Your Customer Probably Visited You Online First

Social media plays a huge role in online discovery.

May 19, 2023

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—Before a customer visits a restaurant, it’s likely it was visited virtually before they set foot in the door, reports FSR Magazine. Online research about a restaurant is almost as influential as a family or friend recommendation, according to a survey by BentoBox.

Diners use these resources to find new restaurants:

  • Recommendations from family or friends: 89%
  • Online research: 86%
  • Discovering by chance in person: 75%
  • Other media platforms (billboards, podcasts, etc.): 64%
The most popular review sites for online restaurant discovery were Google Maps (40%), Yelp (27%), Facebook Reviews (19%) and TripAdvisor (12%). The survey also asked what diners wanted in a restaurant’s website, and 75% percent said they would be more likely to choose an eatery with a high-quality site.

The most common channels for finding restaurant websites were:

  • Search engines: 61%
  • Online map search: 45%
  • Review platforms: 35%
  • Social media pages: 33%
  • Delivery platforms: 27%
  • Reservation platforms: 22%
The most popular search categories were:
  • Location: 61%
  • Rating: 38%
  • Cuisine type: 36%
  • Ambiance: 22% in fine dining and 16 % in casual
  • Occasion: 18%

Of course, social media plays a huge role in online discovery, especially with younger patrons, city dwellers, parents and married couples. Also, 75% of fine-dining high spenders use social media to find where to eat.

FSR Magazine laid out how to attract certain generations. For Gen Z, utilize social media, as 45% said they use it for restaurant discovery, more than any other generation. Gen Z uses TikTok four times more than Boomers. For parents, try to rank for occasion-specific searches, as 21% of parents rated “occasion” as a type of search they use to find new restaurants—the highest surveyed. This fits when you consider why many parents go out in the first place; to celebrate (honor a birthday or graduation, Mother’s Day, etc.) and to break free of the house (date night).

For those who earns more than $100,000, restaurants should monitor review sites to make sure their brand is consistently well-rated. Fifty percent of high earnings said they search for restaurants based on “rating, such as ‘best burger’ or “most popular restaurant.” For those that are budget conscious, these diners gravitate toward direct ordering.

FSR Magazine also noted that three in five respondents of a Revenue Management Solutions survey said they currently have at least two restaurant apps. Eighty percent of frequent users (ordering from restaurants five-plus times a week) and 62% of moderate users (2-4 times) reported having at least two. Of infrequent users, it was 20%. One in four people said they have more restaurant apps compared to last year, according to the survey.

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