By Sean Beckingham
Using social media to boost your restaurant’s online presence and overall brand may seem like a no-brainer today, but taking it a step further and using it to develop and refine menu options is a strategy that is now difficult to ignore.
Menu crowdsourcing is a new approach to the traditionally back-of-house task of menu creation. From dishes served to names of new signature cocktails, crowdsourcing can act as an exciting and interactive way to establish a sense of camaraderie between your restaurant and its customers, as well as strengthen your brand’s reputation.
Back in January, Queen Margherita Pizza opened a series of Twitter polls asking their loyal Torontonian fans to vote on what makes the perfect Neapolitan-style pizza along with their go-to dessert of choice. A total of 96 pizza lovers chimed in on the topic!
Toronto’s favourite pizza? Results showed that people preferred their pizzas covered in a red sauce, rosso (83 per cent), sprinkled with mozzarella cheese (38 per cent) and topped with prosciutto (45 per cent) over sausage or pepperoni as a protein. When it came to the way they ate their pizza, 50 per cent of voters preferred their pie folded in half. (Who needs a fork and knife anyway?) To finish off their meal, 80 per cent of people went with a slice of cheesecake.
In addition to establishing brand loyalty and expanding your customer base, asking diners to have a say in what’s on your menu creates buzz about your restaurant. While the concept of crowdsourcing a menu seems easy enough, there are some important things to keep in mind. Here are some tips for getting started.
Start a conversation
Using social media to reach out to patrons has never been more straightforward. Want to know what to add to the menu this season? With social media tools such as Twitter Polls, simply ask and you shall receive. Need a name for that new pasta dish? Look no further than your own fan base. Diners can tweet their ideas using your restaurant-specific hashtag (e.g. #nameofmyrestaurant). If you’re willing to take a chance on social media, the possibilities can be as diverse as the food.
Let diners have the final say
If you’re unsure of what new dish should turn into a staple menu item, host a tasting. Inviting your most loyal patrons and asking them to cast their vote via private ballot can be a fun and engaging way to let your audience know that you’re listening. Not only will you have a new dish to add to your menu, but the event can be quickly buzzed about on social media platforms like Instagram or Snapchat, helping you reach potential new diners.
Don’t be afraid of a little competition
Inviting diners to submit their best ideas for new dishes or names for an upcoming special is a great way to get people talking about your restaurant. Once you’ve narrowed it down to a few names or ideas, it’s as simple as asking your audience to vote on social media for the dish that they’d most like to see on the menu. Staging a competition like this doesn’t rely on a big budget, rather just the appetite of your followers.
Understanding who your target patrons are and asking them to voice their opinion can play a key role in your online marketing strategy. Social media polling has become a great way to do this.
One of the biggest benefits of Twitter Polls is that it is user-friendly. This feature allows you to weigh in on questions posed by other people on the platform. You can also easily create your own poll and see the results in real time.
To vote in a poll, simply click or tap your preferred option. The results are instantly displayed after you vote. The current total vote count and the amount of time remaining in the poll are displayed under the poll choices.
A Twitter Poll ends between five minutes and seven days after it has been posted, depending on the time frame set by the person who tweeted it. The winning choice is shown in bold. If you vote in a poll, you may receive a push notification alerting you to the final results.
In addition to its ease of use, the social aspect of the polls takes away the negative stigma associated with traditional surveys. The results show up immediately and you can retweet the poll to your followers, which helps it spread organically.
Crowdsourcing on Facebook
When applying crowdsourcing to your Facebook strategy, like any other social media platform, there are best practices to keep in mind as well as some important dos and don’ts.
- Use a seasonal approach. Consumers love to engage with seasonal promotions and it gives your contests and promotions a timely feel. For example, a restaurant owner could ask Facebook fans which fall ingredients they would like to see most in the eatery’s autumn menu.
- Use hashtags (#). Including hashtags is a simple way to help people find your polls and track conversations.
- Push your products or service. Crowdsourcing should be about involving and collaborating with your fans, not selling to them.
- Create irrelevant polls. Keep your questions connected to your brand and overall marketing strategy.
Social media platforms have made the process of crowdsourcing menu ideas from customers easier than ever. Twitter and Facebook polls give patrons a voice before they even set foot in the restaurant. Not only can they weigh in on what they would like to see on the menu and what they enjoy most, but valuable insight on what they don’t like can also be gained through the crowdsourcing process. In addition to the data you get from the poll itself, don’t forget to read the replies. People will often give extra information that’s more valuable than just numbers. Remember, building brand loyalty includes showing your customers that you value their thoughts and opinions.
About the author:
Sean Beckingham is president of Branding & Buzzing, a social marketing agency established in 2011 that specializes in the food and beverage category. For more information, visit www.brandingandbuzzing.com.