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How Restaurants Can Use Social and Mobile to Boost Sales
Friends Eating and Looking at Phone

Is your restaurant keeping up with the competition when it comes to using social media and mobile marketing technology to increase customer interaction, attract new customers and drive sales? The Hospitality Technology 2013 Customer Engagement Study offers a closer look at what marketing tactics restaurant owners are implementing to grow their businesses.

Compared to the prior 2012 survey, use of social media had surged from 77 percent to nearly 90 percent among the U.S. restaurant executives polled in the survey. The most popular social media channel is Facebook, used by 94 percent of restaurants; Twitter is used by 77 percent and Yelp by 53 percent. About four in 10 (42 percent) use Foursquare, while 28 percent use Pinterest.

Daily deals and loyalty programs also grew in popularity, with 29 percent of restaurants using daily deal sites and nearly half (47 percent) using loyalty programs.

Finally, mobile is making big waves among the restaurant crowd. More than one-fourth (27 percent) of restaurants use location-based marketing, up from 16 percent in 2012. Over one-half of respondents say they have a mobile website, while nearly three in 10 have a mobile app.

What do these stats mean for your restaurant? Here are some steps to take to keep your marketing up to par:

  • Tap into the power of Yelp. I’m surprised to see that just over half of restaurants are using Yelp. While some small business owners fear the risk of getting a bad review on this powerful rating and review site, in reality if you’re in the restaurant industry I can’t imagine why you’d ignore Yelp. Most people I know turn here first when looking for new places to eat.
  • Try out Pinterest. Pinterest usage nearly doubled in the past year, and this visually oriented site is a natural place for restaurants to share mouth-watering food photos. Pinterest is widely used by women, so if your restaurant is a date destination, family-friendly or otherwise caters to the female demographic, you’d be smart to at least test the waters of this hot social media site.
  • Use mobile marketing. You can use location-based marketing to reach out to consumers on their mobile phones when they’re near your restaurant or searching for places to eat. Make sure your social media marketing plan is mobile-friendly too—try reaching out on Twitter with time-sensitive coupons, discounts and specials, such as tweeting about a lunch special at 11 a.m. when many office workers are starting to think about where to get lunch.
  • Consider a mobile app. If your customer base is tech- and mobile-savvy, consider creating your own mobile app. This could include loyalty tools, your restaurant menu or, like 43 percent of restaurants with mobile apps, the ability to place food orders for pickup.
  • Make your site mobile-friendly. You don’t necessarily need a mobile app, but you do need your restaurant website to be mobile-friendly so that when customers find you via mobile search, they can easily access your site on the go to get crucial info such as location, hours and mouthwatering menu photos.

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