How to Market Your Restaurant in 2021 and Beyond
Restaurant and Food & Beverage (F&B) industries are still feeling the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, but as new vaccines and measures roll out, and restrictions begin to ease, the road to recovery is starting to look clearer.
83% of adults say they’re not eating on the premises at restaurants as often as they would like, and 90% of Baby Boomers report that they’d like to dine at restaurants more frequently.
People are looking forward to returning to their favourite venues and trying new experiences. Restaurants need to be ready to attract these guests and welcome their customers back.
Taking a holistic approach to marketing and considering the entirety of the business allows for the different elements of each section to come together and create a unified and positive image to showcase to customers.
Digital marketing ideas for restaurants need to look beyond the simplest uses of social media and online platforms and elevate the best restaurant marketing ideas across the business in order to stand out in an already crowded market, that will only be getting more competitive as restrictions lifting allow businesses to reopen or expand their current offerings.
In this blog, we’re going to look at how people are using social media for restaurants, the changes in website ordering patterns, and innovative marketing ideas for restaurants that you can adopt or adapt for your venue.
Social Media: How People are Using it For Restaurants
Globally there are now more than 4.2 billion people using social media, a 13% increase over the past year, with nearly half a billion new users.
As a tool for restaurants, the impact of social media and its position in the decision-making process can’t be ignored: 41% of people have decided to eat at a specific restaurant based entirely on positive social media feedback and 99% of Gen Z and Millennials are more likely to use social media to choose restaurants than Baby Boomers.
The most common utilisations of social media and Facebook marketing ideas for restaurants include:
- Posting high-quality images of food and drinks
- Uploading seasonal, weekly, or daily menus and specials
- Sharing customer feedback
- Engaging with Customers
- Offering Online Customer Service
- Behind the Scenes Content (Such as Recipes, How to Instructionals, Staff Profiles, etc)
The three most engaged types of content on these platforms are written articles (27%), videos (26%) and images (24%). In 2019 there were over a million mentions about restaurants and the Food & Beverage (F&B) industry, and 57% of these were about Quick Service restaurants.
Whilst these are all important activities that aid with brand promotion, innovative marketing ideas for restaurants using social media go further and make use of the technologies offered by the platforms as well.
Since 2014, digital ordering and delivery have grown 300% faster than dine-in traffic and with the COVID restrictions impacting customer ability to visit venues in person, people are increasingly more willing to place their orders digitally and have it delivered to their homes.
Even once the pandemic ends and restrictions ease, convenience becomes standard – and customers are still likely to want to enjoy the services and ease of use they’ve experienced during this time.
Changes in Website Ordering Patterns
Ordering online has had a huge impact on restaurants in 2020 and this looks set to continue into 2021 and beyond, with many venues looking at implementing their own ordering and delivery services to avoid the fees and disconnect that comes with using a 3rd party service.
43% of Restaurant Professionals said they believe that 3rd Party apps interfere with the direct relationship between a restaurant and its customers.
Customers also seem to prefer ordering directly from restaurants, rather than going through another platform, as it’s generally cheaper, with less additional fees.
But the simple truth is that if you don’t have your own or aren’t seen on 3rd Party apps in your area, customers aren’t going to be attracted to your venue unless you’ve taken steps to promote your products, pricing, availability and how they can collect their food from you.
Experts are predicting that the number of smartphone orders will decrease slightly in 2021 as restaurants begin to reopen and customers take the opportunity to return out, however, they anticipate continued adoption of the apps will see continued growth in this area of the industry.
Kenn Pluard, owner of Kenji’s Ramen saw an increase of 10% in sales by introducing online ordering and saves approximately 35% per order by using an owned online ordering system rather than utilising a 3rd Party, he stated that “Restaurants can’t be scared to use technology because it’s something that can only benefit them by saving time and eliminating errors.”
Marketing Ideas to Try at Your Restaurant:
To really make the most of innovative marketing ideas for restaurants, your marketing mix needs to be well balanced and aligned with your business goals.
Looking at the product, its price, and your location, along with your customer, and the most recent trends impacting your business, should give you an initial idea on how to promote both the venue, menu, and other services (such as delivery and/or click & collect) most effectively.
Data collection is an important part of your marketing strategy. Understanding your customer demographic – who is ordering, when are they ordering, what are they ordering – these are all points of reference that you should already be evaluating.
But along with these basics, the need to discover where they are ordering, what they are interested in, and how you can upsell existing menu items to them, should also be featuring in your strategic planning.
Looking beyond your restaurant to the mood and needs of the market, a number of upcoming trends, mainly born from the restrictions of the COVID lockdown, look set to make a large impact on the market and are an opportunity for businesses to add additional value to their products and services, and appeal to their customers with a new marketing focus.
Some of the biggest upcoming trends include:
Grab and Go Lunches
Grab and Go is exactly as it sounds – convenient food that can be collected and eaten quickly. The five major areas in this sector are Breakfast, Drinks, Lunch, Snacks, and Leisure.
After seeing the segment experience a decade of growth through the 2010s and experience a growth rate of 2.4% in 2019, the pandemic caused a £6bn reduction to the market representing a 29% contraction.
The average number of food-to-go visits per consumer per month in the UK dropped by 25% (year on year), with the Lunch segment experiencing the largest decrease at 37%.
However, as new procedures roll out and restrictions ease, the market is set for recovery, and it has been forecasted that the sector will see a growth of 41% versus the 2020 forecast, in 2021.
Offering menu items in easy to collect and eat forms and providing alternatives from a supermarket lunch will appeal to customers who are looking for different tastes and want to experience something unique, filling or comforting as they return to their daily routines.
“When it comes to grab-and-go, consumers are becoming more and more switched on and, although value for money remains their prime consideration, they will pay more for a quality product.”
Neil Lindsell, Country Choice – Concepts Development Manager for Foodservice.
Bridging the gap between the restaurant and the supermarket, subscription ordering services allow customers to purchase what they need to create the dishes they’re missing by being restricted from entering restaurant premises.
They’re an opportunity to provide inspiration and encourage the promotion of the brand through word of mouth as customers hone their skills and cook their favourite dishes at home.
Some venues have also taken the opportunity to promote their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) with this service, Pasta Evangelists for example start their boxes at £7.25 for weekly delivery and donate £5 per box sold to supporting Age UK as well as encouraging visitors to send a ‘pasta care package’ to an elderly relative they can’t visit in person.
Sustainable Packaging and Reducing Food Waste in Restaurants
The trend towards Sustainability continues to grow, with customers wanting to see businesses and decision-makers take more responsibility for global health, and what their venue is doing to improve this.
Due to the pandemic, there was a short lull in focus on Sustainability, with plastic wrap especially being returned to Food and Beverage items in an effort to prevent virus contamination.
It is expected that a focus on Food Waste will be prevalent in 2021, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation says that the amount of ‘primary product equivalents’ wasted amounts to 1.6 billion tonnes globally, and the carbon footprint of this wasted food is estimated to be 3.3 billion tonnes.
Already we’ve seen in supermarkets such as Tesco the introduction of the ‘Perfectly Imperfect’ range and it would not be surprising to see restaurants adopting homegrown or ‘less than perfect’ ingredients to create dishes that make the most of foods that wouldn’t normally be seen as aesthetically pleasing.
Focusing on Nutritious Meals in Restaurants
80% of people over 18 in the UK have made the decision to change their lifestyle in 2021 and make healthier choices, compared to the 43% who were motivated to do so in early 2020.
The three top changes these people intend to make are to:
- Exercise More (41%)
- Eat More Healthily (40%)
- Lose Weight (39%)
The COVID pandemic is cited as being the main reason why the number of people looking for healthier options has increased, as well as why the number of people reported to be snacking on unhealthy food and drinks at least once a day has increased from 26% to 35%.
With the plant-based food market also growing and functional nutrition (eating dishes and ingredients for their health related benefits) becoming a more prominent factor, restaurants should be looking at their menus and the ingredients in their dishes, researching the relevant benefits to consumers – including nutrition, medicinal and holistic, and making this a larger part of their marketing strategy.
Picnics and Garden Party Boxes to Order from Your Restaurant
As well as looking to meal kits and subscription services, with lockdown procedures gradually easing, there will be a larger audience looking to get out and about, and enjoy meeting with friends and family.
52% of people say they pay more attention to the origin of their products, with a focus on buying locally and there is a growing trend for consumers to purchase either locally or ultra-locally (within their community).
Offering bespoke picnic baskets or garden party boxes, whether hot or cold dishes, will give consumers more options and a ready-made solution to catering for friends and family, or the enjoyment of a restaurant experience without the concerns still likely to linger about sitting in potentially crowded public places.
The Key-Take Aways for Marketing Your Restaurant
So, putting it all together, the Restaurant and Food and Beverage markets are going to continue to grow and evolve as the consequences of the pandemic begin to settle back into normality.
- When marketing your venue, you need to consider your product, the price, where you are located, and how you are going to promote the ingredient, dish or service to the most appropriate audience at the best time.
- Healthy eating, sustainability and flexible dining options will continue to grow, and as people return to work and out of restriction, the grab-and-go food sector will also increase.
- Customers want to know what they’re eating, where it comes from, and how it benefits them.
- Engaging with your customers online, with social media, your website, and through mobile devices using apps and 3rd Parties is going to continue to play an important role in developing an innovative restaurant marketing strategy.
In the UK, 72% of the Eating and Drinking Out sector have started planning for recovery across various scenarios, 13% are waiting for more information, 9% have started planning based on other global markets, 5% don’t have the capacity to plan for recovery at the moment, and only 1% haven’t even thought about planning yet.