It’s undeniable how much social media have affected our world today, especially in the restaurant and hospitality industries.
We work in the business of people, and social-media platforms have given consumers the ability to share information to a wide audience instantaneously. Reputations ride on what people say about businesses online. In addition, social media provide a channel for restaurant owners to keep their business top of mind with consumers and employees and to position themselves as a thought leader and trendsetter in the industry.
Last month, an MGH survey found that 36% of TikTok users have ordered from a restaurant after seeing a video about it on their platform. Further, a recent survey by Upserve found that 86% of millennials would try a new restaurant after seeing its food-related content online. Additionally, social media have become some of the largest sources for reviews. Consumers are much more likely to visit a restaurant if other people they know have visited and enjoyed their experience. However, if consumers see something negative or nothing at all about a restaurant, they are much less likely to visit. Trust is critical, and social media play an important role in earning – and keeping – it.
Fostering trust during the past year and a half certainly has been more complex for restaurant owners as they have faced insurmountable challenges. From increased operating and food costs and labor shortages to supply-chain issues and COVID-19 restrictions, it has been incredibly complicated to serve guests as we had done before the pandemic. Ohio restaurants are going above and beyond to stay afloat and deliver hospitality, and the trust and patience of customers are more important than ever.
Social media have been great tools to bring the community together, as evidenced by the creation of “support local restaurants” Facebook pages in various regions across the state, including central Ohio. These Facebook pages and groups give restaurants a place to shine, and users can learn about new and new-to-them restaurants to support. Building a community like this around restaurants gives them the opportunity to increase business and trust within their city.
Additionally, Ohio restaurants have leveraged social media to provide timely and relevant updates to their guests, especially as conditions were changing quickly. It was a vehicle to communicate what restaurants were doing to provide a safe work and dining experience or if the restaurant needed to close early due to not having enough help that day to staff the restaurant.
Although social media are good ways to share these messages, Ohio restaurants recognize that we can’t rely solely on digital platforms, as demonstrated by the Facebook and Instagram outages earlier this month. It takes a diverse approach to engage in authentic and transparent conversations with our customers to further build trust. We encourage Ohio Restaurant Association members to talk with us about their approach to social media. Our platforms are robust on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram, and soon we will launch our TikTok account.
Restaurants long have been the backbone of our communities, and we are grateful for our valued guests who have continued to support our operations during the pandemic. As our businesses continue to face an uphill battle, we ask for your patience of our teams and look forward to serving you soon.
John Barker is president and CEO of the Ohio Restaurant Association.