Blog Post / August 23, 2018

Restaurant Marketing in 2018: What You Need To Know

by Elise Musumano
Elise Musumano

Today’s state of restaurant marketing is this, according to our customers:

1 in 4 hospitality groups and independent venues are doing it all on their own.

It’s what we learned when we polled hospitality companies that we work with across the globe.

What job titles did we hear from?

Over 25% of respondents are General Managers at their venue.

Here’s the full breakdown:

restaurant marketing breakdown

Below are the top 9 findings from our survey.

Finding 1: 9 Out Of 10 Restaurants Are Using Instagram.

We asked restaurants which marketing channels they were using to promote themselves — and here’s what we found:

The majority of restaurants have a presence on Instagram, Facebook, Yelp, and Google.

The Takeaway: Restaurants are seeing an increasing number of reservations come in through Instagram, Facebook, and email efforts. These channels allow them to showcase their food and ambiance firsthand and they connect directly to seating inventory via buttons like “Reserve” on Instagram and “Book Now” on Facebook. So restaurants increase their investment of time and resources into those channels compared to others.

Check Out These 11 New Post Ideas for Your Instagram Business Profile

Finding 2: Over 40% of Restaurants Outsource Their PR.

We wanted to know what restaurant marketing was being done internally versus by freelancers or agencies.

Here’s what we found:

Many restaurants are hiring externally for public relations as well as website development and management. But 27% of restaurants aren’t hiring outside help for any marketing.

The takeaway: While there’s a large market for PR agencies and website management companies to sell to restaurants, many venues are successfully managing things in-house.

Finding 3: More Than 1 in 4 Restaurants Uses MailChimp.

For the restaurants that we surveyed, MailChimp is the leading email service provider (ESP).

The Takeaway: Mailchimp has permeated restaurant marketing — whether it’s been through word of mouth, their sales and marketing efforts aimed at restaurants, or a familiarity that restaurant marketers have with the system from previous roles.

Finding 4: 29% of Restaurant Marketing Emails Are Sent From Outlook, Gmail, or Personal Email Addresses.

We took the “Other” category above and drilled down into it.

It turns out that out of all of the respondents who fell into this category, many specified Outlook, Gmail, or “not yet” as in they aren’t using a system right now. (Other providers were Zenreach, Rackspace, Venga, and Squareup.)

Adding up the Gmail, Outlook, and “not yet” responses to the total responses for the official “We don’t use a provider” category, that makes 29% of all total responses.

The Takeaway: About 1 in 3 restaurants has not yet invested in an email service provider to send dedicated marketing emails to their guests. They may not have the budget, not want to learn a new system, or prefer to send emails one-on-one to guests. Either way, they are likely spending more time on sending emails than restaurants that automate personalized messaging and send emails at scale.

Finding 5: >50% Restaurants Are Sending Event Invites, Holiday Promos, and Newsletters.

Your dentist’s office might be sending you happy birthday emails, but chances are that your favorite restaurants aren’t. It’s the least used type of email that we polled restaurants about.

In addition to event invites, over 50% of restaurants are also sending regular newsletters and holiday greetings:

The Takeaway: There’s a huge lost revenue opportunity here.

Restaurants are using their reservation system to capture guests’ birthdays during reservation checkout. That’s a lot of great data to use. You could, for example, filter a list of guests with birthdays in August invite them on August 1st to celebrate their birthday with friends or family with a special treat like a bottle of champagne.

Interested in branding your own reservation check-out experience for your guests? Get a demo of SevenRooms.

Finding 6: If You Use a Platform To Aggregate Reviews, You’re In The Lead; Most Restaurants Don't.

We asked restaurants what platforms they were using to do any of the following:

What we got back was this: only 44% of restaurants are using a platform to automate any of these things.

Takeaway: Most restaurants are manually checking their reviews, updating their menus and website, and taking the temperature of their online reputation. Either they feel there isn’t a need for automation, platform costs are too high, or they don’t have resources to manage a system.

Finding 7: Almost Half Of Restaurants Built Their Websites From Scratch.

Here’s how customers answered “What platform does your website run on?”

The Takeaway: Restaurants seem to favor the design flexibility of building their own site — even if it requires more money to outsource — than having to work off of a templated platform. The potential downside of this is that a website like this requires continued support from a developer in the future.

Finding 8: Tripleseat Is Taking Over The Event Management Scene.

Concord, MA-based Tripleseat is the #1 software that restaurants are using right now to book private dining rooms (PDRs) at their venue.

Here are the exact numbers:

Answers for “Other” included Excel, SevenRooms, OpenTable, In-house, Catarese, Prosperworks, Custom, Collins, and Design My Night.

The Takeaway: Restaurants that book private dining events generally prefer to use an automated system to manage private dining rather than managing it in a paper book. Out of all systems, Tripleseat is likely favored for its ability to integrate with the restaurant’s main reservations book.

Finding 9: The Vast Majority (87%) of Restaurants View Marketing Automation Positively.

We asked restaurants what three words came to mind when they thought about the phrase “marketing automation”

Here’s what we got back:

Interestingly, the negative connotations came from a place of protection for both a restaurant’s brand and the personalization of the guest experience. We received responses like:

The Takeaway: Platforms need to have strong personalization and templates or the flexibility to create relevant guest offers in order to win over restaurants that aren’t yet using marketing automation. Restaurants that are already using a platform value the convenience, scale, and straightforward nature of the automation they’ve chosen.

That's all for now! Feel free to tweet at us at @SevenRooms with any questions!

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About the Author

Elise Musumano

Elise is the Senior Manager, Product Marketing at SevenRooms. In this role, she works closely with internal teams to communicate with customers about new features and to share their stories with the world. Elise is an ardent advocate of the SevenRooms product and the way it's transforming hospitality.