Americans spent more on food at restaurants and bars than at supermarkets for the first time ever in 2015, and the restaurant dining experience has continued to undergo an evolution.
Many legacy restaurant franchises are adapting to changing consumer preferences and (often discretely) rolling out fast-casual concepts to go beyond their core audiences and attract new, younger diners.
Fast-casual is “the hybrid category that combines the innovative, scratch-made dishes found in chef-driven restaurants with the convenience and quicker turnaround times of fast food.”
Fast-casual restaurants—which save on labor since they require less staffing than full-service spots—have common hallmarks:
- Customers pick up their food at a counter and then seat themselves.
- The dining area isn’t designed for lingering, and consumers can be out the door within minutes.
- The setting is more stylish than quick-service restaurants.
Like fast-casual restaurants, QSRs (colloquially known as “fast food”) don’t have catered table service. Dissimilarly, QSRs have limited menus that include items such as hand-held sandwiches, wraps and pre-prepared salads.
The ambiance is typically functional—think fluorescent lighting, as well as plastic seating and tabletops. However, there has been a growing trend at fast-food chains towards more upscale fare as they try to appeal to millennials who are more concerned about healthy eating and aim to differentiate themselves through space design.
Increasingly, restaurants are tapping into social media advertising to maintain an always-on presence in order to reach broad and niche audiences alike. By boosting the amount of time that they’re “on,” brands have more opportunities to achieve key objectives.
Keep reading to learn how restaurant advertisers can tell stories and, ultimately, drive foot traffic with compelling visuals through social media advertising.
Effective Instagram strategies
Tap into the visual element of Instagram and engage with many food lovers.
Utilize the various ad formats available on Instagram to engage your target audience throughout the entire funnel—from increasing brand awareness with beautiful photos, videos and Stories to letting foodies familiarize themselves with new menu items by using multiproduct carousel ads.
Develop native advertising creative that fits with the overall food storylines that circulate on the platform. Ensure that your brand mimics the real-life (or at least what appears to be real-life) imagery posted by users. Showcase dinner tables and drool-worthy dishes, or share quick and fun videos of food preparation.
Reach your target audience—people near your restaurant locations, as well as aspirational users—with Facebook’s sophisticated targeting capabilities: 75 percent of people are more likely to act after seeing a locally relevant or location-specific message, according to NinthDecimal.
Tips for success on Snapchat
Snapchatters are very engaged and prefer content that fits seamlessly within the platform experience, so create short ads that are humorous and intriguing. Although Snap Ads can be 10 seconds long, five- to seven-second ads drive optimal performance.
That being said, incorporate branding upfront: Users need to know who the ads are from as early as possible, so include brand elements from the first second and keep on building them throughout the video to boost ad recall.
Deliver your message within the first three to five seconds, and avoid using too much copy, since it can be difficult for Snapchatters to consume.
Experiment with multiple variations of ad creative and tailor these to different audiences or contexts. Optimize toward swipe-ups on top Snaps with attachments, which let users watch additional content through long-form video or explore a mobile-friendly site featuring more information about your restaurant’s offerings with web view.
Lenses allow Snapchatters to interact with your brand in a playful way; it was reported that 30 million Snaps are decorated with lenses each day. Make full use of the feature, especially around significant moments like a new product launch, store opening or seasonal event when you want your brand to be top-of-mind among your target audience.
Use filters in close proximity to your restaurant and in other densely populated/high-traffic areas to draw attention to your offerings and drive engagement.
Once users make it to a restaurant and apply a sponsored geofilter there, you can determine whether their friends who see the Snap visit the chain in the next seven days with Snapchat’s online-to-offline measurement product called Snap to Store.
All in all, dining engages multiple senses, and visuals are an important part of the experience, from beginning to end.
Social media advertising is a surefire way for restaurant brands to inspire a visual love affair with foodies.
Image courtesy of Bim/iStock.