According to the National Restaurant Association, some 70 million Americans will dine out for Valentine’s Day, about one-third of consumers. Younger diners are more likely to dine out, with 33 percent of 18-34-year-olds and 39 percent of 35-44-year-olds planning to celebrate the occasion with a restaurant meal, compared with 27 percent of those 55 and older.
What opportunities does this spell for restaurateurs? For one, research has shown that the demographic most likely to eat out is also most active on social media, whether through mobile platforms or other means. They’re prime to tweet and communicate to their friends on Facebook just how great (or bad) their meal was. They’ll even post photos of dishes or log on when they’re waiting (sometimes endlessly) for a table. And they may check in to FourSquare to let everyone know where they’re enjoying their meal.
It’s a golden opportunity for restaurants to shine rather than turn off guests. It’s also a particularly challenging period, as expectations often run as high as the jacked-up menu prices. (Points for restaurants that don’t gouge customers just because it’s a holiday – they’ll probably be rewarded with social media mentions).
We noticed many restaurants taking to the Twittersphere to promote VDay offerings or to remind diners weeks ago to book early. But not nearly enough have used social media to connect with diners, given that some 63% of restaurants are offering special menu items, 45% are featuring prix fixe menus and 34% have created celebratory beverages and desserts. That’s plenty of news to share, but searches on Twitter aren’t turning up a whole lot in this realm. With Valentine’s Day falling on a Monday – a typically slower night for dining out– restaurants have the added benefit of bringing in consumers both on the day itself and the preceding weekend. And they’d be interested to know that 12 percent of diners pick a VDay restaurants because it’s offering a special menu or something “romantic” that it ordinarily doesn’t.
Still, according to the NRA’s research, the work restaurants do all year long to build customer loyalty pays off for big holidays; 42% choose what’s already their favorite restaurant for this romantic holiday. They may need a reminder, however, and the restaurants that know, track and communicate to their loyal diners have the advantage. And for those building a new base, note that 11 percent of consumers choose a restaurant they’ve never been to before. That’s the group discussing where to go with friends (probably on Twitter and Facebook). Getting the word out early, often and where these consumers ‘live’- on social media platforms – can bring in a new set of loyalists.
What creative ways has your restaurant used within social media to promote Valentine’s Day and other big dine-out holidays (Easter, Mother’s Day)? Share your successful promotions with us on the Coyle Experience Facebook page.