Social media has superseded traditional media’s importance to more than half of restaurateurs.

According to a survey released in May by GE Capital, Franchise Finance (GEFF), a lender in the U.S. franchise finance market, 56 percent of restaurant operators think social media has a greater influence on store traffic than traditional advertising. Forty-five percent also consider search engine rankings and reviews on sites such as Yelp! and UrbanSpoon more important than traditional promotions.

Results were based on a survey of 104 franchise owners/operators, executives in franchises as well as independent eateries, and other industry participants.

The declining emphasis on traditional media comes as diners rely heavily on mobile to decide where to eat. Operators say they are at the mercy of what diners post on Facebook and Twitter, as well as anonymous advice submitted on websites such as Yelp! Kevin Runnels, digital communications leader for GEFF, says operators should prioritize management of online rankings and search engine results.

Of the 56 percent of respondents who called social media and search engine rankings more important than traditional ads, “I was surprised that number wasn’t bigger,” Runnels says. “When you compare it to traditional advertising, it’s still new, but I think the velocity with which people are adopting it is very encouraging.”

Feature, Marketing & Promotions, Technology