Considering the incredibly competitive nature of the restaurant industry, maintaining a steady flow of foot traffic can be a tall order, especially since the dining experience begins long before a customer walks through a restaurant’s doors. When choosing where to eat, customers take the time to evaluate multiple factors to find and select the perfect environment and menu—adding more avenues of marketing engagement. The fact is, retaining current customers and attracting new ones is a constant challenge. The problem has never changed, but the solutions to success have.
Today, when deciding where to eat, consumers turn to the web. In addition to social media, consumers often visit restaurant websites before going out to eat. According to AIS Media, 89 percent of consumers say they have researched a restaurant online before dining there, and of those 89 percent, 57 percent indicated that prior to selecting a restaurant they view the restaurant's website. Consumers are looking for comparisons and unique reasons to try or return to a restaurant. It’s not just about satisfying hunger, it’s about whether a restaurant can create a memorable dining experience—and the answer can be found online.
Prior to creating full-blown promotional campaigns, it is vital for owners to take a step back and evaluate why customers choose specific restaurants. People choose to dine out for a variety of reasons: celebrating a milestone, planning a get together, fulfilling a craving…the list goes on and on. Choosing a specific restaurant that everyone can agree upon can be time-consuming, even with help of apps, websites, and printed menus.
As found in a May 2013 Harris Interactive Study, there are several reasons why patrons choose specific restaurants. Restaurant owners need to hone in on these reasons, and capitalize on that information to secure the most revenue.
90 percent look for good prices
86 percent choose based off of their mood
84 percent look for a favorite item on the menu
83 percent decide based off of a convenient location
78 percent value a restaurant with a large menu
59 percent look for special offers or sales
56 percent decide based off of food that meets their dietary needs
The same study also discovered that among 2,496 adults, 90 percent of them have eaten out in the past month. This means that many are still spending their time and money at restaurants. But how are establishments persuading them to dine out?
A new marketing technique that’s gaining popularity is digital menus which engage restaurants-seekers. With the number of consumers relying on the web to make dining decisions, digital menus can draw customers to establishments through appealing visual displays. By implementing 360-degree rotating images as menu items, customers can browse each dish and see exactly what will be served. As members of a visual generation, patrons would prefer to see what they are ordering as opposed to simply reading a description of the dish. With 360-degree images on a website, you can allow restaurant-goers to start craving the dishes on your menu before walking through the door. Consumers are looking for revamped menus in both taste and style, and these digital menus speak directly to a generation with a finely honed appreciation for appealing visuals.
According to Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of the National Restaurant Association's Research & Knowledge Group, "Restaurant operators today are much savvier about attracting repeat customers and maintaining their loyalty. They are utilizing new technologies and tactics to engage, retain, and enlarge a loyal customer base." Mr. Riehle is right—restaurants must promote themselves through digital marketing channels to engage and entice customers into their establishments.
Digital marketing initiatives such as engaging, rotating views can encourage diners to visit restaurants, attract new customers and enhance customer loyalty. And since solutions are available for free or at low cost through vendors such as RotaryView, embracing interactivity online can drive a strong ROI. In a digital and visual age, the restaurant industry would benefit greatly from adopting these practices that directly engage the target audience.
The opinions of contributors are their own. Publication of their writing does not imply endorsement by FSR magazine or Journalistic Inc.