Industry Update
Supplier News10 March 2015

Lodging Interactive Expands Reputation Management & Social Media Marketing to Restaurants

Online reviews and social media are trusted avenues used by consumers to evaluate restaurants. Hoteliers must dedicate resources to creating a digital marketing strategy for their on-site restaurants that will reach and speak to potential diners.

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Parsippany, N.J. -- The belief is that the food, ambiance and service offered at a restaurant paints the picture of the dining experience at that establishment. However, as is reflective in the number of restaurant reviews online and how much stock consumers put in them, a digital presence on review sites and social media channels is just as important as the delicious smells wafting from a restaurant's front doors.

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How to Market Restaurants Online:

Digital marketing of restaurants is most effectively handled as a strategic, multi-pronged approach. The approach ideally involves a strong and consistent social media presence as well as professional, helpful responses to restaurant reviews on sites that offer management the opportunity to reply. There are also countless other avenues to consider as well, including: a blog, sharply designed and well-timed email marketing campaigns targeting loyal diners or potential customers looking for the latest special or coupon, app and online promotions, contests, promoting participation in local events, and establishing a hashtag to name a few.

The digital marketing aspect of promoting a restaurant can often be a secondary thought. But creating the same intimate, casual or fine dining experience on social media that can be expected at a restaurant is essential to standing out in an industry of numerous options, typically searched for with little lead time and often sought out by location and via mobile device.

If resources are limited, and they almost always are, the two areas restaurateurs should concentrate on are social media channels and responding to reviews.

Social Media Presence:

Accounts on large social sites including Facebook and Twitter may seem obvious, but less obvious platforms can also assist in raising awareness of a restaurant. Consider image-centric platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest to showcase quality images of dishes or share recipes as well as video-based channels like YouTube and Vine to offer a "behind the scenes" look.

Establishing these accounts is just one piece of the pie. Regularly scheduled postings that share specials and discounts as well as local write-ups and upcoming events will help to gain the following restaurants desire for long-term success. A restaurant's following is found by posting information on social media, but it is maintained and flourishes by posting quality content that doesn't always sell.

"Social media has shaped a new way for consumers to interact with businesses," says Rosella Virdo, Director of CoMMingle Social Media at Lodging Interactive. "It is actually the old way of interacting, person to person. Over more than the last hundred years: from telegraphs, telephones, beepers, cell phones, smart phones – each progression in technology has made the connection more personal. The social media and review sites have soften the digital world to bring the human touch back to what has driven technology."

Not only will followers be given a glimpse of a restaurant's style, cuisine and philosophy on social, but it also provides a platform for your customers to post quality content on a restaurant's behalf. Encourage diners to share their experience and they'll quickly become social media champions. Considering that 49% of people use Facebook when searching for restaurants, the positive buzz on social media can be more influential than your most strategically placed, thoughtfully targeted ads.

Restaurant Reviews & Online Reputation:

Social media lets patrons informally share their take on a restaurant with their followers, with Facebook reviews going a step further by putting this feedback directly on a restaurant's page. Review sites like Yelp and Urbanspoon are resources for diners searching for where to eat, when to eat or even a particular cuisine. They provide information like price point, menu and location, details that are essential to the decision-making process for the mobile user, 95% of which conduct restaurant searches. These sites are also home to positive and negative feedback from guests that is considered just as trustworthy as a personal recommendation by 79% of consumers. Reviews, however, have the potential to be far more impactful based on their considerably greater reach than traditional word of mouth.

Consider these statistics:

  • 53% of 18- to 34-year-olds report that online reviews factor into their dining decisions. Source
  • 58% of consumers searched restaurant ratings online in 2014, making it the top-searched industry. Source
  • A one-star increase in a Yelp rating leads to a 5 to 9% increase in revenue. Source

Managing these reviews should be a priority. Negative reviews are opportunities to reach out and connect not only to the reviewer, but the greater audience of readers. Address positive and negative feedback and monitor business listings for reviews that violate site guidelines. Restaurateurs need to be aware of what is being said about their business online and have a process in place to look into reviewers' comments and respond accordingly.

"Restaurateurs put much effort into their menus, atmosphere, quality of ingredients, service and so on," says Virdo. "Is your restaurant showcasing who you are in the digital world where your guests are speaking and sharing things about your restaurant and food?"

"Restaurateurs and hoteliers should create what they can maintain, manage and grow," says DJ Vallauri, Lodging Interactive Founder and President. "That may be a restaurant with an enticing atmosphere and menu that turns a one-time diner into a loyal patron, but that may not be social media and that's where we come in. CoMMingle for Restaurants is a significant resource for restaurant owners as well as hotels that have established, flagship on-site restaurants with their own following."

Lodging Interactive's CoMMingle for Restaurants can create and execute an innovative social media and reputation management strategy customized for your restaurant. The experienced digital marketing strategists that provide solutions for hotels will cultivate your restaurant's online presence. Contact Lodging Interactive to learn more.

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About Lodging Interactive

Headquartered in Parsippany, NJ, Lodging Interactive is a full-service digital marketing, social media engagement and reputation management agency exclusively servicing the hospitality industry. The Company provides cost-effective Internet marketing services to hundreds of branded and independent properties as well as management companies, restaurants, and spas.

commingle:engage, the Company's social media and reputation management division, has established itself as the largest provider of reputation management services for the hospitality industry, handling over 200,000 guest review responses annually. The Company recently launched the world's first Facebook Messenger based RFPAssist Group Lead Sales System designed to drive hotel group and event business.

Lodging Interactive is an HSMAI Adrian Award winner and has won awards from the International Academy of Visual Arts, Interactive Media Awards, Horizon Interactive Awards, Web Marketing Association, Academy of Interactive & Visual Arts, and Travel Weekly's Magellan Awards have recognized Lodging Interactive as an industry leader.

The Company's Founder & CEO, DJ Vallauri, formerly served on the Board of Directors of HSMAI's New York Chapter and is a Forbes.com Agency Council contributor. For more information, please contact [email protected], 877-291-4411 or visit the company's website.

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Nicole McGovern
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