Eating Out with Social Media

It may sound somewhat clichéd that we are going through digital age, but like many cliched statements it also happens to be true. And like many other facets or verticals of digital media, social media is also playing a huge role in our lives and lifestyles.  In fact, with high possibility of greater digital penetration in our society in the near future, the role of social media is also expected to be more widespread in India, in the near future.

And of course, restaurant business in India which reflects a slice of evolving lifestyles of a plethora of urban Indians of post-modern India, nowadays cannot afford to be insular from the potent forces of social media marketing.

Nowadays a restaurant can easily and powerfully market itself among its target clientele through different social media platforms by incurring minimal cost as compared to what it has to incur through advertising in conventional print and audio visual routes. 

Marketing Edge 

I think that as far as restaurants are concerned, social media is more suitable for events marketing and marketing of some promotions and some innovative dishes than for generating the brand image of a restaurant or of a restaurant chain in general, though the latter option can also be tried in social media. Succinctly, social media is more suitable for fostering or enhancing the brand image of the restaurant than in building it from scratch.

However, influencing its target group on social media platforms even before the restaurant is having a loyal consumer base can also be successful, if the restaurant is significantly unique from its competition. But for this endeavour, the path through social media is not likely to give quick results, as it would give in the case of marketing of promotions or events or some new dishes, etc. 

If the restaurant has already captured the mindshare of its consumers and potential consumers through word of mouth or because of a long list of satisfied diners, it has a good chance to easily garner a sizeable number of followers on Facebook or on other social media platforms. 

And to these followers information about some special events, and/or launches, and/or introductions, and/or promotions in the said restaurant (such as a food festival, a musical night with performances of celebrity singers, a buffet at very attractive prices, promotion of an innovative dish, organising of ladies night on a given day of the week, special cocktails on the eve of Holi celebrations, etc.) can be attractively showcased on the social media with negligible cost; an endeavour which would have cost a sizeable amount through traditional media.

Moreover, in advertisement or promotions through traditional media, the restaurateurs and their management cannot be sure of reaching their target clientele, but through social media advertisement or promotions the restaurateurs can be much more sure as they know that the advertisement/promotion has high chance of attracting the eyeballs of the restaurants’ page’s followers, and many of their followers are their regular or occasional clientele or can have high probability of being their target clientele in the near future.

Looks Matter Much 

In this age of social media explosion, the looks of the food & beverage matter much more than it did before. As taking photographs before having the food and posting it on social media platforms has become a common trend among the digital savvy youngsters, in this age the restaurants need to take extra care to make their food look great. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if many restaurateurs and Chefs in urban India give as much attention to the look of the food as they do to its taste and flavour. 

The restaurants which in this age would make their dishes Instagram friendly or at least camera-friendly are likely to gain better brand image and interest about their menu as compared to others who would fail in such an endeavour, with all other factors remaining the same. 

However, taste needs to complement the look of the dish. Otherwise, restaurants with presence in social media are likely to get a series of negative reviews on the social media platforms from the increasing numbers of discerning eating out crowd.

Double-edged Tool 

Moreover, it should do well for the restaurateurs to remember that social media is a double-edged tool. On the one hand, guests’ posting of positive comments and attractive photographs of dishes can give the restaurant free publicity that can also have the potential of going viral and escalating the restaurant’s revenues manifolds in a short span of time, but on the other hand, a negative comment of serious nature (for example, about a hygiene issue in the restaurant or about its discourteous staff) can also go viral which in turn could damage the restaurant’s reputation and hence its revenues irreparably.

Therefore, we can say that social media is making it imperative for restaurateurs to become more consumer-sensitive than ever before. For popular restaurants social media is a boon, whereas for restaurants which have attracted flak in the market recently, presence on social media can easily be a nightmare.

Similarly, those restaurants which respond to consumer queries, complaints and praise in social media platforms in a quick manner with appropriate responses, are likely to have a better market image among their followers than those who don’t. 

Quick Feedback Can Help 

Through strong presence in social media, restaurateurs and their management can also gauge the consumer likes and dislikes quite well and quickly. For example, a restaurant organised a Bengali food festival in the recent past. If the guests were not happy with some aspect or other of the festival they are likely to articulate them on the social media quickly. This quick feedback would also help the restaurateur to respond to consumers’ preferences quickly. 

In our example, if the complaints are of specific nature to the Bengali food festival, then after getting the quick feedback on social media, the restaurateur is not likely to repeat those ‘mistakes’ in the next Bengali food festival organised by her/him, and if the complaints are of general nature, then the restaurateur is not likely to repeat them at all. In this whole exercise, we are assuming that the restaurateur is a highly consumer-responsive one, which of course is becoming mandatory for success in this age of social media.  
 

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