Lately, the concept of restaurant influencer marketing has emerged as the easier way of attracting and engaging with customers. If a trusted authority says good things about your restaurant, which are based on their own experiences, then their followers are more than likely to believe them. This is the main reason why restaurants have started to actively engage with micro influencers such as food bloggers and restaurant reviewers. It is cheaper as compared to the traditional forms of marketing, targets the right customer base, and is high on results. Makes sense, right? Except, not so much. While the benefits of collaborating with food bloggers and reviewers as a concrete marketing strategy can’t be ignored, it also cannot be denied that the practice is being widely abused.
The Multiple Shades of Restaurant Influencer Marketing
In this article, we uncover the good, the bad, and the ugly aspects of restaurants collaborating with food bloggers and reviewers.
1. The Benefits of Micro Influencer Marketing
The traditional form of influencer marketing involves getting the top industry influencers or celebrities on board as a brand ambassador and running broadcast advertisements on television and radio. Not only it is expensive, it is relevant only to the top restaurant chains that have multiple outlets across that target customers from various geographies. For a single restaurant that targets a local audience, micro influencer marketing is the way to go.
These micro influencers have a niche following that is usually specific to a particular region. For instance, food bloggers of Delhi would have the majority of their followers from Delhi. If you collaborate with such restaurant influencers, they would talk about your restaurant, post pictures, videos, and put up reviews on social media and the restaurant review sites. This, in turn, will help you increase your visibility, and garner credibility for your restaurant and your brand.
You can easily and quickly measure the ROI of the campaign as well. Once the food blogger posts about your restaurant and your food, you can expect a sudden increase in your footfall for the next few days. If you are collaborating with a blogger with a high following on Instagram, they can add a link to order food from your restaurant online, from where you can track the number of orders. Similarly, you can run specific offers and create a discount code for each campaign and see an immediate rise in the number of your orders.
2. The Darker Side of Restaurant Influencer Marketing
Although restaurant influencer marketing seems like the right way to go, there are still some things that need to be taken care of before indulging in it. If not done right, active collaborations with food bloggers and restaurant reviewers could potentially end up harming your business.
The biggest problem with indulging too much in restaurant influencer marketing is that it leads to an immediate impact on your business.
Inflated reviews can result in raising unreasonable expectations among your potential customers.
Once you collaborate with influencers, and you become visible to a wide variety of customers, and when they see such good things written about your restaurant all over the social media, you automatically increase their hope to a great extent.
According to Rohit Malhotra, Head of Operations, India Barcelos, ‘When people visit your restaurant upon reading inflated reviews, they come with extremely high expectations. If in case, you are not able to live up to the unreasonably high expectations, you end up disappointing them. Not only does this result in losing a repeat business, the unhappy customers might take it upon themselves to post their own reviews on the social media.’
Apart from this, you also need to take a step back and consider if you are actually ready to cater to the sudden business restaurant influencer marketing would generate for you.
Imagine what would happen if you are new in the industry and you rigorously indulge into influencer marketing, and suddenly there are 100 people posting for your restaurant? You will obviously get noticed! However, since you’re new in the market, the skill set of all your restaurant staff might not be trained or experienced enough to handle such a huge crowd. And consequently, in the hurry to manage the huge crowd, your food, your service might get compromised with. And compromising with these basic things for which your customers visit your restaurant at such an early stage, will not leave a very good impression on your customers. Thus it is important to not venture into this until you are absolutely ready.
3. The Uglier Side of Restaurant Influencer Marketing
Primarily the concept of restaurant influencer marketing or the idea of crowdsourced platforms came into play for two reasons:
- Creating awareness and targeting a specific audience base
- Getting first-hand advice and feedback from experts, early in the game thus, allowing the restaurants to improve and hone their restaurant services further.
However, over a period of time, most of the crowdsourced platforms ended up getting diluted and losing their integrity. Considering that there are absolutely zero barriers to entry, anyone with an Instagram account or a website can become a food blogger. And it doesn’t require anything to simply register on the restaurant review sites and start posting reviews.
A number of instances have emerged where a self-proclaimed food connoisseur or influencer has tried to arm-twist the restaurant into giving them a discount or even make their visit completely free. The threat of putting up a bad review on social media is quite common and restaurants also often give in to it.
In today’s date, with commercial media or crowdsourced platforms that has a medium of making money out of these restaurant reviews, putting up an unbiased review is simply not possible. This system of commercial media or crowdsourced platforms such as the online restaurant review sites has started to cause disgruntlement amongst most of the people involved with the restaurant industry primarily because the way or procedure of calculating the metrics and the ratings are unknown to the people at large. There is a high possibility that even after 4 to 5 good reviews, the ratings of a restaurant would remain the same.
Initially, this influencer marketing came into existence to help restaurants and the customers alike, but with the passage of time, this is being rampantly misused by most people. In this industry, everyone needs or wants to sustain. And everyone wants to do what the other is doing. According to Pawan Soni, founder of Indian Food Freak and the Big F Awards and Club, a number of restaurants indulge in the strained domain of influencer marketing just to stay in the competition. Even now, a majority of the customers are still unaware that these reviews on the restaurant review sites could be fake.
The rampant misuse of the concept of influencer marketing has come into the limelight in the restaurant industry and is a cause for distress among a majority of the restaurant owners. It is not unlikely to see an average restaurant gathering 600+ reviews and staying close to 4.5 rating; the manipulation that plays a role in gathering the reviews is widely known.
What Could Be the Solution?
Soliciting genuine feedback from customers and then promoting it to increase the visibility and credibility of the restaurant brand as an alternative to the entire concept of influencer marketing could be a one way to go. However, influencers are and will continue to still dominate the restaurant marketing scene.
It is thus a social responsibility of the restaurants indulging in restaurant influencer marketing to keep the system clean and devoid of paid incentives. It is one thing to invite the food bloggers and then encourage them to write about their experience, rather than simply paying them in return for a positive review. In the rat race of trying to stay ahead of the competition and gaining a leverage in terms of the number of positive reviews, restaurants have also played a major role in diluting the entire concept of a crowdsourced and unbiased platform.
Restaurants should instead focus on delivering a consistent and stellar customer experience and encourage genuine reviews from both food bloggers and customers alike.