Search and discovery solutions are where word-of-mouth and big tech algorithms intersect to put your restaurant’s logo, menu, reviews, photos, and location in front of people who are looking for a bite to eat. The biggest social media platforms in the world are gigantic players in this space, giving you the reach and the tools to connect with new customers and deepen your relationships with existing customers. Niche platforms for dining, travel, and events also converge here, letting you target people when they’re at a point of turning a hunch or an itch into a plan of action. And location-specific solutions can help you track your customers’ habits in your physical space: when they come, how often, and what they do once they get there. Taken as a whole, the search and discovery solutions fall somewhere in your marketing department, as vital as signage, elemental to your business. But they’re also an avenue for play, friendships, and building a public identity. Consider them part toolbox, part toy box.
What are the benefits of search and discovery solutions?
Huge reach: If you’re not on search engines, you’ll be invisible to a terrific number of potential customers. Same goes if you’re not on social media. The Venn diagram of “internet users” and “people who eat at restaurants” has too much overlap to ignore that customer base.
Scalable costs: It’s free to join and to post on the biggest social networks in the world. You can build an audience organically — through word of mouth, essentially — or you can pay to show your posts to larger numbers of users.
Data availability: You know how many orders you fill in a day and what your weekly receipts are, roughly. So it will become second nature to start counting clicks, views, likes, comments, engagements, shares, tags, and visits. Whichever metrics describe success to your restaurant, you can set about measuring them.
Flexibility: You know the vibe of your dining room, your staff, your menu, your bar. But how to explain that to other people? Use the strengths of these tech solutions to play to your strengths. Show the most interesting, exciting, unique parts of your operation to the world at large — in type, with photo, with videos, or a combination of those.
Who uses search and discovery solutions?
Who doesn’t? In one sense, you can’t avoid them. Your customers are out there making recommendations (or not) on your behalf already, chatting you up on social media, on text threads, and on search engines. You can’t sell anything these days without some stranger assigning it a star rating. That’s wonderful, in theory, to think that word of mouth can carry your business to wider fame and success. But in reality the marketplace is extremely crowded. Very few restaurants ever get famous, and it’s a constant struggle to hold most people’s attention when they have so many options for places to spend their time and money. Savvy restaurateurs use search and discovery solutions to stay top-of-mind among their customers, to grow their businesses, to stretch their marketing budgets, and to stay competitive.
Why should restaurants use search and discovery solutions?
Knowing how ravenous people are to define you on the internet, you might as well join them. Restaurants are the most commonly searched-for local businesses, and chances are someone who hasn’t tried your restaurant yet will fall in love with it, if they know about it. Once you have an audience, these same search and discovery tools become a conduit for an ongoing conversation with your most loyal customers. With them, you can share daily specials, announce seasonal menu changes, or simply post photos of how gorgeous your outdoor patio looks on a fall afternoon. In short, you can use them to show off the image you want to project to the world, drive new business, and become part of your customers’ daily lives even when they’re nowhere near you.