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    Foodservice Marketing Goes Social

    Networking, Smartphones changing consumer interaction

    Social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, and smartphone apps are changing the ways consumers interact with restaurants and fellow restaurant-goers, creating opportunities for foodservice operators and marketers, according to the survey “Social Media and Technology in the U.S. Foodservice Industry: Trends and Opportunities for an Emerging Market” from Packaged Facts.

    Restaurants and other foodservice sites, including supermarkets, that create a presence on social media can generate brand awareness, promote upcoming events and limited time offers, engage with the customer base, and build brand loyalty.

    “We believe the restaurant industry is in the midst of being shaped by the convergence of the mobile, yet always connected, consumer; location-based and context-aware technological innovation, and mobile payments, which already demonstrate the potential to redefine how to cultivate restaurant guest loyalty, incentivize dining occasions, and better tailor marketing messages,” says Don Montouri, publisher of Packaged Facts.

    For example, 31 percent of adults who consider going out to restaurants as part of their lifestyle,” use their computer to place orders, while 21 percent use their cell phone or other portable device to do so.

    As Starbucks and Chipotle Mexican Grill have discovered, Facebook interaction offers tremendous potential for restaurant brands seeking consumer mindshare. Packaged Facts expects such efforts to explode in 2011, as the industry increasingly uses social media to guide patrons to a particular restaurant while they are mobile and deciding where to eat.

    Twitter offers a significant opportunity to reach a younger, more urban, multi-cultural audience, because Twitter usage is particularly popular with Hispanic, African American, and Asian populations. Meanwhile, handheld devices and technology are allowing point-of-sale and in-restaurant tools to evolve and expand. Introducing such technologies may also reduce the instance of human error in order-taking and bill calculations.

    Mobile phones are already ubiquitous, and Packaged Facts recommends that restaurants stay abreast of quickly emerging ways to tap into the restaurant guest early in the decision-making process.

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