see what topics are buzzing.
So how do they work?
When someone writes a post, they will put a hashtag at the end of it so that it can be categorized (#pizza, #eatingout, #delicious). This means that when you want to see the conversation that is developing around a particular topic in your industry, you simply have to search for the relevant keywords.
It used to be that hashtags were only used on Twitter, but since they proved so popular, they can now be found on almost every social media site out there (at least the ones you care about). In addition to searching for specific hashtags, most of the social media sites also show a running list of tags that are the most popular at any given moment, proving an easy and accurate way to see what is going on in the now.
Get Involved in Conversations
When your potential and current customers are talking, you better be involved. Not only to maintain their trust and business, but also to help sway their opinions. When there is a conversation going on about where the best restaurant is in town, you can pitch in and recommend yours. When people are discussing trends such as gluten-free, low carb, etc., you can let them know that your restaurant offers plenty of options for them. You can even suggest a new trend that your establishment specializes in.
Ask Customers for Feedback
Another great way to get a handle on current food service trends is to talk to your customers. Sure, you have a loyal social media following, and you post interesting stuff. You may even be getting some engagement, but are you using any of these relationships to your advantage?
Your social media fans like and trust you. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be following you. So if you want to know if you should switch products or do something differently, put up a poll. Not only will you get important insight into how your customers think, but you will also make your customers feel needed and valued. And when you rollout your new product based on their votes, you will have an audience that is eager to purchase.
When Frito-Lay introduced their Do Us a Flavor contest, they took advantage of customer engagement in an ingenious way. Not only did the brand get free ideas, but they also have instant publicity when the new product gets introduced. Is there a way you could host a contest for your business?
Maybe you can do a search for a new menu item or a new product that uses X and Y ingredients. Create hype via your social media accounts, and you never know what doors will be opened.
No matter how you choose to engage on social media, it is not going anywhere, so you may as well benefit from it. If you can successfully execute the aforementioned ideas, you will be well on your way to staying on top of the food service trends, and perhaps even creating some of your own.