The Top 5 Restaurant Digital Marketing Trends

5 Restaurant Digital Marketing

In today's business climate, fewer restaurants are actually paying for marketing. Those that do typically invest in social media promotion and search engine ads.

With 41% of restaurant operators identifying “Attracting and Retaining Customers” as a top challenge to their success, it’s important for restaurateurs to know how and where to reach new and existing customers online. Below are today's most noteworthy restaurant digital marketing trends.

1. 63% of Restaurants Advertise on Social Media

Although the total dollars spent on social media advertising declined last year, it remains the most popular advertisement method for restaurant professionals. Social media spending exceeds direct mail, community/event sponsorship, and partnering with a PR agency.

Now that Facebook has committed to showing users more content from friends and less from brands/publishers, restaurants using Facebook ads may see less visibility. Making matters more complicated, Facebook ads are increasing in cost. That means restaurants have to invest more money to reach potentially fewer people.

That said, it's still the most viable advertising option for most restaurants. A report featured on Modern Restaurant Management showed that, for today's young adults, “only eight percent...find out about new menu items from TV advertising.” In addition, daily newspaper circulation dropped from 52 million in 2006 to 35 million in 2016 and quarterly magazine retail sales have consistently dropped quarter-over-quarter since before 2014.

According to Convince and Convert, 77% of those 12 and older used social media in 2018 as opposed to 80% in 2017. While social media seems to be losing some steam, it's still the best option for restaurateurs until a more popular option surfaces. 

2. 26% of Restaurants Advertise on Google & Other Search Engines.

For restaurant owners, search engine ads rank fourth in popularity behind social media ads, community/event sponsorships, and newspaper advertisements.

Because registering a restaurant for Google My Business is free, restaurants may be taking advantage of this costless solution from search engines going forward. Google is actually more likely to show a restaurant towards the top of a “restaurants near me” or related search if they have filled out their Google My Business listing. The process takes just a few minutes, and by providing simple & accurate information like hours, phone number, and address, Google can feel confident listing a restaurant higher up.

3. Facebook is Still #1, But Might Not Be Much Longer

In 2017, 74% of restaurants used Facebook as their most frequent social media channel. In 2018, that number has dropped to 69%. The figure is expected to dip again this year.

Fewer people are using Facebook in general, not just restaurants. According to Convince and Convert, Facebook usage declined from 67% to 62% overall in 2018, and “Among 12- to 34 year-olds, Facebook usage declined a staggering 15 percent in one year.”

The future does not seem to be Facebook. Instead, the latest trend points toward visual-first social media marketing for restaurants. Which brings us to...

4. The Continuing Growth of Instagram

Picking up some of Facebook’s slack, Instagram was named the social media channel of choice by 24% of restaurants in 2018 – an uptick from the 18% it sat at in 2017.

Instagram is also quite popular with new restaurants. Among them, 78% of restaurants that opened in 2017 or 2018 reported having an Instagram account for their business, while just 68% of all restaurants are on the photo-sharing site.

For consumers, visual social media sites Instagram, Snapchat, and Pinterest were the only social media platforms that grew in popularity in 2018.

5. Successful Restaurants Are Less Likely to Use Twitter

Among restaurants, we compared those that saw profits increase in 2017 to those where profits stayed the same or stagnated.

The findings: 44% of restaurants that saw their profits decrease or stagnate in 2017 used Twitter in 2018, while just 39% of restaurants where profit increased chose Twitter. Twitter is the least popular major social media platform.

Overall, Twitter saw a significant decline in popularity for restaurants: 59% of restaurateurs used Twitter in 2017 to market their restaurant, but that number fell to 41% in 2018.

Conversely, successful restaurants were more likely than less-successful counterparts to use Instagram.