“Foodstagramming” bringing restaurants and customers closer together

Smartphone photography is rapidly becoming a key factor in restaurant reviews according to new research from America.

New Mintel research shows that posting food pics has gone beyond a few fringe foodies and is infiltrating the mainstream. The survey reveals 13% or 29 million of those who have dined out in the past month and use social media have posted a food or drink picture to their network.

Consumers are also engaging directly with restaurants with 14% having posted a positive comment on a brand’s social media page. However, only 17% of diners are influenced by a positive review to eat at a certain establishment.

Michael Bennett of specialist food and hospitality PR and communications consultancy Pelican said: ‘This research poses a challenge for restaurants trying to use social media platforms to engage with their customers.’

The Mintel research suggests that combining traditional loyalty programs with today’s technology may be the best bet. Respondents (69%) indicate they prefer loyalty programs that issue points toward future purchases. Yet despite a stated preference for loyalty programs, 42% say that loyalty programs that track ordering habits make them feel like they’re being watched.

Buy one get one free deals are still the most preferred type of deal (46%), followed by value meals/dollar menus (33%). Men are more swayed than women by free wi-fi (31% to 27%) and a big screen TV (20% to 15%), whereas women prefer loyalty cards (42% to 31%) and an at-table tablet to ask for food, refills and extra napkins (21% to 19%).

‘Brands must walk the fine line of providing enough value to customers in exchange for their information,’ says Bethany Wall, foodservice analyst at Mintel. ‘Mobile apps and other technologies by operators and third parties have made it easier than ever for consumers to find information such as nutrition and locations, make reservations, order, pay, leave reviews and feedback, and participate in loyalty programs. In return for these conveniences, restaurants can use these apps to collect great amounts of information that can be mined in order to determine the best way to reach and communicate with consumers.’

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