Restaurants Know They Don’t Market Enough, Survey Finds

Chefs' Take: A focus on restaurant marketing can take a business to the next level, but according to this survey, most restaurants don't have the time — though they wish they did. One solution: building paid tools for restaurants to take best advantage of your platform in the least time possible.
— Kristen Hawley

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Most Restaurants Want to Market More, According to Survey

Restaurateurs know that marketing is vital to business success, but most don’t spend as much time on it as they’d like. In a newly released survey, TripAdvisor looks at restaurant marketing in five markets around the world (U.S., UK, France, Spain, and Italy). What they found isn’t too surprising: the majority of restaurateurs surveyed said they spend 10 percent or less of their time on marketing their business, and 12 percent globally have hired a marketing specialist or worked with a consultant. But this doesn’t reflect what restaurateurs want to be doing; 71 percent globally (and 85 percent in the U.S.) believe they should be marketing more.

Review and ratings sites, like TripAdvisor and Yelp, have become established players in the restaurant space; plenty of people take to online reviews when deciding where to dine. Extending that content to restaurant marketing is an easy leap — the reviews and images are already there, contributed for free from the community. More importantly: potential customers are already there, searching for the right spot to dine. Packaging that power as a marketing tool for restaurants is a natural fit. Earlier this year, TripAdvisor announced an initiative to help the 4 million + restaurants listed on its platform to make the most of their TripAdvisor pages. With 150 million unique monthly views, restaurant pages on TripAdvisor have proven effectiveness with prospective diners, so additional features aimed at restaurateurs is a no-brainer. Restaurants have been able to claim their pages for a while, but earlier this year, TripAdvisor launched its Premium product for restaurants, allowing restaurants to customize their TripAdvisor page and receive data and analytics. After just over six months of promotion, TripAdvisor senior vice president of restaurants, Bertrand Jelensperger, says several thousand restaurants have signed up for premium service in the form of a month-to-month or annual subscription fee.

For restaurants that don’t have the time, staff, or money to build robust websites or cultivate active social media accounts, this service and others like it is a positive step. “We are not able to measure how many people are going to the restaurant, but we can increase engagement on their page,” says Jelensperger, talking about clicks to a restaurant’s website, reservations, or on their phone number. “We know we increase engagement 25 to 30 percent, so the payback is very fast for restaurants.” TripAdvisor’s marketing study underscores the importance of companies to provide fast and easy-to-use tools for all restaurants looking for additional marketing power. Online ratings and review sites are where the customer eyes are — why not use them to their full advantage?

 

Food Halls Could Be the Future of the Small Restaurant Market

Food halls — collections of small vendors under one roof — have been gaining popularity across the U.S., everywhere from Brooklyn to Los Angeles and places in-between, these developments make good use of large spaces, providing space for smaller restaurant operations and foot traffic these small eateries might not otherwise see. According to David Chang, food halls are the future of the small- to mid-size restaurant market. “Every developer wants a food hall at the bottom of their building or to anchor their big project,” he said onstage at the New York Times Cities of Tomorrow conference in New York, according to Food Republic. He also says, though, that this shift is going to make it more difficult for mom-and-pop restaurants to operate.

While Chang’s assertion that small restaurants are a dying breed, at least in major cities, sounds alarmist, trends are moving in that direction. Tasting Table has a great piece about small restaurant economics, noting that the business of small is remarkably different than the business of large. Rent, food costs, marketing, and establishing a neighborhood presence all contribute to the set of unique challenges small restaurant owners face. Now that food and restaurants have become destinations in their own right, why not put a bunch under one roof and give it a label?

Food halls can be the best of both worlds, filling enough square footage to become destinations in their own rights, while allowing smaller eateries that give off that all-important neighborhood vibe to stay in business. Obviously they attract more people; many specialized places in one spot means everyone’s happy. (Does this remind anyone else of the mall food courts of our youth?) The please-everyone space used to be occupied by full-service restaurants with page upon page of menu items. Now instead of one restaurant doing everything, many restaurants can do one thing, pleasing a larger amount of people all in one space. On the plus side, this allows for more players in the hard-to-operate small restaurant space. On the flip side, will the newfound popularity of food halls, essentially modeled after the popular outdoor markets in cities like Singapore, cause other small operations to go under? And could this actually spell less variety for the places that support food hall development?

 

Subway Unveils Fresher Look, More Tech

Sandwich chain Subway has unveiled its new look, announced earlier this summer, featuring a new focus on technology and putting fresh vegetables front and center. The new, brighter stores will also feature tablet ordering. Expect 150 new and existing stores to get the look over the next couple of months, with as many as 5,000 upgrading by the end of the year. Per franchise agreements, stores must remodel every 10 years, according to the Associated Press. Given Subway’s size, this means the rollout of the refreshed look could take a decade.

Once the darling of the fast food scene, Subway has lagged behind its fast food and fast casual peers adopting technology and embracing new design. While the sandwich-assembly-line concept no doubt influenced other quick service restaurants like Chipotle, most Subway stores have come to feel dated. Also interesting that the news of a physical location refresh doesn’t come with news of a new menu or different ingredient sourcing. According to Subway, these revamped locations will include a few new items: fresh pico de gallo, house-made pickles, and gluten-free bread — not exactly a revamp. I’m surprised a restaurant that pushes healthy and fresh options, not to mention one that will literally feature vegetable displays prominently, doesn’t have more to say about its food.

All of these initiatives are a good step forward for Subway, but given the financial investment franchisees are required to make to accommodate the changes, Subway’s status as the country (and world’s) largest chain may be in jeopardy.

 

Digestifs:

  • Resisting the urge of social media’s biggest pushers, on influencers and access— Eater London
  • San Francisco delivery-only restaurant, Young Fava, shuts down while looking for new space — SF Chronicle
  • Momofuku will open a L.A. restaurant before the end of the year — EaterLA
  • Shake Shack is opening in Hong Kong ahead of expansion into mainland China — Bloomberg