Are we addicted to all things digital (think cell phones and the internet)? Yes, but let’s not debate whether or not this technology dependence is detrimental. Nir Eyal, author of Hooked, has a great website focused on this debate. Here, let’s just admit that restaurant guests will be spending a lot of time on their devices.
For restaurateurs, this can, understandably, be quite the hindrance. For some establishments, this means distracted diners, cold food, and lower table turnover; however, this dependence can be an opportunity in disguise.
Here are some simple ways to utilize customer cell phone habits to the advantage of your restaurant.
1. Encourage Social Media Interaction
There’s a long list of things the diners at Table 11 could be doing on their phones. Without diving too deep, it’s fairly safe to assume they are utilizing some sort of social media. Updating statuses, taking photos, checking in — all very plausible things consumers could be doing. Although a distraction from dining, this could all be free publicity for your restaurant. Simply put, your customers are creating quite a bit of content about, and exposure, for your brand. Encourage them to share it.
Social media is a place for dialogue. Online, Encourage guests to participate in that dialogue by sharing photos of their experiences. Be sure to take an active part and engage with posts that specifically tag or mention your restaurant. You wouldn’t ignore a guest who said “thank you” in-house, so why do it online? The same applies to guests who have posted negative feedback.
To incentivize guests to share more with their networks, consider online contests and giveaways. Caption contents do quite well, in addition to other easy methods to incentivize sharing.
2. Share Your Brand Story
An earlier Foodable article discussed the power of customer brand engagement. Using a captive portal network, you can create custom login portals where customers complete a selected action to utilize your restaurant’s Wi-Fi services. When patrons need this connection, take the opportunity to share a little about your brand.
Some ideas to get you started: Share a small piece on the history of your restaurant or your culinary team. You can also share links to the farms and food purveyors that make your operation possible. The number of people taking genuine interest in the story behind brands and where their food comes from is increasing. Take this opportunity to stand out while your customers are sitting at your tables and using their phones.
3. Drive Engagement With Games
This is by no means new. Many cafés and bars have already begun providing patrons with table games and trivia. We’ve even seen a recent string of arcade game focused bars doing very well for themselves.
As a restaurateur, you have an opportunity to go digital and opt in to platforms like Buzztime or TapTv. These platforms can help you establish restaurant-specific gaming groups to keep your guests entertained.
Challenge customers to be beat high scores and offer small prizes for those who do. All the while, enjoy the increased dining times, and the food and drink revenue that come along with them. If your goal is to quickly turn tables, this may not be the best tactic for you. However, if your establishment aims to encourage guests to linger and interact with one another, consider giving restaurant gaming a digital makeover.
Diners who pay more attention to their devices than the food you are serving them may be annoying — but they are still your customers. For all the negatives that may come with digital addictions, there are also some real opportunities. Increase bar and food revenue by encouraging patrons to stay a little longer and participate in restaurant-approved video game contests. Increase your social media presence by encouraging diners to share their favorite food photos and engage with the content your staff creates. Give customers a window into your work by sharing branded stories about your team and food. All of these things aim to create additional value for all who enter.
Lead with your food, and begin to think digital to retain regular restaurant patrons and attract new ones.