Restaurants are on a constant journey to innovate and broaden their reach, and the pandemic has only intensified this need. When it comes to social media, Instagram and other ubiquitous platforms have led the way in recent years, but TikTok for restaurants is becoming increasingly essential.
In a day when TikTok has arguably overtaken Instagram as the most influential instant-gratification tool for consumers in Canada and beyond — particularly the younger millennial and Gen Z demographics — restaurants cannot afford to delay on getting on the train.
For a start, TikTok’s reach is gargantuan. The app has a global user base of about one billion active monthly users.
And the potential it holds for foodservice is huge.
A new survey by marketing agency MGH found that 36 per cent of TikTok users visited restaurants after viewing videos on the app that featured the businesses.
As with most social media use, using TikTok for restaurants is all about the aesthetics, as well as showing off what you’ve got.
Over half (55 per cent) of surveyed users said they wanted to visit restaurants because videos of the food looked appealing, while 51 per cent visited because of new menu items featured in videos. Others were enticed by a “cool atmosphere” (38 per cent), interesting presentation (36 per cent), or a great view (29 per cent).
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TikTok content creators, who were also surveyed, were even more likely than users to try restaurants they saw on the app, with 65 per cent saying they visited or ordered from a restaurant after seeing videos of it.
“TikTokers are most heavily influenced by the restaurant opinions of users they know personally and trust,” Emma Andrews, a social media account manager at MGH, wrote on the company’s blog. “But, respondents reported that videos from TikTok food bloggers/influencers ranked second in their ability to affect their behaviour.”
While TikTok users, like those of other social media apps, are found to be most heavily influenced by people whose opinions they value, such as friends or family, they are willing to travel, 20 per cent reported travelling to a different city to visit a restaurant they’d seen on TikTok. Forty-five per cent of users in the survey, which was conducted in the U.S., said they’d be willing to cross state lines to visit a restaurant.
Ryan Goff, EVP, social media marketing director at MGH, added: “As TikTok continues to grow in popularity, many restaurant marketers have been left wondering if the platform is worth the investment. The results of our survey show it is. Often restaurants and other businesses are hesitant to invest in new platforms, but the increasing popularity and breadth of users — coupled with direct feedback from users — demonstrate the power of TikTok and should encourage restaurant owners to add this platform to their marketing mix.”
The penny has dropped for big chains
Numerous large-scale restaurant franchisors have begun to recognize the power of TikTok and have cashed in with influencer partnerships.
TikTok star Charli D’Amelio, for example, gave Dunkin’ 294 million free video impressions in under two months simply by expressing her love for the brand. When the brand created a cold-brew tap named after her, Dunkin’ saw a 20 per cent sales boost for all cold brews the day the drink debuted and a 45 per cent surge the next day.
Menawhile, McDonald’s viral Travis Scott Meal became so popular last year that it inspired a TikTok trend where diners played the rapper’s song “Sicko Mode” at the drive-thru to order the meal. McDonald’s even sent a memo to franchisees to bring them up to speed on common catchphrases used for the video trend to ensure they could suitably interact with customers.
In early 2020, Little Caesars rolled out the #BestThingSince hashtag on TikTok as a followup to a Super Bowl ad promoting the brand’s home delivery platform. Several TikTok influencers were chosen to film themselves answering their door to a Little Caesars delivery, with a humorous answer to the question “Little Caesars Delivery? That’s the best thing since …” Users quickly adopted the hashtag, filling in the blank with their favourite thing, trend or meme. Since launching, the hashtag has amassed more than seven billion views, according to TikTok.
And Chipotle, an early adopter of TikTok for restaurants, has offered pre-built meals by cultural influencers such as social media star David Dobrik and utilized those partnerships to see massive success with viral hashtags challenges. Last month, the brand took things a step further, launching its Chipotle Creator Class program that provides creators with exclusive perks to “help shape the future of the brand.”
The program also allows fans to join the Creator Class by submitting creative videos about the chain. The user with the highest number of votes from Chipotle and the Creator Class will earn the 15th spot in the group and receive exclusive access to promotional benefits and free meals. Multiple times a year, members of the group will meet with the Chipotle team to share concepts, ideas and strategies about the future of the chain and the “creator economy,” Chipotle said.