A Guide to Social Media in the Foodservice Industry

Over the past few years, social media has quickly become an incredibly valuable tool for caterers and foodservice operators. When used properly, social media can effectively become an extension of a brick and mortar location, providing a way for operators to interact with regular visitors, attract new business, and showcase new menu offerings.

Social is also emerging as a way for operators to maximise uptake from key demographics, especially the 18-24 bracket. Although eating out of home more often, this group typically spends less money in one sitting than older generations; something a new report suggests could be due to the way younger generations view the dining out experience. Looking into how age groups view food and drink pairings, consumer insight firm Canadean found that only 26% of 18-24 year olds view pairings as important compared to 44% of over 55s. This means that for operators looking to increase uptake, helping younger generations think differently about the eating out experience is important – a task that Canadean say social media can be incredibly effective with.

With that in mind, we’ve put together some simple tips to help caterers reap the benefits of social. Whether you’re looking to encourage uptake, spread the word about your menu, or talk to regular (and potential) customers, take a look at our tips below.

Discover the hero shot             

In its rough decade of existence, social media has grown from a largely text based format to one that heavily relies on imagery, with words now almost secondary to visuals. This has been great news for the foodservice industry, with brands and operators entering into the era of the “hero shot”; eye-catching (and mouth-watering) photographs of menu items created to quickly gain the attention of users scrolling through a timeline.

The hero shot is also a great way to suggest menu pairings, encourage uptake of sides, toppings, and extra items, and essentially offer a “serving suggestion” to customers who may previously have only considered ordering one menu item. This is particularly effective when launching new menu items, as it not only showcases these new additions to customers, it also suggests ways they can pair them with items they might already be familiar with. 

Engage with regulars…

If social media has proved anything about food, it’s that our love of eating and drinking really is universal, with food related topics on Twitter outweighing those related to fashion, beauty, and entertainment. For many, a meal out is no longer complete if it hasn’t been accompanied by a post telling followers, friends or family where they are, often alongside a hashtag to gain more views.

That’s why for operators, social can provide a good opportunity to engage, communicate, and build loyalty amongst existing customers. A simple way to do so is to search for customers who may have tagged or hashtagged your restaurant in a post and reply to them; this can allow you to respond to feedback, show that custom is appreciated, and provide an extension of the personality shown in your brick and mortar location.

As with hero shots, engaging on social is also a good way to offer up menu items and combinations to customers. For example, if a user has posted a photo of a particular meal, then you could suggest similar menu items to try next time –“if you liked this, why not try this?” -  or let them know of new menu additions to watch out for in advance.

… and win over new ones                                                                  

Alongside growing relationships with users already familiar with a location, social also hands operators the ability to quickly reach potential new customers. One of the simplest ways to do so is to accompany posts with relevant hashtags, so users browsing through these could stumble upon your posts. This works particularly well with images, which are more likely to grab a user’s attention than a text based post.

Hashtags could simply relate to the foods captured in the photo; however, focusing on current events or trending items is equally as effective. A great example is #NationalBurgerAwards, which reached an audience of over 500,000 users in just one day, with operators and consumers alike helping the topic to grow.

With this in mind, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on any upcoming events that are likely to increase exposure on social media, and consider how to capitalise on these – this could involve showcasing related menu items, or even creating new limited edition ones to really gain attention.

Keep customers up to date

When looking for opening times, allergy information, or up to date menus, the first port of call for many is now a company’s social account. Whereas previously customers may have found this information through phoning a location, now most expect to be able to receive the information they need through social. That’s why for many operators, social media has become an effective tool to help keep customers up to date. By keeping social accounts updated every few days with any changes in opening times, new menu items, and even booking vacancies, you can answer common questions from customers before they’re even asked.

Tick all the boxes

One of the real benefits of social for those working in the foodservice industry is its ability to take care of a number of tasks at the same time. Whilst listed separately, many of the tips we’ve suggested can be combined to accomplish a number of goals. For example, retweeting and hashtagging a photo taken of a menu item by a customer ticks a number of boxes – not only are you building a relationship with a valued customer, you’re exposing your location to a wider audience, and of course, showcasing the great food you prepare on a day to day basis.   

Looking for recipes that will help you stand out on social? Try out our menu mixer, and get instant recipe inspiration.