While the food service industry took a big hit during the COVID-19 pandemic, things are finally returning to normal. In fact, this market segment is predicted to reach $898 billion in sales by the end of the year. And the restaurant business continues to be a highly competitive industry.
If you’re looking for ways to increase your restaurant sales and expand your business effectively, there’s one marketing tool you should be considering right now – user-generated content (UGC).
And in this post, we will walk you through 4 excellent strategies to take your restaurant sales game to a completely new level with the help of user-generated content.
User-generated content is any type of content created about and/or around a brand not by marketers but by regular people – customers and users. They generate this content voluntarily and receive no material compensation for it.
UGC typically includes:
The short answer is – it is just very efficient. If you leverage user-generated content the right way, it can become a real game changer for your restaurant business.
Rule number one for leveraging UGC is to keep it circulating – it will increase the visibility of your restaurant brand and make it more attractive to new potential customers.
Reposting has never been easier – people use geotagging and mention brands' profile names on social media when they post on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms. Keep track of UGC created by your restaurant visitors and repost it to your social media page consistently. It can be an Instagram photo post or story, praise in the form of a short tweet – you name it. The trick is to create a steady flow of user-generated content appearing on your profiles. You can use a tool like a background remover to keep the parts of the posts that work for you and add them to a different background, creating a consistent and visually appealing feel.
Pro-tip: remember to secure your visitors’ consent prior to displaying their content on your official restaurant social media page. While people love to be noticed and recognized by their favorite brands, not everybody is open to becoming the center of social media attention. Plus, people will appreciate your being considerate and respectful of their online privacy.
Reviews and ratings are the most popular forms of UGC out there, especially when it comes to the restaurant business. And if you have a base on favorable online reviews, it’s time to take advantage of them to improve your business performance.
Display reviews on your restaurant’s website and social media pages to project credibility and give your potential new customers something to base their decision to come to you on. You can even include user testimonials on your menu pages!
And don’t forget about tracking review aggregator websites such as Yelp and Google – they are also great sources of UGC you might use in your promotional efforts.
Pro-tip: don’t shy away from negative reviews – after all, it’s impossible to satisfy every client. Instead, engage with negative reviews. Respond to complaints and address customers’ problems in a polite, respectful way. This will increase your brand credibility and encourage even the pickiest visitors to come back.
3. Start a Hashtag Associated with Your Restaurant
Hashtags are the new black. They make the UGC around your restaurant more “searchable” and help you promote your brand more effectively.
Create your unique branded hashtag and incorporate it into your social media content. Or you can start a marketing campaign and accompany it with a specific hashtag to help customers follow your content for updates. Once your hashtag routine is up and running, you’ll notice that your restaurant visitors will also start using your branded hashtags when they create UGC about your place organically.
Pro-tip: to increase the visibility of your restaurant online, combine your unique hashtag with other trending hashtags related to the food/ food service industry. For example, use such popular tags as #foodie, #delish, etc. They will help you deliver your content to more social media users.
Let your visitors know that you value their UGC contributions. This will allow you to boost customer retention and brand loyalty.
Reward people for quality UGC! There are lots of ways to do that:
You can get as creative as you want with rewards here. Incentivizing your clients with these perks will not bankrupt you – quite the opposite, actually. You’ll foster brand loyalty, spark an even more active UGC generation flow, and simply make your customers happier – and that’s a pretty good investment.
If you want to see these 4 strategies in action, take your cues from Cactus Club Cafe. This restaurant masterfully leverages UGC to promote the brand and boost sales.
Together, these UGC strategies help Cactus Cafe to expand its online and social media presence, foster a strong customer community around the brand, and of course, grow the business effectively.
User-generated content is an amazing low-risk type of marketing you can effectively use in the restaurant business.
Whichever UGC marketing you’re going to opt for, don’t forget to encourage your guests to generate UGC consistently. You never know when guest content will offer fringe benefits. For example, a great user-generated image of your product might be something you decide to include as a menu visual, which you can update digitally through a cloud point of sale system.
And if you want to blend UGC into your restaurant’s loyalty program, we’re here to help you tailor it to meet your business needs and goals.
About the Author:
David Morneau is the co-founder and CEO of inBeat, a hybrid micro-influencer marketing SAAS/agency that helps brands scale their marketing efforts. He has helped over 200 DTC brands to date.