Why restaurants should care about influencer marketing

Learn how to spice up your restaurant's growth with influencer marketing! Discover tips for finding the right influencers, negotiating fees, and measuring ROI in this comprehensive guide.

Ever heard of influencer marketing? Probably yes! But how does it apply to your food business? Here's a quick introduction – and some tips – on this ever growing marketing strategy and why you should consider applying it to your brand. 

In the fast-paced restaurant industry, exploring new marketing strategies may seem like a daunting task at first for some business owners. Yet, worry not, as we're here to help you every step of the way. 

Imagine this: you whip up the most delectable products, finally mastered the art of delivery operations, and have a menu and ambiance to die for in your restaurant. Yet, your customer base and daily revenue doesn't appear to expand as much as you desire – or indeed, require. Well, that's because in the food business, it's not just about the food, innit? There's an array of other factors that need attention to truly stand out in such a fiercely competitive field.

This is precisely where novel and creative ideas come into play. In this article, you'll discover methods to capitalise on the potential of the influencer marketing industry, a 16.4 billion dollar global market that is reshaping cultural norms around the world.

Keep reading to find out more about:

  1. What is influencer marketing?
  2. The basics of a digital marketing strategy
  3. Why is influencer marketing so relevant?
  4. Influencer marketing for restaurants and food businesses
  5. Influencers vs. creators
  6. How to find the right influencers
  7. Applying a successful influencers' strategy
Why restaurants should care about influencer marketing

What is influencer marketing?

If you are active on social media in any way, chances are you've either been influenced or already worked with influencer marketing, or both. These days, it's hard not to be impacted by this online marketing strategy.

Since the beginning of time, humans have influenced other humans. Word of mouth has always been one of the most trustworthy ways to know, try and purchase anything. How many times have you suggested or been suggested something that you ended up trying it out? Or researching about? Well, influencer marketing is, in its essence, the new digital age's word of mouth. But now, it's done by, somewhat, regular, more relatable people, and not only huge unattainable celebrities or famous personalities. 

The most powerful aspect of influencer marketing is probably the attainability of this strategy by any business. With such a variety of nano, local, niche and huge influencers available, all you have to do is find the right influencer that fits your business's needs and budget. 

The basics of your digital marketing strategy

Explaining the power of social media in these days and age almost feels like stating the obvious, doesn't it? It's virtually impossible to overlook the massive influence these channels have in our daily lives. So, if your restaurant is yet to have social profiles, get right into it. Attempting to understand influencer marketing in the absence of a social presence is akin to preparing a meal without essential ingredients — simply in vain.

But don't worry, it's never too late and the process might not be as intimidating as you think. To begin, you don't need to be on all social networks out there. Opt for one, develop your own processes and strategies that fit your business's reality, and grow from there, venturing into other social realms in due course.

Currently, Instagram and TikTok stand as two of the most popular content sharing channels, particularly for brands and businesses. So, it would be wise to contemplate starting out with either of these two. Yet, let's be real with you: social media does require work. To achieve relevant results, it's not just about being there. It requires a frequent, consistent and creative stream of content. And, before we continue, always bear in mind: everybody eats and loves food. 

And if you're wondering what type of appealing content should you be focusing on, your own food is your answer. And you're already working on it everyday! Moreover, according to a survey by Matter Communications, consumers are both most interested in seeing (59%) and most likely to act on (52%) influencer content about food and beverages. Additionally, consumers want authenticity, relatable content, so you needn't worry about lavish and expensive photoshoots or flawless presentable food. Just be real and genuine. 

And there you have it: your golden ticket to the influencer marketing world. Welcome!

Why should you care about influencer marketing?

Well, it's hard to ignore the influencer marketing statistics – they're a definite force to be reckoned with. According to a study by IZEA Worldwide, Inc, 62% of customers trust influencers more than celebrities and a substantial 46% of users have purchased products recommended by influencers. To put it simply, you should care about influencer marketing because your patrons do. 

Another fascinating byproduct of collaborating with influencers is UGC, or User Generated Content. Essentially, this means you can share the load of constantly coming up with fresh engaging content for your brand digital channels. The content crafted by influencers and creators can and should be used on your own channels and ads, diversifying even more your content menu options. In essence, you're broadening the scope of what you bring to the table.

Moreover, given users' quest for content that resonates on a personal level, a genuine partnership with influencers and creators is paramount. By partnering, we're advocating for a collaborative approach that permits them to curate content in alignment with their follower base and not merely imposing your talking points. Of course, it's a delicate line, after all it's your business, but listen to them, they know what engages their audience, and come up with a fun and tailor-made recipe that fits everyone's needs. 

Why restaurants should care about influencer marketing

Create, relate, and be the crème de la crème

Remember we mentioned the food business is not just about food? Well, this applies to your content as well. In the realm of influencer marketing, creativity is your secret ingredient. Jump onto trends, try to fit into the latest food craze – even if it means creating a new fake product for promotional fun – or the latest viral content or challenge – especially dances and tunes. The challenge is discovering ways to embed your brand, food, and establishment within whatever is currently in vogue.

If you have a brick and mortar establishment, remember to spotlight your ambiance, team, and dining experience. Focused on delivery? Needn't worry! Prioritise your food, the convenience factor and your brand's principles and identity. The point is this: customers search for different things when making decisions, and your aim should be to resonate with as extensive an audience as possible

Now, what about the influencers and creators themselves? Finding the right ones is crucial. It's like selecting the perfect wine to complement your dish.

Influencers vs. Creators: An influential showdown

Let's briefly pause and clarify something upfront: influencers and creators might sound like peas in a pod, but they're actually distinct entities, and both are essential to a successful influencer marketing strategy.

Influencers have that special sauce – a devoted following who hang on to their every word, regardless of what they say. Creators, on the other hand, are artists who craft content that's as delightful as your signature dessert. 

In other words, there's no hierarchy at play here, just different approaches that could both be advantageous to your strategy – and budget, of course!

Why restaurants should care about influencer marketing

The recipe for the right influencers

Ok, but how do I choose who to collaborate with? Obviously, the restaurant industry is not just full of multi-location big chain brands. Chances are you're a local independent restaurant seeking to find a path to grow your business, right?

1. Define your target

The first thing you need to look for when researching influencers is their primary audience's geographic disposition. It's a no-brainer really, you don't want to be promoting your quintessential Birmingham burger establishment to a Londoner, would you? If you're unsure about their geographic reach, simply ask them!

Secondly, you need to know your restaurant's clientele, ideally clustering them into distinct buckets. Who exactly are they? Gen Zs? Families? What do they enjoy doing? What dishes send their taste buds into a frenzy? Where do they unwind, work, socialise? What are the most appealing dishes in your menu for these audiences? The list of qualities, and consequently buckets, are endless, thus, you'll need to prioritise them – in essence, a divide and conquer strategy. 

Why restaurants should care about influencer marketing

2. Choose a niche and content concept

Once you've pinpointed the kind of clientele you're aiming for at any given moment, you can then choose the ideal influencer. Pro tip: you don't have to always focus on the same cluster, or restrict yourself to current clientele. The point of trying out an influencer marketing strategy is to always bring new clients to the mix. So, casting a wider net might bring in fresh faces craving your culinary delights that you were not even aware before. 

Now that you know the where and the who, it's time to decide your influencer's niche. This is really up to which cluster of clients you are trying to reach. It's easy to go to foodies, they're well-versed in the industry and have a lot of experience promoting food brands. But, let's give this a thought: everyone eats, but not everyone follows food influencers, then how can I reach these people? Simple: partner with tech, fashion, lifestyle or any other locally revered influencer. All you need to do is find a way your dishes can fit best their aura and content style. You probably won't get a fitness influencer promoting a massive pizza, or a vegan influencer delighting themselves on a cheesy burger, right? But maybe you'll have a salad or low carb option to offer the fitness cluster, and a vegan dish to promote for the vegan crowd. 

3. Reach vs. Budget

What about their followers' size? Well, this one gets a tad tricky, we admit. On social media, engagement is definitely more valuable than follower numbers. Bearing this in mind, it's prudent to undertake thorough research and directly communicate with influencers and creators regarding their engagement metrics and reach statistics, so you can make an informed decision. Also, size will probably define their fee range. 

Start with nano or micro influencers – smaller followings, yet top-tier engagement rates –, since they'll probably negotiate more flexible payouts that fit your budget. Then move on to more sizeable partners, with broader audiences. 

But wait, everything comes with a price tag. So, how much will this cost your business? Well, that's the beauty of it. There's no right or wrong here. According to a survey by Aspire, 83% of influencers are willing to work with a brand for just free products, as long as they love and relate to the brand. 

This means, numerous influencers, especially local and smaller ones, may accept gifts or store credits – translating to the restaurant world, this means actual food. Negotiate with them a meal, or a budget range, and let them feast on your delicious food. Others will prefer a money fee plus the food. If it aligns with your marketing budget, fabulous. If not, it's simply a matter of moving onward to fresh prospects.

4. Expand your opportunities

And last but not least, as we mentioned before, it's crucial to negotiate interesting content that you can use across your own channel and ads. Pro tip: see if the influencer or creator are willing to do a collab post, as this would bring a direct surge in awareness to your own channels.

In a nutshell, it's all about finding the perfect blend of ingredients to create a great influencer marketing strategy. 

Cooking up an influencer strategy

Now that you've got your influencers and creators in the pan, let's cook up a strategy. Once you've reached out to them, and synced on content and fee, the subsequent move is to outline a calendar. If you're collaborating with multiple influencers, make sure you don't use them all on the same day. Not only does this extend your awareness period, allowing as many people as possible to learn about your brand, but also it grants your kitchen the opportunity to accommodate a potential surge in demand.

It's imperative to understand the specific channel and format you'll be using. On Instagram, for instance, you should focus on Reels, as this format has a better discoverability rate than Stories, which are mainly seen by your current follower base. While on TikTok, the consensus is still that shorter videos perform better. You'll need to align that with influencers while planning your strategy and content, as this might also affect their fee.

And now, let's bring it all to a simmer. Provide your influencers a comprehensive brief about your brand, your menu and anything else you feel your potential new clients need to know beforehand. Next, send them your food or welcome them to your restaurant, and put your creativity to trial. 

Lastly, measure your results. Make sure your social profiles are clearly tagged and visible, enabling curious users to learn more about your brand. After a few days, try and request the influencers for a results report. And, most importantly, make sure you have a way to track incoming clients and orders. 

The easiest way for restaurants to truly make sure a specific order came from a specific influencer is to offer a discount or coupon code for them to share with their followers. To execute this, you'll need a direct sales channel, like our Direct Orders solutions. You can generate as many discount codes you want and make sure your influencer marketing investment is truly bringing a great ROI (return on investment). 

Why restaurants should care about influencer marketing

Other, more complex ways, include using UTM-tagged links to your website or storefront (not applicable for delivery platforms's storefronts, though) or create an affiliate link program – where each influencer is allocated a specific landing page that will track their followers journey to your storefront. 

Keep in mind we're not just here to assist you with Otter's optimising and growth solutions, but also to introduce your some out-of-the-delivery-box marketing ideas that you can easily implement for your own brand.

And so, there you have it – the recipe for a successful influencer marketing campaign that'll make your restaurant shine brighter than a Michelin star on social media. From finding the right influencers to cooking up the perfect strategy that fits your reality, you're ready to conquer the culinary world, one post at a time. Embrace the trends, feed the influencers, and watch your restaurant's growth soar. Bon appétit!

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