From robots to tip sharing to work-life balance, some of the hottest topics facing the restaurant industry were on the agenda at the 5th Annual Golden Gate Restaurant Association industry conference in San Francisco last month. As the presenting sponsor, OpenTable sent two of our top leaders to the stage to engage in conversation about reaching new and potential customers.
Data Dive: Gleaning Customer Insights
It’s important not just to capture the right data, but to know how to use it. OpenTable’s Jenna Swigert (VP Regional Sales and Services) and Alisa Weiner (VP, Restaurant Marketing) participated in a panel discussion delving into some of the best sources for data insights and how to put them to work – regardless of marketing budget. Find highlights and takeaways below.
On Yelp & user-generated reviews:
“We saw an uptick in people complaining about slow service. Rather than feeling offended, we decided to make changes and removed some steps and tiered bread service and immediately found those reviews started to go away.” – Nathan Tenney, Alexander’s Steakhouse
“Having a designated person to respond to reviews is key (GM or host). Keep responses off of the public platform, and keep the conversation personal but professional. We suggest tracking data in a monthly spreadsheet – it can be done on your behalf by aggregators.” – Alexandria Dempsey, Mootz Consulting
“If you’re on OpenTable, maximize your presence. Keep your profile updated with photos and descriptions, and respond to reviews.” – Alisa Weiner, OpenTable
Takeaway? Treat user-generated reviews as data, find trends, and readjust what you’re doing operationally.
On social media:
“Facebook and Instagram allow you to learn how local your diners are, where they live, and the content they are engaging with. It’s very challenging to draw a direct line between an Instagram post and sales, but there are ways to maximize with free analytics tools on Facebook and Instagram. Make sure you have a business account, which allows you to access analytics.” – Alexandria Dempsey
“Try and get people to find content they are passionate about—a dish or ingredient or a drink. That can help you develop out a dish or marketing plan because you can see how people are reacting in real time.” – Nathan Tenney
“Millennials are more likely to trust a post from a friend than a Yelp review. Millennials will pull up Instagram versus Yelp. Use that to your advantage. Go to your followers and like their followers or their followers’ photos.” – Nate Danforth, Toast, Inc.
“Look at your community and what they interact with, and build a community of followers there. For some restaurants it’s Facebook for others it’s Instagram or even Pinterest.” – Valeria DiGrande, Palio
“Quality over quantity. Don’t auto-post from Instagram to Facebook—all the hashtags are messy and the tagging properties are different. It shows you are not detail-oriented.” – Jennifer Kirk, Jenius Consulting
“If you’re a new restaurant looking to hire for social, give yourself plenty of lead time. Hire 6 months or at least 3 months out. Stay true to your personality on social media.” – Amanda Shepherd, Ellipses PR
Takeaway? Use social media as a way to communicate, but also to test and track results, collect data, and bolster visibility. If you can’t hire someone full time, invest in some consulting hours.
On marketing across channels:
“There’s nothing wrong with stalking your competition and taking the best ideas. Look on other platforms to see what they are doing. On Guest Center, you can see where your reservations are coming from.” – Alisa Weiner
“At minimum, be on Facebook and Instagram, but also have an email marketing program. Use social media to gather email addresses for your email marketing.” – Amanda Shepherd
“Get an SEO expert to review your website and optimize it. We add pages for each restaurant, and that increases discoverability.” – Miloni Malhotra, Spacious
Takeaway? Instead of treating each channel independently, use each one to raise your profile across the digital space.
More takeaways for actionable, data-driven change:
“At OpenTable, we didn’t have a data science team until about 5 years ago. Now our goal is to surface these reports and give restaurants exactly what they want to see. Put the reports on your iPhone so you can compare one year to another.” – Jenna Swigert, OpenTable
“Line up is the most important part of the day—it’s an opportunity to have a dialogue about how to contextualize information. You can change how staff uses information and how they learn lessons.” – Nathan Tenney
“Rely on your third-party partners to provide you with results. Chances are they are crunching the numbers to make the data work better for you.” – Scott Oklin, Travelzoo
“Restaurants don’t do enough reverse engineering. Dive into your own numbers and come up with a creative campaign. If diners come 6 times a year and spend x amount, can you do a focus group then create a marketing campaign to replicate it?” – Miloni Malhotra
“Maximize your budget. With a photo shoot, make sure the standards work for all your partners and capture assets to use for the web and ads.” – Alexandria Dempsey
What’s next in digital?
To close the panel, experts weighed in on the future of restaurant marketing tech – here’s what they predict.
More discoverability in Google Maps. “Right now, people start by looking at what’s close on Google Maps. Then they go to Instagram and Yelp to confirm their choice.” – Amanda Shepherd
Integration, integration, integration. “Everyone expects everything to be on their phone. The amount of time spent on Instagram feeds to fill their empty moments, to provide inspiration is going to be more important. The key word is integration—ask any vendor, how seamless is it?” – Alisa Weiner
Videos and storytelling reign. “Video content is more important, and Instagram stories are video. Leverage user-generated content.” – Jennifer Kirk
Better aggregation. “I think we will see more aggregating tools like Yext. Bento Box is a platform that specializes in the restaurant industry, too.” – Jacob Cross
Photo credit: Flour Power Productions.